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As COVID-19 restrictions ease, National Seniors recommend staying vigilant

As social rules and guidelines ease between the States and Territories, peak body for older Australians, National Seniors Australia, wants to remind everyone to continue following social distancing suggestions and hygiene rules.

​While the threat of coronavirus in Australia has reduced, National Seniors is worried that the public may consider this a green light to go back to their everyday lives. [Source: Shutterstock]
​While the threat of coronavirus in Australia has reduced, National Seniors is worried that the public may consider this a green light to go back to their everyday lives. [Source: Shutterstock]

While the threat of coronavirus in Australia has reduced, National Seniors is worried that the public may consider this a green light to go back to their everyday lives when in reality these easing restrictions aim to slowly introduce everyone back into Australian life.

Chief Advocate of National Seniors, Ian Henschke, provided examples from Singapore and Germany where these countries relaxed their restrictions too early and experienced a second wave of COVID-19 spreading through the public.

"People must still follow the advice of medical authorities and not see this as a time where we can start hugging one another or shaking hands," says Mr Henschke.

"It’s not a case of ‘she’ll be right, mate.’ Our own social distancing rules must still be maintained as the virus has not been eradicated."

Mr Henschke supports the comments by New South Wales (NSW) Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, who stated that Australians must all behave as if we still have the virus or the potential to get the virus.

“The NSW Premier said if we want to maintain the great result we are achieving in flattening the curve, then every time we leave the house we have to act as though we have the virus or we are going to come into contact with someone who has the virus," adds Mr Henschke.

National Seniors strongly suggest that everyone follows the Government and Health Minister's advice in regards to safety.

For older Australians, hand hygiene and social distancing is paramount, as well as not being in crowded places or travelling to places that aren't essential.

Mr Henschke says that these precautions are on the onus of all Australians, not just older people.

"I think what we have got to recognise is that we are seeing more evidence from overseas that this, although it does adversely affect seniors at a greater rate, there are people that are affected who are younger," says Mr Henschke.

"I don't think people should be lulled into a false sense of security here in Australia, purely because we have seen mainly the illness affecting older Australians.

"This is not the flu and it should not be seen as some sort of flu, which is a very common thing you will hear people say. It is something quite different."

He also wants to emphasise that the easing of restrictions doesn't mean you ease the measures you need to take to fight this virus.

Additionally, Australia needs to look at the case studies overseas and try to do better, otherwise, the country will see a second wave again, which could result in a higher death toll and wider spread.

Even though some restrictions in States and Territories are allowing small gatherings and may even be allowing sit down meals, outside, at cafés and restaurants, everyone should not give hugs or shake hands with people. And if you forget, make sure to wash your hands immediately.

"One of the biggest problems with this particular virus is that people can have the virus asymptomatically. They exhibit no symptoms, they have no cough, they have no fever. They can then pass it to another person who is asymptomatic, that is why we have to be worried," explains Mr Henschke.

So while these restrictions are easing, older Australians should not become complacent.

If you develop a cough or fever, visit a doctor and get checked out.

National Seniors recently assisted in setting up a hotline for older Australians specifically around COVID-19 information. 

The hotline, set up with funding from the Federal Government and includes other advocacy groups such as Council of the Ageing (COTA), Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), and Dementia Australia, is for seniors who are feeling isolated or want to talk to someone about the virus.

Contact the COVID-19 hotline on 1800 171 866. The line has friendly operators who are there to listen, help and provide guidance during this difficult time.

For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide COVID-19 update page.

Do you have any questions about the coronavirus that you want answered? Tell us in the comments below or email journalist@dps.com.au.

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