All your coronavirus questions answered

 

The deadly coronavirus has now spread to at least 155 countries, infecting more than 180,000 people and killing more than 8000.

Governments and health authorities around the world are scrambling to contain the pandemic, closing schools, banning public gatherings, and declaring states of emergency.

As the virus continues to spread rapidly around the globe, so too does panic and misinformation about what COVID-19 could mean.

There are no stupid questions when it comes to learning about coronavirus. Here is everything you need to know:

 

 

 

SHOULD I SEND MY KIDS TO SCHOOL?

The current advice from the federal, state and territory governments is that your child should still be attending school.

"People are naturally anxious about the issues of schools," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.

"As the British chief medical officer observed over the last couple of days, the issue of wide-scale closure of schools, and it may seem counterintuitive, but the advice is this could be a very negative thing in terms of impacting on how these (epidemic) curves operate."

So while schools are staying open for the time being, many have adopted strict new measures - including cancelling assemblies and excursions, staggering lunch breaks and putting distancing measures in place - in response to the virus crisis.

Parents of children who have chronic medical conditions or immunosuppression and may be at risk of disease have been advised to consider special arrangements for their kids such as home-based study.

CAN I GO TO THE GYM?

Australia's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy has said "it's fine" for you to continue going to the gym, but you must practise good hygiene.

"If you're going to the gym, I would be very focused on handwashing using hand sanitisers. All of those social distancing and good hygiene measures," he told ABC's Insiders.

"We want everybody in the community to start practising those and to start thinking about how we will practise social distancing moving forward."

Professional industry body Fitness Australia told news.com.au that it was working closely with gyms, personal trainers and instructors and encouraging them to "take proactive preventive measures to protect their fitness communities against exposure to the virus".

DO I NEED TO STOCKPILE FOOD AND TOILET PAPER?

While it's important to make some preparations should you need to self-isolate, there is no need to stockpile food, toilet paper, or anything else.

Families should slowly build up their long-life grocery stocks and other essentials such as prescription medications, toilet paper and tissues by buying a few things each weekly shop, advised University of Queensland virologist Ian Mackay in a blog post.

"We're not going through a nuclear winter. If schools close or gatherings are shut down, we'll still have access to grocery shops," Professor Mackay said.

"Don't buy things you won't eat later, don't hoard and don't buy more than you'll need for a two-week period. We're not talking zombie apocalypse."

Consider purchasing foods that will fulfil a need for carbohydrates, protein and fibre, supplies for caring for the sick and cleaning products to reduce the spread.

 

CAN I GET COVID-19 MORE THAN ONCE?

At this stage, scientists say it's too soon to tell whether you can catch COVID-19 more than once.

While there have been a few reports of reinfection in China and Japan, infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, Susan Kline, said those cases were likely just a continuation of the original infection.

For one thing, she told Wired, not enough time had elapsed for infection.

"It's too soon," she said. "This entire outbreak has only been going on for two months. I would be very surprised if people are getting reinfected in that time span."

What is generally the case with any virus, Prof Mackay wrote in a blog post, is that as long as it circulates, and as long as you've never been infected, you are susceptible to infection. Once you have been infected, it likely protects you from severe disease/catching a disease a second time.

I'VE RETURNED FROM OVERSEAS, HOW DO I GET HOME?

When travelling home or to your hotel from the airport to start self-isolation, the Australian Department of Health recommends using personal transport - such as a car - to minimise exposure to others.

WHAT IF I NEED TO GET A CAB?

If you are travelling home from the airport via a taxi or an Uber, it's recommended that you wear a surgical mask if you have one available.

You should also avoid direct contact with your driver, other passengers or transport staff and cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

WHEN SHOULD I SELF-ISOLATE?

Anyone arriving into Australia from overseas will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

You are also required to self-isolate for 14 days - from the date of last contact with the confirmed case - if you have come into close contact with a proven case of coronavirus.

IF I PICK SOMEONE UP FROM THE AIRPORT, DO I NEED TO SELF-ISOLATE?

You only need to self-isolate if that person tests positive to COVID-19.

HOW DO I SELF-ISOLATE WITH MY FAMILY?

Self-isolation means that you need to stay away from all situations where you could infect other people, Public Health Professor Michael Barker told Radio New Zealand.

This means any situation where you may come in close contact with others (face-to-face contact closer than one metre for more than 15 minutes).

You should avoid social gatherings, work, school, childcare, university, religious gatherings, aged care and health care facilities, sports gatherings, restaurants, and all other public gatherings for 14 days.

On advice from NSW Health, if you are sharing your home with others, you should:

• Stay in a different room from them or be separated as much as possible.

• Wear a surgical mask when you are in the same room as another person.

• Use a separate bathroom and toilet, if available.

• Use a separate towel, toiletries or other household items.

• Avoid using the kitchen when other people are there and take your meals back to your room to eat.

• Make sure you have separate items like plates and cutlery.

If you need groceries or medication (including prescription medication) while you are in quarantine, ask a family member or friend who is not in isolation to deliver them to your door or shop for groceries online.

 

IS IT SAFE TO SWIM IN MY LOCAL POOL?

According to the ABC's Dr Norman Swan, people should steer clear of their local chlorine swimming pools for the time being.

"Part of the problem with swimming is the variability in chlorination. And if you're in a part of Australia where it's hot and lots of people are using the pool, you don't want to go there anyway because you don't want to go anywhere where there's large numbers of people," Dr Swan wrote in an article.

Chlorination, he said, did not kill coronavirus, and while the chances of catching the virus in a well-chlorinated pool are "incredibly low", mixing with other people in a wet environment is "not good" because all kinds of infections can be passed on.

SHOULD I STOP VISITING NANNA?

While specific nursing homes may have visiting bans in place, you are still (at this point in time) allowed to visit your grandparents.

You should, however, take into consideration that elderly people are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 - so if you've recently travelled or have recently been in contact with someone who is unwell, it might be best to avoid paying Nanna a visit for now.

IS IT OK TO TRAVEL INTERSTATE?

The Government is yet to enforce any interstate travel bans - so for the time being, yes, travelling interstate is OK.

The only places you are currently restricted from travelling to, as per advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, are China, Iran, South Korea and Italy.

SHOULD I PLAY MY WEEKEND SPORT?

Unless your weekend sport has been cancelled - or it involves a gathering of more than 500 people - you're still allowed to play.

However, it's advised to consider the kind of sport you're playing - and if it involves consistently coming closer than 1.5 metres to other people.

CAN I GO TO THE MOVIES?

You can still go to the movies despite several movie studios suspending production and pulling their blockbuster films from the schedule.

Hoyts is among the cinemas in Australia to release guidance on how they'll be keeping their cinemas safe amid the virus outbreak. The theatre announced that regular seat cleaning between movies and sessions would be undertaken and a virus-cleaning agent would be used on high touchpoint areas and surfaces.

"To ensure the comfort and health of all of our guests during this time, we encourage you to let one of our staff know if you'd like us to amend your booking or shift your seats or move you to a quieter session," the notice read.

Dendy has committed to allowing only 50 per cent capacity in its sessions.

WHAT ABOUT RESTAURANTS AND BARS?

While all Australians have been encouraged to exercise personal responsibility for social distancing (that is, maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres between yourself and others), there are no current restrictions on attending shopping centres, bars, restaurants or cinemas - the majority of which are continuing to trade as normal.

NSW Health has, however, encouraged people who are going out and about to consider:

• Staying home and not attending if you are feeling unwell.

• Staying home and not attending if you have travelled overseas in the past 14 days (if you have returned to Australia from any other country since Monday, March 15, you are required to self-isolate for 14 days).

• Practising good personal hygiene including cleaning your hands thoroughly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub and covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing.

SHOULD I GO TO WORK?

The Federal Government is yet to enforce any measures restricting people from going to work.

However, a growing number of companies around Australia are asking their employees to work from home for an indefinite period. Some scientists and doctors have advised that if you are able to work from home, you should seek out whether the option is available to you to curb the coronavirus spread.

 

 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

The symptoms of coronavirus can range from a mild cough to pneumonia.

According to the World Health Organisation, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness and a dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.

There are also some people who become infected but don't develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell.

Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing, while most people (about 80 per cent) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

HOW DO I GET TESTED? DOES IT COST MONEY?

Testing for coronavirus is done using swabs that are stuck into both nostrils and down the throat. It can be performed by your GP or at several private pathology sites or public hospitals that have established COVID-19 clinics. Here are the clinics in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

In NSW, if you don't have Medicare or health or travel insurance, NSW Health will waive the cost of testing, recovery procedures and ambulance transfers.

I FEEL SICK. WHAT DO I DO?

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other colds and flus. The Health Department states "it is important to remember that most people displaying these symptoms are likely suffering with a cold or other respiratory illness - not coronavirus".

If you are feeling sick, there is a free-call coronavirus hotline (1800 022 222) you can ring, and medical staff will advise you on the best course of action depending on your symptoms and risks.

You should also stay at home and avoid going out in public to grocery stores, on public transport, etc.

To be tested for coronavirus in Australia, you must meet a range of criteria:

• You have returned from overseas in the past 14 days and developed respiratory illness with or without fever.

• You have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days and developed respiratory illness with or without fever.

• You have severe community-acquired pneumonia and there is no clear cause.

• You are a healthcare worker who works directly with patients and you have a respiratory illness and a fever.


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