Nurse holding a syringe and vial

Research suggests how governments should respond if “we’re unlucky enough” to experience worse variants of COVID

According to new research, future variants and outbreaks of COVID-19 would be best managed by ongoing vaccination and a faster increase in restrictions.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne modeled the health and economic effects of more than 100 different policy responses to a range of possible new outbreaks.

“In general, we found that slightly stricter public health and social measures or lower thresholds for slightly increasing restrictions achieve better results on average across these scenarios,” said lead author Joshua Szanyi.

The researchers assessed 104 types of government response, looking at the severity of health measures, the level of mask-wearing, whether governments provided respirators or not, and the type of vaccination coverage.

All policies have been modeled based on nine different future COVID-19 scenarios – one without the new major variant of concern and eight other options with the new variant – since October last year.

It builds on earlier research by the university that helped shape the government’s responses, including the way out of Melbourne’s 2020 lockdown.

Where the modeling differs from previous research from around the world, said Dr. Szanyi, is that the economic effects of the policies were compared to health outcomes such as deaths and hospital capacity. The effects of long-term COVID were also taken into account in the model.

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