Is Victoria the new South Korea? June 28th, 2020

In my home state of Victoria, we have had increasing numbers of COVID-19 confirmed cases in the last few days:


Not very high numbers in international terms but a very high percentage of total Australian cases given we are only 25% of the population:

Data Source:


And a worrying trend.

Currently, there is a major blitz of testing going on to get better information on what is happening. The rise in confirmed cases may be due to increased transmission, increased targeted testing, or a combination of both. Only time will tell.

If we look at the data from South Korea, we can see some very similar things going on that gives us an idea of one picture that might be the future here. The next graphic shows the cases in South Korea to May 28th, 2020


This looks very similar to the Victorian exper8ence in the first image in this post. South Korea was able to dampen down an initial outbreak very quickly and got down the very low numbers in early May. They were assisted by the fact that the early outbreak was concentrated in one large cluster associated with a religious sect, but they still did a very good job.

If we then zoom in on the period since early May we see the following:

Data Source:

Despite their early success South Korea have struggled to get the recent resurgence under control for a month now.

If we look at the data for transmission, then we can see a clear change in pattern:


The early outbreak in South Korea was dominated by imported cases, especially when the initial outbreak was brought under control. Since then, the new cases have been dominated by local transmission.

The same is true here in Victoria with increasing local transmission of the virus.

So there is a real possibility that Victoria could see the same pattern as South Korea over the next month with ongoing outbreaks and clusters popping up.

I always tell clients that the most dangerous thing to do is to have only one picture in their heads as they think about their strategic responses. This is only one picture. There are clear cultural differences. We are in a complex situation of viral transmission and community complacency due to the fact that we have not had many cases. We may get transmission under control. We may get it under control in the parts of Melbourne where numbers are increasing at the moment, only to have numbers increase somewhere else in the state, especially as school holidays are now upon us.

There are three clear lessons here:

  1. Complacency is our enemy.
  2. Thinking about a single future is dangerous, two weeks ago it would have been a different central picture in most people’s heads.
  3. We need to keep our organisational strategies as flexible as possible to deal with the uncertainty that is being thrown at us.