COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China, late last year. According to the World Health Organisation, this strain of coronavirus has not previously been identified in humans.
The coronavirus, or COVID-19, has recently been declared a pandemic by the WHO. It can spread rapidly from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when a person carrying COVID-19 coughs or sneezes.
The Australian Department of Health says it will most often cause respiratory infections.
Keeping safe during this time is about minimising the risk of spreading or catching COVID-19.
Minimising the risk to yourself and others
Making changes to our daily lives in terms of hygiene and social behaviours can help slow down the spread of the virus.
Slowing down the spread of the virus helps limit the impact on other people, business, as well as healthcare services like hospitals, which means they will be able to cope with the number of people needing urgent care.
There are a couple of easy ways to help minimise the spread of COVID-19, one of the most important being good personal hygiene.
Practising good personal hygiene helps to limit the spread of germs and minimises the risk to yourself and others.
You can help to minimise the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 by:
Regularly and thoroughly cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water. This helps to kill viruses that may be on your hands.
Covering your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. This is because droplets spread the virus, and by covering your mouth, you are limiting the spread.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because your hands touch many different surfaces and can easily pick up viruses. If you touch your face and your hands are contaminated, the virus can enter your body, making you ill.
Social distancing means having less contact between you and the people around you. It can be practised at home, at work, and while out in the community.
To maintain social distancing, the Australian Department of Health recommends that you:
Avoid contact with others if you are unwell by staying more than 1.5 metres away.
If you need to leave your home and you are unwell wear a face mask to stop yourself from potentially spreading the virus to someone else.
Consider whether outings and travel, both for yourself and your family, are sensible and necessary.
Limit physical contact by not shaking hands as a greeting.
Consider opening windows and adjusting air conditioning for more ventilation.
Consider if large gatherings can be rescheduled, staggered or cancelled.
If your child is sick, do not send them to school or childcare.
Seeking medical attention
Measures have been put in place by medical practitioners to keep those seeking medical attention safe during COVID-19.
If you are unwell and have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention. The Department of Health recommends calling your medical practitioner in advance before attending an appointment in person.
Calling your medical provider in advance will allow them to direct you to the right health facility. It will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
Caring for someone with COVID-19
You may be in a position where you will need to care for someone who has been infected with COVID-19. Keeping safe and maintaining your health is important during this time.
The Department of Health recommends that if you are looking after someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 you:
Care for the sick person in a single room if possible.
Keep the number of carers to a minimum.
Keep the door to the sick person's room closed and, if possible, a window open.
Both the sick person and the people caring for them should wear a surgical mask when in the same room.
Protect other vulnerable family members, such as people over 65 years or people with a chronic illness.
The WHO recommends keeping informed about the latest COVID-19 developments so you will have up to date information about protecting yourself.
There are a number of trustworthy information sources to keep you informed. Some of those sources include:
The Department of Health
The World Health Organisation
State or Territory health departments
You can also contact the coronavirus Health Information Line which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be contacted on 1800 020 080.
National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area.
Support during COVID-19
For older people, having access to support services is essential to remaining safe and healthy. Your usual services may be impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19, so preparing for this is important.
Utilise your personal connections, ask your friends or family to pick up groceries for you if you are worried about going to supermarkets or places with crowds.
Service providers and health professionals can help develop a plan to ensure your health and safety needs are met over the coming months.
It is recommended you:
Maintain an adequate supply of the essential products you need, without stockpiling more than is necessary.
Keeping at least one month's supply of any essential medications.
Reducing the number of people entering and leaving your home.
For more information about coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide's COVID-19 update page.
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What are you doing to reduce your risk of COVID-19? Let us know in the comments below.