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Coronavirus: Updated advice for Victorians, Brett Sutton Chief Health Officer

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Published on Mar 2, 2020

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services is working closely with the health sector, Commonwealth and international agencies to respond appropriately to the outbreak of coronavirus.
Find resources and up to date information here: www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus




Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton:
Hello, I’m Victoria’s Chief health Officer, Brett Sutton.

There has been a lot of conversation recently about the coronavirus outbreak becoming a pandemic.

This has raised a lot of concern and fear within our communities, which is a normal reaction. A Pandemic is a serious situation and requires us to think about what it means.
So what does pandemic actually mean and what will it mean for us here in Victoria once a pandemic is declared or occurring here?

In the simplest of terms, a pandemic means that a new virus is spreading across multiple countries around the world, potentially affecting everyone. As we see more and more cases being reported globally, the likelihood of coronavirus spreading to Australia and within our communities becomes more likely, even inevitable.

As it is a new disease which Australians have not been exposed to before, it means everyone will be vulnerable, although some are more at risk than others. The exact timing of when we start to see coronavirus spread within Victoria is not yet known, but we expect it could happen at any time. We’ve seen the first cases in NSW with no history of travel and more cases like this will emerge over time.

When it does arrive, we will respond quickly and robustly. But that can’t stop a pandemic, only help to slow it and minimise the impact. When the virus begins to spread freely here – as it will - the planning we have done already will immediately go into action.

Our current measures – travel restrictions and quarantining confirmed cases and their close contacts - have bought time so far. But that won’t last. In a pandemic, every country in the world becomes affected and the focus must turn to reducing its impact and helping protect people.

Everyone can take steps now, at home and at work, to prepare.

Have conversations with friends, family and work colleagues about how you would support each other if you got sick. Think about elderly friends, neighbors, and people with a disability in your community and how you will respond. Make a plan on how you and your family (including pets) would manage if you needed to stay at home for 2 to 3 weeks. If you are ill, stay at home. Practice good hand hygiene – wash your hands regularly. And practice good cough etiquette – by coughing into your elbow.

Other measures can include not touching your face, use your knuckle, a pen or an ID card to activate lift buttons, instead of your fingers. 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 precious resource.

While Victoria has access to a stockpile of masks, these should be saved exclusively for our frontline health care workers, who may face infectious individuals at work every day.

Have no doubt, coronavirus in Australia will present challenges across all sectors of the community.

As we saw in the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic – which was relatively mild - there was still a significant impact across Australia.

However, if we all listen and act on the health advice, we can help protect the most vulnerable – the elderly and those with chronic conditions such as heart and lung disease. And many of us will be able to go about our daily lives and help others.

Our best public health advice tells us coronavirus will be with us for a while. We can and will get through this together, by preparing and protecting ourselves and others.

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