Australians are being urged to plan for self isolation, in the same way they would a flood or bushfire.
Everyone entering Australia from overseas is now required to isolate themselves for 14-days, and on Thursday it was announced that anyone entering Tasmania would have to do the same.
Professor Ramon Shaban, clinical chair of Infection Prevention and Disease Control at Westmead Hospital and the University of Sydney said people needed a solid plan to address what action they would take if someone in their household contracted COVID-19.
“Bushfire-prone communities have well-established bushfire plans about, ‘If this happens, then what happens next?’,” he said.
“The same thing should be done within households and families.
“If mum in the household comes down with COVID-19, what happens to the household in terms of how it’s run, who does what? If one of the children gets sick or if the neighbour becomes unwell and they live by themselves.”
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Prof Shaban’s recommendations mirrored those advised by government health departments, which stipulate people with suspected or diagnosed COVID-19 should separate themselves from other members of the household.
“Knowing who will do what, when, under what circumstances will obfuscate the need to take irrational measures like hoarding food,” Prof Shaban said.
Those who are required isolate are free to enter the community again after the 14-day period if they have not displayed symptoms and people who have been infected are unlikely to get the virus again, said Prof Shaban.
WHAT ABOUT THE ELDERLY?
The elderly are being urged to remain active and in-touch with their friends and families — albeit from a distance — in a bid to protect themselves from the fatal coronavirus.
COVID-19 – which causes symptoms ranging from mild illness to pneumonia – is particularly dangerous for the elderly population and those with chronic health conditions.
Aged care facilities have been directed by the government to place limitations on visitors and social activities and entertainment in centres has been cancelled indefinitely.
Brisbane GP Richard Kidd told News Corp, elderly people who remain in the community should practice strict social distancing measures and avoid any regular outings that attract crowds such as restaurants, cafes, bingo, church, the bowls club and family gatherings.
He also recommended they take advantage of special strategies put in place such as Woolworths and Coles dedicated shopping hour for the elderly and disabled before stores officially open.
“More than anyone else, they need to avoid social gatherings,” Dr Kidd said.
While social events are off the calendar, Dr Kidd said it was important for elderly Australians to remain active.
“There’s nothing stopping them from going out to places where they can move around freely, but not close to other people,” he said.
“So they can still go for a walk in the park … they don’t necessarily have to be confined to their home.
“They just need to plan things carefully so that they’re not going to come into contact with other people unnecessarily.”
Social distancing measures encouraged by government health officials include keeping 1.5m away from others in public, avoiding shaking hands, staying home if you are sick and practising good hand hygiene.
The Department of Health recommends those who are isolating themselves should “keep in touch with family members or friends via telephone, email or social media”.
Dr Kidd said while elderly patients should remain in contact with their GP if they have any health concerns, they should make attempts to minimise their time in the waiting room where they could potentially be infected by other patients.
“The best thing to do is for them to phone a little bit ahead and see how the doctor’s going,” he said.
“They’re probably better off going outside and walking around a bit outside instead rather than sitting inside.”
He added while he understood the elderly were “very worried”, they should remain alert, but not panicked.
“We need to remember that the vast majority of people, including older people, if they do get coronavirus, they’re going to survive,” Dr Kidd said.
“They’re going to recover and get back to a normal life.”