St Vincent's Private Hospital Nurse Ellie Robotham
St Vincent's Private Hospital Nurse Ellie Robotham

Traffic lights system to define COVID hot spots

Health experts are days away from finalising a new criteria which will be used to define what is a COVID-19 hot spot, paving the way for more localised lockdowns and the reopening of state borders.

The new model is expected to be based on a "traffic light" system used in Denmark, which would result in travel bans being introduced to regions with high numbers of COVID-19 instead of shutting down an entire state.

The Sunday Telegraph understands Denmark has briefed Australian officials on its system which uses three colours - yellow, orange and red - to indicate whether a region is open to citizens without restrictions such as quarantine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison would like a set of clear metrics to define a COVID hot spot. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison would like a set of clear metrics to define a COVID hot spot. Picture: AAP

While the criteria would differ in Australia, in Denmark a region is considered safe if there are fewer than 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a week.

Under that criteria Canberra, which has a population of 395,000 and has not had an incident of COVID-19 in seven weeks, would be considered open.

In Denmark, a region shifts to orange, or critical, when more than 30 people per 100,000 inhabitants contract COVID-19 in a week, meaning travellers must quarantine.

If the number of cases escalates quickly in any region it is given a "red"' rating, meaning people are banned from leaving or travelling into restricted zones.

It is understood the plan would require all states and territories to continue high rates of testing to ensure all cases were picked up.

On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised the Danish model.

"I'm not suggesting this is precisely what we do in Australia but … they have clear metrics," he said.

"I think that's quite a sensible approach."



Mr Morrison said medical experts were working on what level of cases would represent a hotspot in Australia.

The Sunday Telegraph understands health officials were finalising the new hotspot definition on Saturday, and a final model could be presented to state and territory leaders as early as this Friday.

While states cannot be forced to sign up to a national definition of a hotspot, the federal government hopes a nationally consistent approach will prevent hard state border closures such as those in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

The move comes as political pressure mounts on state premiers to relax border restrictions following the death of an unborn twin in NSW.

Mr Morrison demanded an explanation after hearing about the tragedy.

Federal Coalition MPs have also ramped up calls to ease hard border lockdowns for residents in border communities who work or go to school across borders.


Brave NSW nurses and doctors are putting themselves "in the line of fire" to answer a Melbourne hospital's plea for help and join the fight against COVID-19 in Victoria.

Almost 30 medics from Sydney and regional areas have applied to work at St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne after it sent an SOS for healthcare staff from Australia and New Zealand.

St Vincent's Melbourne chief nursing officer Kath Riddell said she had been "overwhelmed" by the response.

"It's a big thing that we're asking, to put yourself in the line of fire and leave family, friends and Melbourne is also in lockdown," Ms Riddell said.

The hospital has already received more than 300 applications.

Ellie Robotham, will travel to Victoria to work in a COVID ward. Picture: Tim Hunter
Ellie Robotham, will travel to Victoria to work in a COVID ward. Picture: Tim Hunter

Sydney nurse Ellie Robotham will start work in one of the hospital's COVID wards early next month.

The 22-year-old, who works in the orthopaedic ward at Sydney's St Vincent's Private Hospital, applied even before the new recruitment drive began.

"I know a few nurses down in Melbourne who are sort of struggling and that's what sparked me to look into it further," she said.

"Then on the other side of things, I suppose my passion in nursing is to help genuinely sick people."

Despite her proud but worried parents telling her "it's not too late to back out", Ms Robotham said she wasn't that nervous about her own safety.

"I want to do what I can," she said