What we'll cover
⚡ In a nutshell
• DON’T PANIC! COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) is not going to kill us all.
• The most important goal is to #flattenthecurve.
• A few little precautions go a VERY long way.
• Staying in is fun anyway.
• We all need to make sacrifices to benefit society as a whole.
👩⚕️ What is coronavirus?
When you read about “coronavirus” you’re reading about COVID-19 (which is short for Coronavirus Disease - 2019). COVID-19 is a new strain of novel coronavirus, which is a type of viral infection that can cause severe respiratory illness in extreme cases.
If you’re older than 25, you might remember a big media storm over a similar disease called SARS back in 2002 and 2003. SARS (short for severe acute respiratory syndrome) is actually a precursor of sorts to COVID-19, in fact, the very same strain of the original SARS epidemic is most likely the cause of the current pandemic.
Both are thought to have originated from bats in China.
🚪 What is self-isolation?
Self-isolation is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of a viral infection. If you, or somebody with whom you have been in direct contact, has been officially diagnosed with COVID-19, it is imperative that you self-isolate for 14 days to ensure that you don’t infect anybody else.
The Australian Government is so serious about stopping the spread that self-isolation is also now enforceable by law if you have travelled overseas, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or have been asked to self-isolate by a health authority due to a suspected case.
This means you cannot leave your residence for anything, including a trip to the shops, pub, or even a friend’s house, meaning a few simple lifestyle changes are in order to guarantee a fast and successful recovery, or time spent indoors that won’t drive you bonkers.
🤭 Why self-isolate?
Not to sound like a broken record, but we will say it again: self-isolation is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of a viral infection. If you or somebody with whom you have been in direct contact has been officially diagnosed with COVID-19, it is imperative that you self-isolate for 14 days to ensure that you don’t infect anybody else.
There are five main reasons to self-isolate:
- You're a vulnerable (immunosuppressed) person.
- You just don't want to get the disease (sounds obvious, but this could be a matter of weighing up risk and probabilities if, for example, you are a healthy casual worker).
- You've returned from overseas and it's mandatory.
- You have a suspected or a confirmed infection.
- You have had contact with a COVID-19 infected person.
🛑 How will I know if I have to self-isolate?
In short, somebody will tell you, though it may not be because of a test result, and here’s why:
COVID-19 tests are in dangerously short supply the whole world over. This means that just because you think you need to be tested, or would like to be tested (just to be safe), it might not be possible.
If you arrive at a testing facility you will see all staff in personal protective equipment (like in the movies). To determine whether you qualify, you will be interviewed by a triage nurse who will ask you three questions.
You will only be swabbed if you are displaying symptoms AND:
- You have been overseas in the past 14 days or;
- You have been in CLOSE contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the last 14 days or;
- You are a health care worker.
Close-contact means having spent a significant time within a small distance from somebody who is confirmed, not just having attended a music festival or wedding where one person happened to get a sore throat.
If you do not have symptoms, or do not meet any of those three criteria, you won’t be swabbed, as there simply aren't enough swabs to go around (yes, this means don't bother going, you'll be safer staying home away from the queue of sneezing people anyway).
If you do have any cold or flu symptoms but don’t meet those three criteria, you will still need to self-isolate for 14 days.
If you DO meet the criteria, you will be given a face mask and asked to wait in line to be swabbed. If this happens, you MUST self-isolate until your test results are returned (currently around three days).
You’re also not allowed to travel home from the clinic on any public transport, including taxis and ubers, so be prepared for a long walk if you haven’t arranged a lift with a friend (preferably one with a face mask and hand-sanitizer in the glovebox).
Remember, this might all sound very extreme and confusing, but the sooner we slow the spread, the sooner we all go back to living "normal" lives.
💻 WFH. WTF?
For many, working from home will be an entirely new concept, but it’s a really important measure if you have the luxury of being able to do your job remotely (plus lunch hour is more fun with your partner/TV anyway).
It also comes with a whole array of advantages, including not wearing pants, being able to dress your cat or dog up as your secretary, and making transport to and from the office as simple as walking down the hallway.
But it can also be a bit of a shock to the system for those not used to it. Here are some tips for ensuring a productive day in “the office” when you’re not in the actual office.
- Set up a nice workspace. This means having everything you need to perform your tasks on hand, minimising the need to get up and get things and also not parking yourself in the darkest corner of your apartment.
If you need to set up and pack down on your dining table each day to get natural light and have enough space, do it. The extra five minutes of effort is worth it to ensure you have a good time at work.
- Make a schedule. Distractions in the office are bad enough, but distractions at home can turn lunch into a three-course meal, especially when you’re procrastinating over that report that’s due.
Schedule meal time and even coffee breaks into your day and stick to it to achieve a productive level of work even though you’re still in your own home.
- Set up a space for video calls. Video conferencing is pretty bloody common these days, so there’s no good excuse for being underprepared.
Make sure you have something nice as a video conferencing set, with nothing too unprofessional in the background (your clean kitchen with fresh flowers and a display of seasonal fruit is going to pass the test; last week’s laundry and that dreamcatcher you bought at last year’s Splendour Bender ... not so much).
- Communicate. This is arguably the most important thing to remember when working from home, as we often take for granted the interpersonal relationships that help us around our day-to-day in an office environment.
When a team is working remotely, there is no such thing as overcommunication. Employ a chat service like Slack, or even a WhatsApp group, and tell everyone everything.
Going to get a coffee? Let the team know. Need an hour to finish something on deadline so going offline? Put it in the chat. Feeding Mr Wigglepuff III? You get the idea...
Working from home can have many advantages and disadvantages, however you approach it. It can make or break any organisation at a time like a pandemic outbreak, so it’s important to set a few personal rules and stick to them, so that filing good, productive work wearing nothing but undies and a sloppy joe can be beneficial to all.
🍔 Getting fed, not fed up
Food. Without it, you will get hungry, and eventually die. We strongly recommend the regular consumption of food during self-isolation to avoid this outcome.
What will be hard during self-isolation, especially if it is the enforced kind, is getting a decent supply of fresh food into your house (and stomach) without spreading any infection. A trip to the grocery store is off the cards, so try to use home-delivery services.
- Woolworths: The Aussie grocery-chain has changed store hours Australia-wide to allow for more time to clean and restock, and are still offering home-delivery (though expect delays with their website – loads of clever folks have the same idea as you).
- Coles: Coles has updated its policies to allow home delivery ONLY to the elderly and those in enforced isolation, meaning you should be able to get groceries and the like delivered to your door without too much hassle if you genuinely can’t leave the house.
Keep in mind they do have items-per-person restrictions in place for things like toilet paper and pasta, to maintain enough supply for everybody else.
- IGA: The “I” stands for “independent”, though one glance of their website at such times would suggest it stands for “IDGAF”. Seriously, we haven’t got a peep out of these guys on coronavirus and given home delivery isn’t really their thing, it’s probably best to go without their (awesome) selection of artisan cheeses and Italian soft drinks for a while until this all blows over.
You can also, of course, get stuff delivered from your favourite restaurants. Now is probably a good time to support these businesses anyway to make sure they’re still there to serve you Aperol Spritzes and the like one we’ve collectively kicked coronavirus’ butt.
Here are the best ways to do that.
There are also meal-kit delivery services that make staying in, but still eating healthy meals that won’t break the bank, a reality. Here are four good ones:
🙄 Why the overreaction tho?
Cancelling your plans to get on a flight to Hawaii for two weeks because 500-odd people have a cough might seem extreme, and it’s easy to get upset with the hysteria whipped up by the media right now, especially when it gets in the way of a beach, a tray of piña coladas, and a luau.
But it is important.
One of the most important things to keep in mind about coronavirus is that we still don’t have loads of information.
Going on the information we do have, it’s probably going to be okay for the most of us. But for a few, it can and will be devastating, and those few could easily be people in your own friendship circles, or even family.
The mortality rate isn’t terrifyingly high, and the symptoms are, for most, manageable. Like 95 per cent of the population, you probably won’t even need to be admitted to a hospital if you were to contract it.
But it’s not about you.
The vulnerable in society (i.e immunosuppressed people including the elderly and those on chemotherapy) are most at risk here, and it’s important that we keep our hospitals at or below capacity to provide the proper care and support to these patients.
Even though you might be “fine” coming down with a case of coronavirus, with mild symptoms for a few days then back to the office, this just isn’t safe, especially with so much still unknown about how COVID-19 spreads.
📉 What is “flattening the curve”?
Worldwide, doctors are currently encouraging everybody to “flatten the curve”. This means slowing down the rate of infection drastically, so that emergency services and health workers aren’t swamped with a litany of cases all at once.
By taking extra precautions, individuals can essentially guarantee a slower, more drawn out pandemic that is far more manageable than a huge outbreak that could leave millions around the world without proper care.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
🙅 WTF is “social distancing”?
Social distancing is different to self-isolation in that it means you can still leave the house, though with a few precautions in place to stop the spread. This is something that is being heavily recommended around the world right now, for everybody’s sake.
Ways you can socially distance include:
- Keeping a 1.5 metre distance from other people where possible;
- Avoiding public transport;
- Avoiding unnecessary events and gatherings;
- Avoid shaking hands;
- Conducting meetings via conference call (or just turning them into an email like you probably could have done in the first place).
It is also recommended that a few extra precautions are taken when out and about (if you must be out in the first place) to help slow the infection rate of COVID-19. These include:
- Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly;
- Sneezing or coughing into your elbow/hand (if you must) THEN washing thoroughly with soap and water;
- Regularly using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser;
- Avoiding sharing food.
The Australian Government made this handy resource if you’re still unsure, and remember, with anything like this, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
📰 The other “stop the spread”
Unfortunately at times like this, it’s not just a nasty virus that can be shared. The other thing that has a tendency to spread like wildfire is misinformation.
“I heard that <insert wild rumour here>” and “somebody told me <bullshit, bullshit, bullshit>” is seriously unhelpful at a time when the information we do have is a precious commodity.
As such, it’s incredibly important that you don’t fall victim to rumour and hearsay.
Make sure any information you read, or share with anybody, whether on social media or in person, comes from a reliable news outlet, government department or with the relevant tick of approval by a registered doctor.
Misinformation can do a great deal of harm during a global pandemic, but unlike a virus, it doesn’t just spread from person to person without a deliberate action. We are all responsible for this.
🏠 Helpful hints for non-crap self isolation
- Books. Most people have them. If you don’t, they’re easy enough to acquire. Maybe avoid the library, but there’s a little website called Amazon that can help you get some delivered. There are loads of other websites, too, including Australia’s own booktopia.com.au, so there’s no excuse not to get some quality reading in while you’re in the ‘rona lockdown.
We recommend Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, if for no other reason than the grim reminder that it could always be worse.
- Streaming services. Netflix is a lifesaver at times like this, and if you’re not yet acquainted, then self-isolation is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of their 30-day free trial. The same goes for Stan.
But, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a paid streaming service to get mucho entertainment. Here are some free streaming services and a taste of what they offer in terms of quality viewing.
- ABC iview: Dr Who and Stateless are all great, plus is has the added advantage of Gardening Australia (probably not a bad time to get a new hobby and learn to grow your own veggies/improvised toilet paper).
- SBS on demand: Cracking shows like Brooklyn 99 and Homeland are a big win, plus they have heaps (we’re talking HEAPS) of great films that can be streamed, gratis.
- 10 Play: Neighbours! Survivor! Dancing with The Stars! Okay, so 10’s offering is a little low-brow, but it’s fun and there’s a lot of it if you need to comfortably switch-off. They also have back catalogues of some classic shows like Friends and Seinfeld if you’re feeling nostalgic and need some escapism.
- 7Plus: Channel 7 and its offshoots put most of their programming here, meaning you can get episodes of Modern Family, Family Guy, and How I Met Your Mother in one handy place, as well as a bevy of decent movies.
- 9Now: Lots of garbage reality TV involving weddings and plastic surgery (just what we secretly love) AND they have the OG Baywatch with a spunkier, younger David Hasselhoff.