Stopping Coronavirus is about what we as a community do
Australia is seeing our first major Coronavirus closures, with restaurants, bars, libraries and even beaches shutting. There is more than the government can do, but there is also a lot more that we as individuals and as a community can do as well. Stopping Coronavirus is about what all of us do.
Coronaviruses are a class of viruses distinguished by a distinctive crown (or Corona in Latin). They are the virus behind both the common cold and diseases like SARS. The thing is that they are normally pretty easy to stop because, with a coronavirus, people don't become infectious until we show symptoms. This is different from influenza where people are infectious a few days before they have symptoms.
But with COVID-19, many people get no or very mild symptoms and can unknowingly spread the disease around. Even people who die from the disease might have days where they just have a sore throat and mild fever, before deteriorating. So people are spreading the disease without knowing or thinking. Also, screening measures, such as measuring temperatures, which worked for SARS, don't work with COVID-19 because an infectious person might no have a temperature.
Why is stopping Coronavirus important
Let's look at this by the numbers. There are 24.6 Million people in Australia. If it is left to run free, a very conservative estimate of 30 percent of people get Coronavirus, which will be close to 7.4 million people. You might think that this doesn't matter that much as only a small number of people die. But if even 2 percent of people die from the disease that is 147,600 people.
But that doesn't tell us the whole story. About 25 percent of people who get Coronavirus need hospitalisation and about 15 to 20 percent need medical intervention to survive. That means you need 1.5 million hospital beds to treat people. If the rate of spread is reduced so it is spread over 18 months, that means 82,000 beds a month. Most people spend 2 to 4 weeks in hospital. Remember there are only 100,000 hospital beds (public and private) available, and of course, the disease will peak.
Remember, people are still getting cancer, having car accidents, heart attacks, strokes and many other health issues. Hospitals run close to capacity, so there is not a lot of space to put all the extra people.
Let's not forget that 5 percent of people who get Coronavirus will need to go to intensive care. In our 18 month scenario, we would see the need for 20,500 intensive care beds a month, and Australia has about 2,000 such beds available.
These numbers should make everyone worried even though this is fairly conservative estimates. And these numbers and ignore issues of regional areas where there are fewer healthcare resources or issues such as staffing numbers. We can see that we need to stop the disease or lots of people, many without the disease, will die.
So what is the purpose of closures and lockdowns
The real issue is community transmission. This refers to people spreading the disease to people that they don't know. Maybe you will get it on the bus to work, out at a restaurant or bar, or perhaps when you visit your GP for some other issue. Community transmission is where the spread of the virus can't be tracked.
When they can track transmission, it is easy to quarantine people who have been exposed and limit the chance of further transmission. So the purpose of closures and lockdowns is to get to the point where Coronavirus is not spreading wild in the community. Remember, the virus incubates normally for 2 to 5 days, if they can track contact, there is time to find people and get them to isolate and keep the disease under control. Once again, if the disease is being transmitted to strangers, it can't be tracked and controlled.
The issue with testing
Australia has done reasonably well with testing. The problem is that we just don't have enough test kits to test everyone. Remember, they often have to test people multiple times, and then keep testing them once they are positive to give them the clear once they have fought off the disease. This is a contributing factor forcing closures on the community in general.
So why just close some places
As the World Health Organisation points out, shutting down a community might stop the disease, but it also leads to financial hardship, which can increase the spread of the disease and other problems. So the idea is to ask the community to stop doing things that will increase community transmission of the disease. Partial closures and education haven't helped, so the government keeps stepping up the closures.
Closures, isolation and quarantines are important part of slowing and stopping Coronavirus (Image courtesy of Alexey Hulsov @ Pixabay)
The biggest problem is that many people don't take the issue seriously. People head to the beach with friends, hold parties at their house because pubs are closed and so on. It only takes one such case, especially where there is a large group of people, to spread the disease wildly.
A common phrase being through around is Social Distancing. This is usually used to cover a couple of concepts, including the fact that people need to stand further apart, especially in public places. Put it is also about who you get exposed to. For example, going to the shops increases your risk of exposure, as does heading to restaurants, bars, crowded public places like popular beaches, and so on.
During a pandemic, no one can complain you spend too much time alone on your phone
In other words, we want to limit our social circle. Drive, walk or cycle to work instead of taking a bus, train or ferry. This can be impractical for people working in city centres, but sometimes it is about driving close to the city, paying for cheap parking, then walking in to work. It is also about only meeting up with people that you know and can be tracked. A dinner party with friends might expose you to the virus, but the exposure can be tracked. Going to a house party with many people you don't know means that they might not be able to track everyone who gets exposed.
It is also about staying away from people in general. Yes, meeting friends is okay, but staying at home and video chatting is better. In Australia, where nearly everyone has a car, we can still easily go out to places without contact. There are many places out there that have few people. Even walking around the suburbs means you probably won't run into people.
The time you spend with people matter as well. So waving to a neighbour as you walk past is very low risk. Stopping to talk to them for a minute is also low risk. Hanging out with them for hours is a much higher risk. This is where the 1.5 metre distance matters. Then, of course, shaking hands, hugging and kissing people's cheeks is completely out.
Key actions to stop spreading Coronavirus.
Here are some key ways to stop spreading Coronavirus
Don't go out or only go out when necessary.
Even if you have mild symptoms, isolate yourself. There is only a limited supply of tests, so many people have trouble getting tested, but write your GP or hospital to see if you qualify for a test. Even if you don't, it is time to stay at home and start eating your way through that Coronavirus grocery hoard you built up. /i>
Go out when there will be fewer people around.
Wash your hands regularly, both when you will meet people, but also after going to public places.
Don't touch your face. Okay, I can't stop doing this, so I have started using my left hand to touch things in public, and my right hand to scratch my nose.
Cough or sneeze into a handkerchief, tissue or elbow.
Whenever you use a tissue, dispose of it properly.
If you work in a public place, regularly clean surfaces. That hospital smell that people complain about should become a comfort to people as it is the smell of disinfectant.
Cooperate with authorities. They are trying to enforce rules for the safety of the entire community.
Don't be that person. You know who I mean. The person who thinks it is all BS, and feels that they are not worried.
Coronavirus is not about you, it is about the community. But protecting the community also means protecting yourself.
Many people are being ordered into self-isolation. But now we should be practising isolation to some extent. This is not about hiding under your bed covers under the all-clear is given, though that would actually be one of the best options. It is about limiting your contact to a known circle. So, yes, go to work, go home. Go visit your friend. But don't go to parties or crowded places. If you do go to the shop, only go there as little as possible.
Shout out to the heroes of the pandemic
Yes, we have respect and admire health care professionals. But think about all those shop assistants who can't work from home and are being exposed to crowds every day so that we get food. Then there are many other people who are taking risk of infections, from delivery drivers who bring us pizza, surf lifesavers taking abuse when asking people to leave beaches, bus drivers getting us around and too many others. What can I say other than "Thanks mate". Should we start tipping every time we go to the shop now?
One of the heroes of the pandemic, staying open and serving customers
There will be people who think or even comment about the politics associated with Australia's response to Coronavirus. My view is that we see both the strengths weaknesses of our systems as well as Scott Morrison's leadership. In many ways, he is the right leader for these times, able to build consensus among disparate groups of people where everyone is able to move forward.
However, Scott Morrison's has an authoritarian nature, which means that often he thinks, just because he says it, it will be carried out. He is perplexed that people are not staying at home, or that measures he announces don't instantly happen. While he knows how to compromise, this doesn't always result in the best solution. For example, if one person wants to walk on the left of the road, and another on the right of the road, the compromise of walking down the middle of the road just puts you in the middle of the traffic.
Of course, a lot of the problem is that we have multiple states, a decentralised health system, inertia and lack of will to take responsibility within the public service and so on. Also, it takes time to do everything and to do it properly. For example, closing schools means making sure there are options in place for people who have to work. After all, do you want nurses to stay at home looking after their kids or caring for the sick?
Then, of course, there is us. We the people who live in Australia. We who go out to the beach, or refuse to stay home with mild symptoms, or who send junk Facebook posts to our friends about Coronavirus just because someone told us to, and so on.
Democracy means that we have the right to an opinion, but it doesn't mean that our opinion is right. We are looking at a global pandemic that has not been seen since the Spanish Flu over 100 years ago. Then there is a growing economic crisis that is the result of this and other factors. Ultimately it is about listening to the experts, taking our responsibility, and realising that similar measures are being put in place around the world across multiple different political systems.
What we see from our government is a similar response with the debate mostly focused on how quick the response should be, not what the response is. In other words, the main issue is where actions have not been taken quickly enough or that there has been too much hope that things wouldn't get bad too quickly.
We are a society need to work together to stop Coronavirus. Wuhan had to lock people into their homes for 2 weeks because after a month and a half of a lockdown, people were still spreading the disease. But if we work together, don't throw tantrums about closures, rules, lockdowns and restrictions, we can slow down the rate of the disease, reduce deaths. If we are really determined, we can stop the disease in its tracks in our community.
Appreciate your article- however- there is a problem giving specific numbers re contact with non household members. Your info is now not accurate as situation is changing so rapidly. Suggest just give general advice re doing right thing according to daily rules.