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COVID-19-like pandemic predictions: top health experts said six years ago a pandemic was likely

Top health experts warned a respiratory illness from Asia was likely to cause a pandemic and that mandatory isolation could be enforced, six years before COVID-19 reached Australia. 

World Health Organisation professor Anne Kelso made the startling prediction during an episode of SBS Insight, which aired in September 2014.  

‘If we’re talking about a new avian influenza then the most likely thing is it’ll come from somewhere in Asia,’ said.  

‘There are very high densities of bird populations living closely to humans, mixing with other animals which can also be infected with flu viruses like pigs.

‘This can then spread like wildfire because it’s a respiratory virus.’  

Although the SBS segment was aired more than six years ago, it has resurfaced on the internet given the timeliness of the pandemic.

A raft of experts appeared on the talk show to give their insight into the worst case scenario, including predictions of mandatory quarantine and enforced social distancing.

Former Victorian Chief Health Officer Dr Rosemary Lester warned mandatory isolation could be enforced in the worst case scenario. 

‘We can force someone to stay quarantined,’ she said.

‘Each state and territory has public health laws which can require that people undertake certain actions including being isolated.’  

Victoria has brought in the toughest lockdown restrictions in the country as the state struggles to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Under stage four restrictions applying to metropolitan Melbourne, people must stay at home between 8pm and 5am, unless they need to leave for work, medical care or caregiving.  

Outside of those hours, residents can’t leave home unless they are shopping for food or essential items, for exercise or permitted work and must stay within a 5km radius of their homes.  

Ms Lester went on to say the mandatory quarantine was regarded as a final ditch effort to curb the spread of the virus, and that most people would co-operate with the directives. 

While authorities have praised the majority of Victorians for following restriction orders, they have swiftly condemned those who have breached them. 

As many as 268 people were caught breaching coronavirus restrictions across the state in the 24 hours to Sunday. 

One case involved a man who told police he was helping a friend move a television some 27 kilometres from Doncaster East to Dandenong and thought it would be OK to stop at a fast food outlet to get a burger.  

Victoria recorded a record 17 deaths from coronavirus and 394 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.

Premier Daniel Andrews said 174 of the cases were those with no known close contact who was already infected – describing the mystery infections as the state’s ‘biggest challenge’.

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