ANY early hopes that the COVID-19 virus sweeping the globe would slow down - or disappear of its own accord, as US President Donald Trump suggested last month - have proven false, and Australia is entering a new phase of uncertainty in confronting this potentially deadly threat.
Governments around the world - including our own - are copping criticism for being too slow, or too fast, in their reactions, but every nation will handle this unprecedented problem in its own way.
Public health protocols have their limits, meaning that without a vaccine, COVID-19 could be destined to spread regardless of what other roadblocks are put in place.
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Indeed, reports from the UK suggest Boris Johnson's government may have already accepted this as an inevitability, with talk of letting the virus spread in some sort of semi-controlled fashion as the best way to build up the "herd immunity" otherwise brought by vaccination.
Since last Wednesday, when the World Health Organisation declared the virus a pandemic, case numbers have risen from 118,000 in 114 countries to 169,000 in 148.
The death toll has gone from 4290 to 6510, with the death rate inching up from 3.6 per cent to 3.8 per cent.
Australian cases have topped 350, with 171, or almost half, in NSW, which added an extra 37 cases in the 24 hours to 11am on Monday, the biggest daily increase on record.
Most of these cases are in Sydney, and while the number of reported Hunter cases are still in single figures, these totals could rise suddenly, and dramatically.
Few areas if any of Australian life will be unaffected by COVID-19.
Like many employers, Australian Community Media - publisher of more than 170 titles including the Newcastle Herald - has introduced a "work from home where possible" policy, although we will continue to bring you the news as always.
Much of the burden will necessarily be carried by our health professionals: doctors, nurses, pathologists, pharmacists and the various other occupations that together keep our hospitals and medical centres operating.
The recent run on toilet paper was not this country's finest moment but there is every reason to believe that Australians will band together - as we have proven we can do in times of crisis - and observe whatever protocols and restrictions are laid down for the safety of all.
This disease is an enemy, and we are on a war footing.
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