” Life in the time of coronavirus can be confusing — mixed messages from state and federal leaders and new discoveries about the nature of the coronavirus being made every day have left Australians confused as to what they should do.
Below are seventy five common questions answered.
Please note this Weekend Australian article was written March 28 and the Prime Minters National Cabinet has issued these two major press releases since then that may effect some answers .”
1.When will life go back to normal?
No one really knows. The Australian government has flagged the current measures being taken to “flatten the curve” of infections as lasting at least six months – but the disruption coronavirus has caused has two limbs – the medical and the economic. The medical threat of coronavirus as an infectious disease will not be eliminated for another 12 to 18 months, experts say, as it’ll take that amount of time for a vaccine to come to market and for a sufficient portion of the global population to develop antibodies, which allow for immunity, through exposure to the virus. The economic impacts of the virus will be felt for longer – modelling by KPMG suggests the Australian economy will not return to growth until 2021.
2.What effect does coronavirus have on the body – isn’t it just a cold?
Coronavirus is not just a cold. It is a respiratory illness that infects the cell lining in the lungs and throat, causing dry coughs, body aches and a headache. For 80 per cent of people, these are the only symptoms that will be experienced – but for around 14 to per cent of people, the body’s immune system will overreact, causing inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia). For six per cent of people, the immune system begins to cause damage to other parts of the body – potentially resulting in death from septic shocks or organ failure.
3.What effects does coronavirus have on children?
Children are less likely to develop serious symptoms from the coronavirus. University of Sydney’s resident paediatrician Professor Robert Booy says that when children get a viral illness for the first time, it is usually only mildly. He also says babies can contract the disease – but like in children, the infection is also mild. However, this does not mean that children are immune from coronavirus. “We cannot say there is no evidence of transmission of children,” Professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales and Kirby Institute biosecurity head Raina MacIntyre told The Australian.
“A large study of over 2000 coronavirus infected children in China released by the paediatrics Journal last week shows that only 50 per cent of the children had a mild case.
“30 per cent had a more severe infection, six per cent had a critical illness and there was one death of a 14-year-old-child. Of those children with a severe infection, more than half of them were six or younger – primary school age.”
4.I think I have coronavirus. Should I go to the hospital?
It is important to only use emergency rooms if absolutely necessary as hospitals are experiencing a surge in visits. The Australian government is encouraging anyone who suspects they have coronavirus to call the national coronavirus helpline on 1800 020 080 and talk to an operator, who will tell you what you should do next. The government has recently expanded the eligibility criteria for testing. If you have returned from overseas since 15 March and developed symptoms within 14 days, or had contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus you should make an appointment to be tested. Additionally, if you live in an area where community transmission is occurring, or are a healthcare or aged care worker, you should also make an appointment. Remember to call ahead to let the hospital or clinic know that you are coming, and explain how you may have been transmitted the virus. Try to keep 1.5 metres away from other people.
5.I am self-isolating and suspect I have symptoms of coronavirus, how do I treat my symptoms from home?
It is important to rest well and keep fluids up, like if you were ill with a normal flu. Paracetamol is currently acceptable as a way of managing the symptoms of coronavirus. The WHO briefly warned against treating symptoms with ibuprofen, but has since retracted that advice.
6.I’m self-isolating. Can I walk the dog, even if I do not come into contact with anyone?
No. If you have been overseas and returned after March 16 or have been ordered to isolate, the Government’s isolation advice allows at the most for you to be outside in a private garden or courtyard. If you are in a hotel and are going to a private outdoor area, you must wear gloves and a mask when moving through common areas.
7.I’m self-isolating. Can I take out the rubbish?
The Australian government has not offered specific advice on how to remove rubbish – but the UK and NZ authorities have advised that personal waste, such as used tissues and disposable cleaning cloths, should be disposed of securely in a bag. The bag should be firmly placed within another tied bag and left for at least 72 hours before being removed. Best practice would be to find a place on your property where the rubbish can be stored without causing inconvenience, but if that is impractical then the advice about moving through common areas when under self-isolation should be followed – wear gloves and a mask and quickly dispose of the rubbish.
8.Is it still safe to eat at a restaurant or go to the pub or cafe?
No. As of midday Monday March 23, all licensed and registered venues must close while restaurants and cafes can only offer takeaway or home delivery services.
9.Is it still safe to go the gym?
No. As of midday Monday March 23 all gyms and indoor sport venues must close. All outdoor exercise, like bootcamp, is fine if everyone ensures there is one person per four square metres and there is a limit to 10 people in one group.
10.I’m 70 years old. What should I do to stay safe?
Take reasonable precautions. Stay home if possible and try to avoid public transport. Wear gloves and a mask when venturing outside if possible and make sure to frequently wash your hands and use hand sanitiser. Try to take advantage of services now being offered for elderly Australians like the community shopping hour between 7am and 8am by both Coles and Woolworths. Woolworths is now only reserving online delivery of groceries for vulnerable groups, including the coronavirus.
11.Will I die if I get coronavirus?
Probably not. Currently, the mortality rate in Australia is less than one per cent. Globally, it is just under five per cent, with only six per cent of cases developing life-threatening symptoms. However, no-one is truly safe and the advice of health authorities should be followed.
12. I have a relative in an aged care home. Can I visit them?
The government has recently announced new guidelines for people visiting nursing homes as elderly people are especially vulnerable and nursing homes are a nexus for disease transmission – three of Australia’s six deaths have been residents of an aged care home. There can now only be two people visiting a home at any one time, and only for short periods of time. The visit should be conducted in the resident’s room, outdoors or in a specified area. You cannot enter an aged care facility if you have been overseas in the past 14 days or have been in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case. From May 1, you must also have had a flu shot to enter an aged care home. Be aware that many aged care facilities have voluntarily locked down.
13. I have a relative in hospital. Can I visit them?
Hospitals are making their own individual preparations regarding visitors. Contact the relevant hospital to find out what their guidelines are – but don’t go if you have been overseas in the past 14 days, or if you have been in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case. In WA, children under the age of 16 cannot visit hospitals
14. Is there a vaccine for coronavirus?
No. However, trials are underway in the United States and Australia now. A vaccine and could be available in 12 to 18 months.
15. I’m in self-isolation. How do I get food?
If you are a member of a vulnerable group then supermarkets will deliver grocery orders to you. If you are not, Coles and Woolworths will not deliver and other supermarkets may not be able to fulfil your order in a timely manner. If you are in Victoria, premier Daniel Andrews has said that the state government will organise food packages to be delivered to those stuck in isolation. Otherwise, community groups are organising ways to get food to those who need it – contact your local religious institution, council or community centre. Additionally, many restaurants are still offering home delivery and food delivery services like Uber eats are still operational.
16. Is takeaway food safe?
If you believe the place you are ordering food from follows government hygiene guidelines, then the takeaway food should be fine.
17 .Is it safe to go to the movies?
18. Do I need to self-isolate?
You need to self-isolate for 14 days if you have returned from overseas within the last fortnight, or have had contact with a confirmed case within the last fortnight from the date of return or contact made. If you are experiencing symptoms, it is wise to voluntarily self-isolate and contact the government’s coronavirus helpline on 1800 020 080.
19. If I self isolate and live with other people, do they have to self-isolate too?
Official government guidelines do not require family or housemates to self isolate alongside someone who has. However, contact between people should be minimal and if any other person develops symptoms then they too should isolate
20. I am returning from overseas. Can I domestically transfer before entering self-isolation?
Yes, but be aware of border closures. NSW, Victoria and the ACT are the only states and territory that did not have specific border entry restrictions. Unless you are an essential worker, for example emergency services or a health care worker, the following restrictions apply if you enter any of the below states or territory:
- Queensland: from midnight on 25 March anyone entering Queensland from another state or territory must self-quarantine for 14 days
- Western Australia: from 1.30pm 24 March anyone entering WA must self quarantine for 14 days
- South Australia: from 24 March anyone entering South Australia must self-quarantine for 14 days and will be required to confirm the address of their quarantine.
- Northern Territory: from 24 March anyone entering the Northern Territory must self-quarantine for 14 days and fill in an arrival form to declare where you have travelled in the last 30 days, contact details and where you intend to stay
- Tasmania: from 20 March anyone entering Tasmania must self-quarantine for 14 days and fill in an arrival form and fill in an arrival form to declare where you have travelled in the last 30 days, contact details and where you intend to stay
21.What does flattening the curve mean?
“Flattening the curve” is a term being used by medical officials and the Australian government to describe slowing the rate of coronavirus infection to a manageable point. It is often visualised to demonstrate why measures such as social distancing and self-isolation are necessary.
22. What is herd immunity?
Herd immunity is a controversial theory of infectious disease management that says vulnerable people are protected from a disease when many around them are immune. It usually is employed to justified vaccination campaigns – but it has been used most notably by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and has been referenced by Scott Morrison in relation to coronavirus. The idea is to allow a portion of a population to catch coronavirus and then develop immunity – stopping the transmission of the disease in the long run.
23 I have a health condition, do I need to worry?
People with underlying health conditions are more at risk from coronavirus. Specifically, people undergoing cancer treatment or people with heart disease, asthma, diabetes, respiratory problems, high blood pressure, HIV, auto-immune disorders or recipients of bone marrow transplant are also at risk.
24. Can the virus be passed on in food?
There is no evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted through properly prepared food, according to the European Food Safety Authority. However, investigations are continuing and the WHO recommends raw meat, raw milk and raw animal organs should not be consumed.
25. Are fresh vegetables and fruit safe from the virus or do I need to wash everything first?
As coronavirus can be transmitted via surfaces, it is prudent to wash all raw food that may have been handled by others before cooking it.
26. If I go outside to the shops should I change my clothes afterwards – or even wash them?
There is no official advice along these lines – but if it makes you feel better, you can do so. Dr Lisa Ackerley, English public health and hygiene expert has said that if the virus is on clothes it should die if set aside for 72 hours or put through a high temperature wash of about 60 degrees.
27. Should I be wearing plastic gloves when I go to the supermarket?
Again, this has not been prescribed, but is a very good precaution that can be taken.
28. My kids are still playing in the local playground – can I be sure that the equipment is clean? Does the virus live on items like swings?
The virus can live for days on metal and plastic – so it is possible for it to survive on play equipment. And although children do not experience coronavirus symptoms as badly as older people, they can still transmit the disease. In line with the government’s latest rules, only take your family outside if it is absolutely necessary and it is a good idea not to let your children clamber around on play equipment with other kids.
29. Could my pet be a carrier?
The CDC advises that although there is no evidence companion animals can spread COVID-19, animals have been known to carry coronaviruses in the past. Practice good hygiene after interacting with your pets and to practice social distancing from them if you suspect you are infected.
30. If someone pats my dog while we’re out walking, is there a chance that the virus could be passed on via his fur?
There have been no confirmed cases of this occurring but coronavirus can live on porous surfaces like hair – but not as long as it can on smoother surfaces. Take reasonable precautions.
31.Some of our local shops have staff wearing gloves, but others don’t. Should we avoid those that don’t have gloves?
Under Australian work, health and safety laws employers have a legal obligation to take reasonable precautions to avoid the risks of COVID-19 transmissions among their staff and any customers. There is no prescription for gloves from the government, but they will probably become more common in shops for the above reason. You don’t need to avoid these stores if you take reasonable precautions.
32. Are there some surfaces that I should clean more regularly than others in my house, or does the virus last for the same length of time on all surfaces?
New research shows that the virus survives longer on some surfaces than others. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that COVID-19 can survive 24 hours on cardboard, up to three days on plastic and stainless steel services and about this long laminated work desks and door handles – although it dies on copper after about four hours.
33. Are there some household cleaners that are better than others? Is there a basic ingredient I should be looking for?
The most effective ways of killing coronavirus are alcohol-based cleaning solution between 62-71 per cent, 0.5 per cent hydrogen peroxide bleach or household bleach with 0.1 per cent sodium hypochlorite concentration. Hospital-grade disinfectant brands available in supermarkets are suitable.
34. My elderly father can’t look after his garden – is it still safe for him to have someone to come in to mow his lawn and look after his plants?
So long as appropriate social distancing is practised, it should be fine. Keep the gardener in the garden and don’t shake his hand or give hum a hug.
35. Is it safe to swim in the local pool? Does chlorine kill the virus?
There is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus transmits through properly treated swimming pool, according to Harvard Medical School. However, public pools are inappropriate places to visit at the present time and should be avoided. Indoor swimming facilities will be forced to close as of midday, Monday March 23 and all other swimming pools will close on Thursday March 26.
36. Is it possible the virus could be passed on in the post through the surface of letters and parcels?
It is possible as coronavirus can survive on the surface of cardboard and cardboard-like surfaces for 24 hours. However, risk can be mitigated by opening the parcels with glove or by disinfecting your hands with sanitiser after opening the package.
37. Should I disinfect my front door and doorbell if people are bringing deliveries to the house?
It is by no means a requirement, but it would be a reasonable precaution to take as coronavirus can survive on such services by days.
38. I’m worried about my kids going to school. Should I keep them at home?
The government is advising parents to keep any child even slightly unwell at home. Otherwise, they should be at school. NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is encouraging parents in the state to keep children at home, citing health concerns. The federal government has conceded many children will be kept home from school over the coming months but strongly emphasises that this does not mean children are free to roam around and visit “trampoline venues”, as the prime minister put it on Monday. They must stay home.
39. Is coronavirus especially dangerous to pregnant women?
The WHO currently believes that coronavirus is not more dangerous to pregnant women than it is to those who are not pregnant. It helps that most women of child-bearing age are in a lower-risk category. The CDC says there is no evidence of any increased risk of miscarriage and other complications, although the American College of Obstetricians estimates based on data from other coronaviruses that there may be a slightly higher risk of premature birth. There is also no evidence COVID-19 can be transmitted through breast milk. The one caveat to this news is that a newborn recently tested positive for coronavirus in the UK – leading doctors to investigate whether the virus passed in the womb or during the delivery process.
40. Can coronavirus spread through drinking water?
The Australian government currently anticipates that drinking water will not be affected and there is no evidence to suggest that it can be spread in well-treated drinking water.
41. Is sex dangerous?
Sex with people you are not normally in close contact with is definitely contrary to the idea of social distancing.
42. Am I protected against COVID-19 19 if I have had the flu vaccine?
No. But Health chiefs across the countries are advising people to get vaccinated against the flu to ensure that anyone who contracts coronavirus does not also contract the viral flu, which could have significant health consequences.
43. Can coronavirus be transferred through food like meat?
Properly prepared and cooked meat will not transfer the virus, according to Australian government and WHO advice. Raw meat, raw milk and raw animal organs should not be consumed.
44. I have tested positive. Will I really be non-contagious after just 14 days?
The purpose of the 14 day self-isolation measure is because the WHO has advised that the average incubation period – or the amount of time between infection and the appearance of symptoms – can take from one days to 14 days, most commonly five. However – there have been a few isolated outliers where incubation periods have been longer, some as long as 24 days.
If you do have coronavirus, you won’t be non-contagious until you have recovered and been cleared by medical professionals.
44. Is it safe to touch money?
Because many stores across the world have chosen to only accept contactless card payments at this time, there is an impression that the official advice is not to use money. This is incorrect – the WHO has not issued an official warning against using bank notes, only to practice good hygiene doing so. There are no confirmed cases of paper or polymer notes transferring the virus but it is considered possible. It’s a decision for you.
46. Should I lick the envelope if I send a letter?
Washington state, the epicentre of the virus in the United States, recently advised voters in the Democratic primary not to enclose their ballots by licking their envelopes. The advice was issued by the state public health authority, so it would be prudent to use tape instead.
47. Do posties wear gloves?
Australia Post has taken a range of measures to ensure social distancing is followed. Gloves are not prescribed as a part of that, but it includes no longer requiring a signature for package collection, hand sanitiser in every location shutting down self-service terminals at post offices. Packages and post will no longer be handed directly to the customer. Posties are free to wear gloves if they so choose, Australia Post told The Australian.
48. Should I stop using keep cups?
You may have noticed some cafes are no longer serving take away coffee in keep cups. International coffee giant Starbucks has also taken the move in consultation with the US’s CDA as membrane from the mouth’s contact on the cup can transmit the virus. You should not use keep cups.
49. Could there be virus in frozen berries?
In theory, it is possible. If handled by an infected individual and then frozen, the virus could probably survive. The WHO states that coronaviruses in general are “very stable in a frozen state,” and can survive for up to two years at temperatures at -20c. This has not been confirmed for COVID-19, but “there is no indication that so far” that it behaves differently.
50. Will I get my fees back if I cancel childcare?
No – although a closed childcare centre cannot continue to charge fees. On the issue of subsidies, Federal education minister Dan Tehan announced on Monday that both a childcare centre and parents sending their children to that childcare centre will continue to receive subsidies if that centre is directed to close over coronavirus concerns. You will still be able to access childcare subsidies if you decide to keep your child home due to coronavirus beyond the standard six week of absences afforded to every child – but only if you have a doctor’s certificate.
52. If I’m working remotely, does that mean I have to stay home?
Unless you are under self-isolation, no. You can still go about normal activities, but follow government advice and proper hygienic practices when doing so.
53. Is it safe to catch taxis?
The government is advising drivers of taxis to employ good hygiene practices – such as the use of hand sanitiser and disinfectant – to ensure the virus doesn’t transfer through the vehicle. The Prime Minister has also advised people sit in the back of the taxi if possible. It is not completely safe, but it is a good alternative to mass public transport.
54. Can my children’s grandparents look after my children if schools close?
The government is advising older Australians do not receive visits from grandchildren. Younger people can carry coronavirus without exhibiting severe symptoms and unwittingly transfer the disease.
55. Is it safe to play social sport like golf or tennis with others?
Team contact sports are being cancelled or subject to additional restrictions for a reason – coronavirus can very quickly and easily spread through a situation where groups of people are in constant contact. The Australian Institute of Sport recommends that sporting activities be modified to “facilitate social distancing recommendations” – all indoor sporting facilities will be closed as of midday Monday March 23 and as of Thursday, group exercise classes are limited to 10 people.
56. Do I need to stop dating new people during the pandemic?
Social distancing rules state you shouldn’t shake hands with people. Additionally, the government is advising against non-essential social activities. Routinely dating new people would violate these rules, unless your dates consist of contactless walks on a beach.
57. Do I need to go to the doctor if I get a bad headache?
Unless you have returned from overseas in the last 14 days, work as an aged care or healthcare professional, or have had contact with a confirmed case, then you should. Otherwise the government is advising against non-essential medical visits. If the headache persists, a medical visit for non-coronavirus reasons may be prudent.
58. Will farmers markets still be held?
Yes. Indoor gathers more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings more than 500 people in size have been banned, except in the circumstance of essential services. The government has said farmers’ markets serve the same purpose as supermarkets. The Australian Farmers’ Markets Association has said that most markets across the country will continue to trade with enhanced precautionary measures in place.
59. Are any medications unsafe to take?
It is best to consult with a pharmacist or your doctor about what medications you should take if you believe you have coronavirus as there is no evidence to suggest any medication is harmful. However, some doctors have expressed concern over immunosuppressant medications potentially exacerbating symptoms – but most authorities believe this is not an issue.
60. Do I really need to wear a face mask?
Current government advice is that surgical masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus from spreading it. If you are well, you do not need to wear a mark but if you are feeling ill, it is a reasonable precaution.
60. Is it safe to stay in a hotel?
The Australian government is not prohibiting hotel stays and has issued advice to hotel operators about what to do if a guest falls ill or has to self isolate. However, any hotel is likely to be riskier than staying in a private residence due to the quantity of people pass through and share common spaces. You should only stay in a hotel if you only have nowhere else to go.
62. Will my work get annoyed if I call in sick?
They shouldn’t. Official government advice is for all people feeling ill not to go to work. They also advise every workplace should be establishing work at home measures if practical.
63. I Was about to sell my house – is the market going to collapse?
CoreLogic, a property data service said on Tuesday that the Australian housing market historical performs well in economic shocks – but a pandemic-induced economic slowdown may have “unique” effect when combined with existing economic headwinds like high household debt. The proportion of foreign and domestic investors in the housing market is ebbing towards a low point for the decade – meaning that money is less likely to be pulled out of the market at short notice. However, house sales are unlikely to rise as the economy faces certain recession. The prediction drawn by CoreLogic is that the housing market is likely to drop, but drop slower than other parts of the economy and recover faster.
64. Can our wedding go ahead?
Weddings are considered non-essential gatherings and cannot go ahead unless it comprises just five people – the couple, the celebrant and two witnesses. If it is indoors and breaks the 4 square metres per person rule, it can also not go ahead.
65. Are people really going to get fined for failing to self-isolate?
Yes. All states and territories have enacted penalties for failing to self-isolate if ordered or after returning from overseas. In NSW, someone who does not self-isolate for 14 days after returning from overseas can be hit with a fine up to $11,000 or six months in prison. In Victoria, there is a near $20,000 fine. In Queensland, a fine of up to $13,345, in the ACT $8000, WA up to $50,000 or jail time, NT $1256 or six months in prison, SA has a maximum fine of $25,000 and Tasmania, a fine of $16,800 or six months in prison. Police in NSW can also now offer $1000 on the spot fines for individuals and $5000 fines for businesses that violate prescribed business closures and social distancing rules.
66. Can my non-Australian partner come through airport immigration with me?
As of 9pm on Friday March 20 all non-citizens and nonresidents, including Visa holders, cannot enter the country. However, if you are married to your partner then they can apply for a special temporary visa to enter the country. The same applies to children of Australian citizens or permanent residents.
67. Are petrol prices going to come down?
The ACCC has said it will name and shame petrol retailers who do not lower prices at the pump as the economic shock of coronavirus and other supply-related factors have caused global oil prices to crash. However, Australia imports its oil, and the declining strength of the Australian oil will mitigate the effects of any sustained decline in oil prices.
68. There’s no food I like left at the supermarket, where else can I shop?
Farmers markets will remain open and many charities and food banks offer free or discounted groceries for the disadvantaged. And there is always the local butcher or fruit shop, who are permitted to remain open.
69. Are reality TV shows going to be cancelled?
Production suspensions of shows The Voice Australia, Big Brother and Australia’s Got Talent have already occurred. TV drama Neighbours suspended production on Wednesday last week after it was revealed a casual employee had come in contact with a coronavirus case. In the US, where the situation is worse, over 100 shows have halted productions. Cancellations are a possibility.
70. I had tickets to an upcoming concert, will I get a refund?
Australian consumer law, ticket holders to an event are entitled to a refund if an event is cancelled – unless the cancellation is government-ordered due to a crisis. However, many cancelled events are offering refunds for ticket holders – you should get in contact with the booking company and find out.
71. Someone sneezed near me today – how close do they need to be for me to potentially catch coronavirus?
The government is advising people to stay 1.5m apart to prevent airborne coronavirus-infected droplets from spreading from person to person.
72. Is there a chance I’ve already had it and didn’t know?
Potentially – some people who have been diagnosed with the disease report little to no symptoms. However, unless you have recently returned from overseas or have had contact with a confirmed case, it is unlikely. Currently, almost 99 per cent of the 160,000 or so coronavirus tests carried out in Australia have returned a negative reading.
73. Does this mean we need to cancel Mother’s Day plans or will it be over then?
The government currently predicts social distancing and other government restrictions on travel and gatherings will remain in place for at least six months. If your Mother’s Day plans violate any of these restrictions, modify your plans. Additionally, all non-essential travel within the country is being advised against by the federal government. It is best to stay away and phone.
74. What is shut during the lockdown? See Press Releases at start
75. Should I more buy toilet paper?
No. The shortage of toilet paper is manufactured by people panic buying rolls en masse. Australia has the capability to produce enough toilet paper to supply the population. The raw ingredient of the precious commodity is softwood and sawmill residue, which Australia has in abundance. In addition, Kleenex, Sorbent and ABC tissues have ramped up production in their Australian facilities to resupply shops. Take a deep breath. In this aspect of the coronavirus crisis, we will be fine.
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