We’ve seen a lot of panic over the last few weeks regarding the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19). We’re starting to see more factual information, but panic-buying has been the norm – in stark contrast to the amazing generosity seen during and in the wake of the devastating bush fires and floods Australia has seen.This panic is disheartening, to say the least, and the very antithesis of the Australian spirit. It’s not just the almost-insane stock-piling of items, either. While the supermarkets and toilet paper manufacturers may be… rolling … in it, small businesses are already feeling the unnecessary pinch as people simply stay away.
Unless you are unwell, you shouldn’t.
Many small businesses are already taking extra precautions in line with recommendations from government and scientific organisations; from disinfecting high-touch surfaces hourly at minimum through making hand-sanitiser available upon entry to increased cleaning of premises (something I’ve not seen or heard of from larger businesses yet, although they may have started as well. Please let me know if you know for sure)
Whether we can contain COVID-19 or not, there are things we can do to slow down the spread through a few basic practical habits.
Before we get into that, let’s get some perspective. COVID-19 is not the first coronavirus we’ve encountered. In fact, there’s a whole family of them. SARS was one, and so was MERS. And, because there was a fuss about H1N1 “Swine Flu”, I’ll include those numbers here, too.
SARS had a mortality rate of about 10%
MERS mortality rate was around 35%
Currently the mortality rate from COVID-19 is around 3.5%.
H1N1 had a mortality rate of about 0.02%
The big difference is in transmission rates. COVID-19 has more than 113,000 confirmed cases around the world, where SARS had about 8,000 and MERS had about 2,500.
H1N1, however, had an estimated 700 MILLION to 1.4 BILLION cases. COVID-19 is far more infectious than SARS or MERS, and that may be where the panic is stemming from. Let’s standardise those numbers a bit for comparison, Let’s say each had 10,000 confirmed infections.
SARS would have killed 1,000 people
MERS would have killed 3,500 people
COVID-19 would have killed about 350 people.
H1N1 would have killed 2 people
The other difference is, COVID-19 is a type that has not been encountered before and there is currently no vaccine available – although getting the flu vaccination is a very good idea.
It is also important to note that cases of the virus have started tapering off in China, where it originated.
image via World Health Organisation
Wash your hands! Repeatedly. Even when you think they are clean. The current best guess is that the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) is transmitted via close contact and surface contamination.
If you are healthy, you absolutely do not need a face mask. The masks are designed to prevent saliva being ejected from your mouth when you cough or sneeze. If you’re sick – go home. Leave the masks for those who really need them – like doctors and nurses… and people who ARE sick.
If you cough or sneeze, please cover your mouth and nose. Use the crook of your elbow – it’s the most effective way of containing the cough or sneeze
Social distancing. Not total avoidance. Keep about 6 feet (1.8 metres) away from people, avoid large gatherings and sanitise shared objects (like door handles). Quite frankly, I’m surprised the first thing to disappear from the shelves was toilet paper and not hand-sanitiser.
If you do decide to self-isolate for two week, don’t give up on your regular places once your isolation is over.
China is a critical economic partner of Australia and is the largest inbound market for the past two years. 1.45 million visitors from China arrive annually and spend $12.3 billion per year. We rely on their tourists, students and trade. With global travel restricted, the future is uncertain until a medical, social and economic response is developed.
There is an overabundance of information out there, some good, and some not so good (and quite a lot designed to incite panic). The following is a list of links to resources, facts and information either referenced in this article or by recognised authorities.