In China, Covid-19 came out of nowhere on January 1 to block the entire Wuhan province by February.
Its rapid spread rate can be seen again in Italy and Japan and the World Health Organization has now warned that the “window of opportunity” to contain the disease is shrinking.
So can Australia cope if the disease reaches pandemic levels here? And what preparations should ordinary citizens make?
THE OFFICIAL ANSWER
“We have provided assistance to professionals and many communication materials, but now we are focused on the models of assistance that must be present: clinics, telephone triage, home care, up to intensive care and assistance for the elderly”, Victoria Dice Brett Chief Health Officer Sutton.
“Victoria and Australia however remain completely in containment mode – identifying each possible case; isolating those who are contagious; and quarantine your contacts. Regardless of international developments, this gives us all the time and space to plan and prepare. “
But this response makes us vulnerable, warns director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, Tom Inglesby.
“Given the developments and trends of the past few days, it is clear that governments must work intensely with hospitals and healthcare systems to prepare to take care of Covid patients, possibly in large numbers,” he says.
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The key to Covid-19 developments is the number of cases that appear in countries outside of China. And many of these are unrelated to travelers … which indicates that the virus is established in their general populations.
Inglesby says that, based on China’s experience, preparations should include:
• Prepare for a substantial increase in the number of patients who need oxygen and mechanical ventilation;
• Quickly and correctly diagnose people with Covid-19 symptoms;
establish the highest possible infection control procedures;
ensure that healthcare professionals have high quality personal protective equipment to prevent them from becoming infected
• Prepare to give those with Covid-19 who are not sick enough to be in the hospital, instructions for isolation at home and self-care, so that they do not pose a risk to hospital patients.
• Assess whether there are community-based public health interventions that could slow the spread of Covid-19 to create fewer very sick people who are all in the hospital at the same time
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HOW SHOULD YOU GET READY?
Lanard and Sandman, a group at risk, say preparatory advice should be circulated: “Almost no official tells civil society and the general public how to prepare for this pandemic.”
To dispel panic, they say, health officials should provide preparation guidelines.
In this way, worried people will not remain impotent. And the more people get ready, the more people will feel their community ready.
“We are all stakeholders and we don’t just want to know what officials are doing. We also want to hear what we can do,” they write.
“We want – and need – to get advice like this:
If possible, try to get a few more months of prescription drugs.
• Don’t panic. But slowly build up long-lasting food supplies enough for a few weeks.
• Think immediately about how we will take care of sick family members as we try not to get infected.
• Cross training of key personnel at work, so the absence of a person will not derail your organization’s ability to function.
• Practice touching our faces less. How about a face-counter app like the pedometers that many of us use?
• Replace handshakes with elbow protrusions (the “Ebola handshake”).
• Start practicing damage reduction habits such as pressing the elevator buttons with a knuckle rather than with the tip of a finger.
But the impact of a pandemic could also profoundly affect businesses, supply chains and essential services.
“We have seen almost nothing in the mainstream media citing this guide or recommending business continuity strategies such as urgent cross-training so that core functions are not derailed because some key employees are sick, for example.”
That message is now starting to come out.
At least at the state level.
“Australia has absolutely world-class healthcare, but even the best healthcare in the world is being tested during pandemics,” says Sutton. “We have some of the brightest minds in the world in our health services, labs, research and emergency management sector. I am confident that we are in the best position to face future challenges, whatever they are. Hope for the best and plan for the worst. “
Originally published as steps that must be taken to avoid the killer virus