Roadmap to Recovery

Adult running near River Torrens, Adelaide

Leading researchers from the University of Adelaide have contributed to a major Group of Eight report which presents two clear options to lead Australia out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Group of Eight universities has today presented the ‘Roadmap to Recovery’, an independent report, to the Federal Government. It provides expert advice based on world-leading science to help Government plot the best path forward to social and economic recovery in Australia.

The two options canvassed in the report are:

  • Option 1, Elimination of the illness, which the report says is a conceivable and desirable option for Australia.
  • Option 2, Controlled Adaptation, which entails controlling the spread of the virus, while making sure that society adapts to live with ongoing infections.

Leading academics and PhD students from the University of Adelaide contributed to the report, including Professor Tracy Merlin, Interim Head of the School of Public Health and Director of Adelaide Health Technology Assessment (AHTA).

Professor Merlin has been providing advice to governments on public health for the past 20 years. She led the group examining the option of Controlled Adaptation, which has put forward a series of 14 recommendations on making this option a success.

Professor Merlin said the ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ had been designed to provide the Government with a strong evidence base for the difficult decisions that will be required in the coming weeks and months.

“More than one hundred researchers from our Group of Eight universities have worked together, to present what we believe are the two clear options to lead Australia out of this pandemic,” Professor Merlin said.

“We have drawn on our depth of knowledge from a broad discipline base to offer scientifically based options for recovery.

“Controlled Adaptation has its risks – outbreaks can still happen – but without a vaccine, or knowing when one will come, eliminating the spread of the virus will be difficult and there are economic impacts from the restrictions to consider.”

Professor Merlin warned that until a vaccination for COVID-19 was available, restrictions on international and intrastate travel would need to remain. 

“For other containment measures we are recommending that restrictions be lifted in batches, with a pause of a minimum of three weeks in between, to determine the impact on spread and case numbers. 

“However, to determine this impact we need to ensure that controlled adaptation is supported by extensive testing and surveillance, rapid, effective case detection, case isolation and contact tracing of the majority of cases.”

Professor Peter Rathjen AO, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, and Chair of the Group of Eight Board said the report was another example of the significant contribution that our university sector, in particular the nation’s research intensive universities, make to our society as leading modern universities that are harnessing excellence in new ways for our state and nation’s future.

“For 145 years the University of Adelaide has helped shape South Australia and the nation and this contribution continues as we focus on the future, especially our immediate future beyond COVID-19.”

Other prominent South Australians who have had a significant role in producing the 'Roadmap to Recovery' are Vicki Thomson, the Chief Executive of the Group of Eight, who co-chaired the report, and Andy Keogh, Managing Director of Saab Australia and co-chair of the University of Adelaide’s Defence, Cyber and Space Industry Advisory Board, who independently reviewed the report.
University of Adelaide contributors to the Go8 Roadmap to Recovery:

  • Dr Andrew Black; Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, School of Mathematical Sciences
  • Dr Alexandra Bloch-Atefi; Lecturer, School of Public Health
  • Associate Professor Frank Donnelly; Interim Dean of Nursing 
  • Dr Antony Eagle; Head of Department in Philosophy
  • Professor Tracy Merlin; Academic Lead, Health Economics and Policy Unit, School of Public Health
  • Professor Ian Reid; Head, School of Computer Science; Senior Researcher, Australian Institute for Machine Learning
  • Mr Yulin Li; PhD student
  • Mr Ross Roberts-Thomson; PhD student
  • Dr Joseph Smith; PhD student

The Group of Eight (Go8) comprises Australia’s leading research-intensive universities – the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University, the University of Sydney, the University of Queensland, the University of Western Australia, the University of Adelaide, Monash University and UNSW Sydney.
To chart the roadmap, the Go8 convened more than one hundred of the Australia’s leading epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, public health thinkers, healthcare professionals, mental health and well-being practitioners, indigenous scholars, communications and behaviour change experts, ethicists, philosophers, economists and business scholars from the Group of Eight universities.

The group developed the Roadmap in less than three weeks, through remote meetings and a special collaborative reasoning platform, in the context of a rapidly changing pandemic. 

The Go8 is focussed on, and is a leader in, influencing the development and delivery of long-term sustainable national higher education and research policy, and in developing elite international alliances and research partnerships.