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Coronavirus and how you can help

I spent most of last week stuck at home with a cold. I was in a comfortable house stocked with food and supported by family. But I started to wonder how some others I know in Brunswick, who aren’t so fortunate, would cope.

In times of great uncertainty and crisis, we look after each other.

Some time in the next few months, it’s likely one or more people in your street will need to self isolate. It might even be you.

But isolation doesn’t have to mean loneliness.

To combat loneliness, and keep each other safe, we need creative ways to come together. In times of natural disaster, connected communities are more resilient communities.

Here are a few ideas you can help your neighbourhood come together.

Start a Facebook or WhatsApp Group for your street or building.

The safest way to stay connected right now is digitally. Create a Facebook group, make a copy of this google doc, edit it, print it and drop it in letterboxes. If people need to isolate, neighbours can coordinate dropping off supplies, or walk dogs via the group. My office can help print if you need.

Instructions on setting up a Facebook group are here.

The above could also be done via a WhatsApp Group. Info to set one up is here.

Established Groups. 

Below are some established groups, you are still encouraged to set one up in your street as we've heard these can be more effective than ones with wide catchments. 

Have a  Zoom video call with your Neighbours.

Zoom is a free, easy-to-use video conference software. Zoom chats could have children chatting to other children, a neighbour could read a bedtime story or, you can show off how cute your puppy is. Info on getting started with Zoom is here.

Slow the spread of infection.

A major part of our response to COVID-19 is to slow the spread of the virus, so that our hospitals are not overwhelmed by cases. We think it is mainly transmitted by respiratory droplets, spread by close face to face contact, by touching each other, or by touching things like taps and door handles, and then touching our faces. This passes on droplets from coughs, sneezes and noses. Coughing into your elbow or shoulder, means you don't put these drops on your hand. More here.

This is why frequent hand washing, or using hand sanitiser is so important.

In workplaces and common areas, we need to start cleaning door handles, taps and flush buttons frequently. And avoid sharing food at work or in meetings, from common platters. One person with clean hands, or tongs, can distribute food. It's time to stop shaking hands and unnecessary kissing.

We need to be extra careful around the elderly and those with significant illnesses. A good approach to reduce the risk of catching/spreading the virus, is to assume you have it and try not to share it.

Think of those at risk.

Recently, #HighRiskCOVID19 started trending on twitter. Unsurprisingly, many of those at higher risk of COVID-19 pneumonia are upset when news reports go out of their way to reassure everyone by saying “only” elderly and chronically ill people are at serious risk. This is not reassuring to members of those groups.

I don't think our hospitals will be hit quite as hard as Italy because we've had a bit more warning, we have fewer elderly and smokers, we have a lower population density and we started testing for the virus much earlier. So let's try and calm some of the anxiety that seems to be growing.

We'll have to live with this virus for months yet, so the actions we take to delay its spread may need to be sustained for months. The goal is to slow spread of the virus, not eliminate it. The travel bans and social distancing measures are already hurting people, so further steps such as closing schools need to be saved for when we know the virus is spreading within Victoria. (UPDATE 26 March: official policy seems to be moving more towards an elimination approach, rather than "flattening the curve". Hence tighter measures recently announced.)

How can we help those hardest hit?

Some will lose their jobs or lose a significant part of their income. They may not want to tell you about it, but they may need help. Ask what you can do.

School and child-care closures will force many parents to stay home, or leave children with grandparents for much longer periods than usual. Again, you may be able to help or babysit.

Acting together we can also remind all levels of government to support those who are hit the hardest. Governments are moving so fast right now to respond to the crisis, that they may easily overlook some groups.

As a community, we must push for support for:

  • those who have lost work as a result of COVID 19. This includes those in precarious or casual work, particularly in industries affected by bans on travel and gatherings.
  • those at risk of eviction.
  • those sleeping rough or in emergency homeless accommodation or refugee accommodation centres.
  • those who are incarcerated or institutionalised.

I'm sure I haven't thought of everything here and I'm interested to hear what you think - if I'm not your MP, please write to or call your MPs, state or federal.

What not to do.

It’s important to support, and not blame or shame, people who catch this virus. I'm partly being selfish here as I could easily catch it. The sooner the media stop naming infected celebrities, the better.

Please don't buy more than you need for a couple of weeks. Panic buying means others miss out. Can you imagine if you needed help to get to the supermarket, but when you got there, the shelves were empty? Food will not run out.

The Commons Library has some more interesting articles here. 

If you want to read more like this, sign up to my newsletter. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above. You can contact me here. 


Note: This blog was published on the 17th March, some advice may become outdated. Ensure you stay up-to-date by visiting the Victorian Health website

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Dr Tim Read
Greens MP for Brunswick
16 March 2020



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