People should be prepared for restrictions around the coronavirus pandemic to extend to Christmas, medical experts say.
International borders may have to remain closed until an effective vaccine is available, which is expected to be 12 to 18 months away.
University of Newcastle conjoint senior lecturer and epidemiologist, Beverley Paterson, said her opinion was that "restrictions of some nature will continue for the rest of the year".
Hunter Medical Research Institute director, Professor Tom Walley, said: "I think this is probably going to go on for quite a long time".
"The principles of social isolation and minimising contact - that's going to have to go on for several months - even if there are no more cases.
"I think Christmas is probably about right, to be honest."
Their comments came as the rate of new cases in the Hunter New England health district continued a downward trend, increasing by 10 patients to 218.
Professor Walley said it would be difficult for people to maintain motivation for living with restrictions.
But he drew attention to the death of a 13-year-old boy from COVID-19 in London on Wednesday, which followed the death of a 12-year-old girl in Belgium.
This showed it wasn't only older citizens dying from the illness.
"We all need to keep our motivation up," Professor Walley said.
Dr Paterson said cases in Australia could get to zero by June-July if restrictions were adhered to.
This would require Australians to maintain social distancing strategies, which may need to be strengthened, and "contact tracing on all contacts of every case".
All contacts of people found to have the virus would also need to be tested.
Furthermore, tests would need to be done on "anyone with respiratory symptoms and all health-care and aged-care workers".
"If cases in Australia or in particular states drop to zero, you could lift all internal restrictions but only if you keep the borders closed," said Dr Paterson, who is at home in quarantine after working in Micronesia on the COVID-19 response.
If borders didn't remain closed, everyone who entered a state or the country would need to be placed in "mandatory quarantine".
"State-based restrictions could be progressively lifted as each state gets to zero."
Nevertheless, she believed some some restrictions in Australia would "continue for the rest of the year".
"International borders would need to remain closed until there is an effective and available vaccine - not only for Australia but globally."
Dr Paterson was hopeful that the trend would "soon be heading downwards" and that the restrictions would have "a positive impact on the virus spread".
Professor Walley said many people had "done a very good job in Australia", but some hadn't taken it seriously enough which led to more draconian measures.
He said past pandemics tended to occur in waves.
"Often the first wave dies down and another less severe wave occurs at a later time. The fundamentals of managing a pandemic have, to some extent, been known since the Middle Ages."
This involves self isolation, avoiding unnecessary contact and good hygiene.
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