Two months ago few of us had ever heard of the word social distancing. Except possibly we netballers, who were taught from a young age that 3 feet is the acceptable defending distance.
With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases now rising rapidly around the world, increasingly drastic measures are being put in place to try to curb its effects.
Strict limitations on our freedom of movement and actions by political leaders and health officials resemble severe groundings from parents as punishment for naughty behaviour. That’s if you were ever grounded as a teenager.
Yet while the introverts and germaphobes among us may be silently rejoicing during these uncertain times, for the remainder of us it demands a radical change to our everyday behaviours.
The goal of these measures is to avoid a worst-case scenario that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns could see four million people, or one in six Australians, contract COVID-19 in a concentrated hit.
Currently Australia is a long way off this with 2,423* confirmed cases as at 3pm on 25 March, and eight deaths. NSW has the most confirmed cases at 1,029, Victoria 466, Queensland 443 and South Australia 197.
Social distancing is necessary
The Department of Health says social distancing is important because COVID-19 is most likely to spread from person to person through direct close contact with a person while they are infectious (or in the 24 hours before their symptoms appeared), or touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles or tables) contaminated from a cough or sneeze from a person with a confirmed infection, and then touching your mouth or face.
Health experts recommend social distancing to slow the spread of any disease that is being passed from person to person.
Social distance measures, aimed at preventing the coronavirus pandemic from escalating beyond current levels, have been in place for good reason yet not everyone has taken these restrictions seriously.
As a result, the Australian Government enforced immediate restrictions as at 12pm on Monday, 23 March.
In his national press conference announcing new closures, social distancing and quarantine rules, Mr Morrison said the step had to be taken because Australians were not adequately sticking to rules around social distancing.
“We cannot have the confidence as a group of leaders that the social distancing guidelines and rules that we have put in place won’t be followed to the level of compliance that we require to flatten the curve and slow the spread and save lives.”
Social distancing in apartment living
The Department of Health recommends practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet; covering your cough and sneeze; disposing of tissues, and by using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
When at home:
- Regularly disinfect high touch surfaces such as tables, kitchen benches and doorknobs.
- Open windows to increase ventilation, not your front door.
- If you are unwell, stay inside and focus on getting better. Wear a facemask in common areas should you need to leave your home.
- Restrict touching high contact surfaces in common areas and always wash and sanitise hands thoroughly before and after use.
- Do not crowd lifts, wait for the next one.
- Do not overcrowd stairwells. Wait until they are clear before using.
- If you need to use the handrail, wash your hands before and immediately after use.
- Do not use inhouse pool or gym. It is recommended these facilities be shut until further notice. Check with your building manager or strata community manager for further details.
- For parcel deliveries, check with your building manager or strata community manager for instructions and strictly adhere to these rules.
The most important thing we as individuals can do is use common sense and practice social distancing.
These simple actions help reduce risk to you and to others. They help slow the spread of disease in the community – and you can use them every day in your home community.
During an epidemic like this, your home is your temple. Keep it hygienic, look after yourself, family, friends and neighbours.