Starting from tomorrow, Australians are being asked not to hold non-essential mass gatherings of 500 people or more.
This is an important step to take if we are to slow the sharp rise of COVID-19 cases that we have witnessed in some other countries.
We have also seen other countries that have been able to stop a quick spread in the number of people with COVID-19.
Taking action – based on the best advice locally and internationally – is the best way we can protect people from the risks attached to this virus.
There will be more confirmed cases of COVID-19.
But by taking these measures, we can help prevent a sharp spike in the number of infections – reducing the pressure on our health system and ensuring that everyone gets access to the care they need.
We know in mass gatherings like sporting events, concerts and music festivals that spread of COVID-19 becomes more likely, putting more people at risk of contracting it.
This action is designed to avoid harm to the community, particularly for those people who are more vulnerable to this virus – our elderly and those with chronic illnesses.
For the moment, if you are well and free of symptoms, you can continue catching the train if it’s essential, going to work, sending your kids to school and going to your local shops. If you’re unwell, you should be at home.
We’re also asking Victorians to think about buying a small amount of extra food and other essential supplies for themselves, for their pets, and for others they may be caring for.
That does not mean stockpiling – but planning sensibly as you shop.
Thinking about what extra items you’d like in your pantry and by shopping accordingly – for food such as non-perishables like dried fruit and nuts, canned foods and vegetables, beans, coffee, cereal, and pasta.
You don’t need too much, just a two-week supply of food and a 30-day supply of prescription medication.
Businesses also need to think about what they should do, in the workplace and for staff wherever they are.
Employers can take steps now to prepare their workforce. If the option exists, working from home is preferable. Staggering work hours to avoid public transport congestion is another important option.
And, of course, with widespread illness, businesses will need to plan for people being away, their return to work and hygiene measures for staff.
These are the conversations that everyone should be having now at home with family, friends and work colleagues. You should particularly talk to elderly friends and family and support them to plan to stay safe.
For now, we advise:
- If you are ill, stay at home. If you think you need medical attention, phone your GP or the hotline first and they’ll tell you what to do.
- Practise good hand hygiene – wash your hands regularly. It really does make a difference. And employ good cough etiquette by coughing into your elbow.
- Other measures should include not touching your face, and instead of your fingers, using your knuckle, a pen or an ID card to activate lift buttons.
We’ve already said that wearing masks is not the best preventive measure. They play a role if you’re unwell and you need to be out and about, but if you’re well they’re not a great use of a resource in high demand.
And please continue to exercise, eating healthy food, drinking water and getting adequate sleep.
Have no doubt, COVID-19 in Australia will present challenges across every sector and in every community.
But if we listen and act on health advice, we can help protect our most vulnerable – older Victorians and those with chronic conditions such as heart and lung disease.
Our best public health advice tells us COVID-19 will be with us for a while.
But by preparing and protecting ourselves and others – we can and we will get through this together.
The COVID-19 hotline is available 24 hours, 7 days on 1800 675 398