They call it the “war room” but when you step inside the nondescript, windowless space from where Australia’s most sophisticated contact tracing is being run, you are immediately struck by a sense of calm.
Jay Caruso, a young veteran of last year’s response to Victoria’s COVID-19 second wave, says the reason is simple: public health reforms and vastly improved technology have transformed our capacity to trace, isolate and contain the virus.
Where our response to last year’s deadly outbreak was slow, bureaucratic and, at times, confused, it is now led by what Paul Johnson, the director of the North Eastern Public Health Unit, describes as a “military-inspired, mission command”.
Under this model, Melbourne’s three suburban public health units, – the North Eastern, South Eastern and Western – are given autonomy to manage outbreaks in their geographic areas, according to a clearly articulated plan: Go fast, stop COVID, report back to base.
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