The demand for coronavirus treatment in country areas would rapidly outstrip the number of hospital beds in country areas at a faster rate than the cities in the worst-case scenario, modelling released on Tuesday has revealed.
The Doherty Institute modelling gave a grim prognosis of what would happen without the social distancing measures introduced so far.
"An unmitigated COVID-19 epidemic would rapidly overwhelm Australia's health sector capacity," the report stated.
"Case targeted measures, including isolation of those known to be infected and quarantine of their close contacts, must remain an ongoing cornerstone of the public health response."
The modelling predicted that if social distancing did not happen, there would be seven times the demand for healthcare than the supply available in areas with high income.
"As hospital bed capacity is strongly correlated with income, this factor is greatly increased in low and middle-income country settings, where underlying health status is also likely to be poorer," the report stated.
"As public health response capacity is exceeded, greater constraint of disease spread will be essential to ensure that feasible levels of expansion in available health care can maintain ongoing system functions, including care of COVID-19 patients."
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said this was just the worst-case scenario.
"If you had this highly-artificial, very unlikely outbreak, you couldn't meet demand," he said.
He said more specific modelling, based on data from almost 6000 cases in Australia, would be provided to the National Cabinet in the coming weeks.
The numbers of coronavirus cases are significantly higher in Sydney and Melbourne than the country, followed by regions with a more affluent population, with the majority of cases still from people who have returned from overseas travel.
The NSW Central Coast had 102 cases as of Tuesday, Wollongong had 51 and Newcastle had 47.
In Victoria, Mornington Peninsula had 57 cases, followed by Ballarat and Moira with 10.