Australia versus COVID-19: Everything You Need to Know
The Coronavirus has affected every country in the world, more or less, the same way. Australia is no exception in this regard. The COVID-19 has brought the country to a stand-still. The timing of Coronavirus could not have been worse, as Australia had just come out of one of the worst bush fires in history, which had created a huge environmental impact. The COVID-19 has impacted every major part of the country. Right now, the country faces a huge shortage of protective and medical supplies like ventilators and masks. This shortage of medical supplies has proven to be a huge hurdle in the fight against the Coronavirus.
Moreover, the inability of the government to make the people of Australia wear masks has contributed to the rise in the patient count of COVID-19. The Coronavirus has affected more than 15 thousand people in Australia, while almost 175 people have died at the hands of this pandemic. It is important that during these times, the people remain educated about the day to day updates of the COVID-19 pandemic. People should be educated on how they can protect themselves and their family members and loved ones from this deadly virus.
They need to be educated on what this COVID-19 virus is and how it can be stopped from spreading further. The current crisis of the mask shortfall is affecting every health care worker in the world at the moment. This situation is not an exception when it comes to Australia as well. The country is facing an acute shortage of masks and personal protective equipment, which is necessary for health care providers to keep them working around the clock.
This article is aimed at educating its readers about the timeline of the spread of COVID-19 in Australia and also discusses different guidelines that are provided by the Australian Department of Health on ways to protect yourself from this deadly virus. We will also be discussing the rise of COVID-19 patients in Australia and the various reasons that lie behind it.
What is COVID-19?
The coronavirus disease can be defined as the illness caused by a new coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome. The first case of the novel coronavirus was recorded in Wuhan City of the Hubei province in China on December 31st, 2019. The World Health Organization declared it a global pandemic after three months.
There are plenty of theories surrounding the origin of the novel Coronavirus, but nothing has yet been confirmed. The first cluster case was originated in a fish market in the Wuhan district of Mainland China. The COVID-19 virus is primarily spread by symptomatic people who are in close contact with others by respiratory droplets or by touching your face after touching an infected object.
Since its inception in China, the COVID-19 virus has taken almost 662 thousand lives, leaving almost 17 million people still infected. The scale at which this virus spreads and impacts was last seen after World War 1, during the Spanish Flu pandemic.
There has been no cure or vaccine being invented to prevent further cases from coming up. Different research facilities and pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, GSK, and Johnson and Johnson invest millions of dollars in research and development, finding a vaccine or a cure.
But until these companies and facilities come up with something, it is up to us to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this silent but deadly virus. We all need to follow all the guidelines provided by the World Health Organization and our local government to stop the spread of the virus, so we can contribute our piece in flattening the curve and later bringing it down.
Australia and COVID-19
Like any other country in the world, COVID-19 has affected Australia as well. It has been especially hard here as Australia had just gotten out of one of the worst bush fires in the country's history. The first recorded case of COVID-19 patients in Australia was recorded on January 25th in Victoria. After that, the country recorded nine patients by the end of the month. By the start of February, strict flight restrictions were imposed on travelers coming from mainland China.
Every passenger coming from mainland china was asked to stay in isolation for 14 days in a third country before entering the country. By the end of February, Iran became the second country whose travelers were required to spend a fortnight in another country before entering Australia.
March marked the month when deaths due to Coronavirus started to begin. On March 1st, the first death of a 78-year old man was recorded due to COVID-19. From March 1st to March 31st, there were 19 deaths recorded with the death toll still rising. March was also the month when two-times Oscar winner, Tom Hanks, made headlines after being hospitalized along with his wife in Queensland after being infected by the Coronavirus.
On April 1st, the western state government imposed a strict inter-state travel ban, which was aimed to limit movement in the western region of Australia. By the end of April, the death toll was raised to more than 90 deaths. The rapid rise of affected patients and the increasing death toll caused the federal and state governments to take more drastic measures to stop the spread of Coronavirus. From May to July, various outbreaks of Coronavirus in various states have caused the death toll to its current number, which is more than 180.
Month-wise description of the spread of COVID-19
We will now be discussing the month-wise spread of the novel Coronavirus in Australia.
By January 23rd, officials from the biosecurity agency had begun to screen arrivals from Wuhan to Sydney. The travelers were presented with a questionnaire asking them if they had a fever or any symptoms that might lead suspicion to possible infection. On January 25th, the first victim of the COVID-19 was recorded.
The Patient had traveled from Guangzhou on the 19th and was tested positive for Coronavirus. A total of nine cases were recorded by the end of the month. From January 31st, foreign citizens were asked to stay in another country for a fortnight before entering Australia.
On February 6th, three members of a tour group returning from Wuhan were positive for COVID-19. In February, it was also discovered that almost 25 Australians were tested positive for the Coronavirus. By February 27th, the prime minister had initiated a national health response plan for the novel Coronavirus. On February 29th, Iran was also put in a list with China after a case from Queensland emerged who had recently returned from Iran. By the end of February, the patient count had increased to 23.
On March 1st, the country reported its first death by the hands of Coronavirus. A 78-year old man from Perth, who was one of the passengers of Diamond Princess. On March 2nd, four new cases were recorded. The new thing with these cases was the two of these cases, which were caused by community transmission.
Both of these patients were detected in New South Wales; one of them was infected by a relative, while the other was a healthcare worker. On the same day, another case was recorded—a 40-year-old man who landed in Launceston from Melbourne.
On March 4th, the second death in Australia was recorded. A 95-year-old woman who died at an old age home in Sydney. On March 7th, the Victorian minister for health confirmed that a doctor in Victoria had contracted novel coronavirus. The doctor had consulted about seventy patients before being diagnosed with Covid-19.
2nd Week of March
On March 8th the death of an 82-year-old man increased the death toll to 3 in the country. On March 9th, the principal Carey Baptist Grammar announced that one of the school's teachers had contracted the virus. The teacher, aged 50 years old, was confirmed to be the partner of one of the travelers who shared the flight with physicians coming from the United States. On March 11th, the MONA FOMA winter arts festival was canceled due to the pandemic.
On March 12th, The Australian Capital Territory had announced its first case on Coronavirus, making it 142nd of the country. Actor Tom Hanks and his wife were also tested positive in this period and were put in isolation. Later that day, the Prime Minister announced a 17.6 billion dollar stimulus in the aftermath of the crisis. The health minister of Western Australia informed the public about postponing upgrades at the Peel Health Campus to cadre to patients more. Victoria, in the meantime, confirmed nine more cases, one of them being the first as a result of human to human transmission.
3rd Week of March
By March 10th, the premier of Victoria had warned its citizens of the extreme measures in the wake of the current crisis. These measures could include canceling sporting plans, working from home, and bringing back recently retired health care professionals.
Queensland University halted all kinds of teaching when three of their students tested out to be positive. The Ovation of the Seas, a cruise ship, docks in Sydney on the 18th and shows about 80 passengers who were infected by the Coronavirus. The trend was the same for two other cruise ships as well, which docked on the 18th and 19th of march. On March 19th, Qantas announced that it would be scaling its operation down by 60 percent. On March 22nd, the prime minister announced a second stimulus of 66 billion dollars.
4th Week of March
On March 24th, a passenger from Ruby Princess passed away while 133 were tested positive. On the 28th, 284 were diagnosed with Coronavirus. On 25th, the National Covid-19 Coordination commission was set up by the Prime Minister.
5th Week of March
On 27th, Artania docked at Fremantle. Most of the passengers flew to Germany on 28th and 29th March. Forty-one of the passengers on the flight were later tested positive, including the crew. On March 31st, the Prime Minister the biggest economic support program to the date of 130 billion dollars, known as the 'job keeper.'
On April 1st, the government of Western Australia announced restrictions on interstate travel to limit the movements between the regions. On April 2nd, the number of COVID-19 positive patients in Victoria had surpassed 1000 benchmark. On April 5th, the New South Wales PD launched an investigation on whether the crew of Ruby princess broke any biosecurity laws. By April 6th, the health department announced that the federal government started to log recovery stats.
On April 11th, Anglicare announced that more than 2000 coronavirus patients had been discovered in the Newmarch old age home. By the 14th, it was found out that these cases were linked to an infected staff member. On 27th and 28th, four residents passed away in less than a day. By May 9th, 69 cases of COVID-19 were connected to the facility, 32 staff, and 37 residents. On May 19th, the 19th resident passed away due to COVID-19.
On April 13th, the government of Tasmania closed the North West Regional and North West Private hospital for cleaning and placed its employees and their families under quarantine. On April 15th, a western Australian man was jailed for breaking quarantine.
On the 30th, the ACT became the first Australian jurisdiction to claim free of active COVID-19 cases, although on may the 4th, there was one case that came forward who had gotten infected by the virus overseas. But this was quickly taken under control, and ACT again became free of active COVID-19 cases on May 10th, 2020
An outbreak of Coronavirus was discovered in Victoria at a meat works, which was later revealed to be Cedar meats. The outbreak was announced on May 2nd with eight recorded cases. By May 8th, the cluster cases that originated from cedar meats started rose to 71 cases. These cluster cases consisted of 57 of which were workers, and the 13 were infected by close contact.
By the 12th of May, McDonald's Faulkner had churned out almost a dozen cases. By May 15th, there was some relief in New South Wales regarding public gatherings. On this day, South Australia had also lined itself with ACT after reporting no new active cases of Covid-19. This good news did not last long, on May 26th, A woman who had been traveling from overseas had acquired access in South Australia was tested positive from her quarantine in her hotel.
This was the first case for Victoria in 19 days. This, too, was soon reported to have been treated, making South Australia active cases free once again. On May 17th, two further businesses had been shut down in Victoria due to a suspicion of existing cases. The Fairfield Domino's had been shut down for almost a couple of weeks now as well as comfort, the mattress manufacturer, had been closed since May 15th.
On May 19th, another resident of the old-age home in Newmarch passed away from novel coronavirus. This death marked the sad milestone of 100 deaths all over Australia. On May 21st, the Northern areas also claimed to be active cases free.
On June 6th, South Wales and Victoria both recorded no new cases for the previous 24 hours, while only Queensland and Western Australia reported one case each. These were the lowest numbers recorded since February. Two older cases were announced in Western Australia during this time as well. However, the new case in Queensland seemed to have been linked with the Swanston cluster in Melbourne. This cluster appeared when a man boarded a flight from Melbourne to Brisbane and tested positive on June 1st. On June 7th, a man who traveled overseas to the Australian Capital Territory had tested positive for the novel Coronavirus.
This was Capital Territory's first case in more than a month, where the last case was reported on May 4th. By the 17th, this man had completely recovered, leaving the Capital Territory again with no active cases to pursue. On June 12th announced that it had no active cases as well. On June 20th, the Victorian government officials announced their plans of re-tightening household gathering protocols, as the number of active cases had spiked over the previous week.
On June 22nd, restrictions were imposed on households of having no more than five visitors in a single home at a time. Any further plans of leniency were postponed until the situation is back in control. On the same day, the Western government announced that it would be moving into phase 4 of its plan. As a result of this, restrictions were lightly lifted in the country. On June 30th, the Victorian officials announced local lockdowns on ten different locations.
Residents of these locations will have to comply with the rules of the restrictions imposed if you were in that area and wanted to get out of your house. You had to have one of the following reasons. Shopping for essentials, for medical or compassionate needs, for exercising, for work, and education purposes.
On July 4th, the Victorian Government added two more postcodes in the list of areas being severely affected by the Coronavirus. The addition will result in lockdown until July 29th 2020. Moreover, nine public housing towers that housed more than 3000 residents were added to the list as well. This addition meant that no resident would be allowed to leave the premises of their apartments for five days, which are subject to extension to 14 days.
From July 5th, at the request of the NSW Government, the federal government introduced strict restrictions on travelers arriving at Sydney airport. A limit of fifty passengers per flight and 450 international arrivals per day was set to contain and quarantine the incoming passengers properly.
By July 6th, interstate borders were announced to be closed from the start of July 8th.
On July 7th, metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire were to re-enter lockdown after recording 191 new Coronavirus cases.
On July 11th, the previously free, compulsory hotel quarantine was to be charged from July 18th. The rule was implementable on those who had confirmed tickets afternoon on July, 12th 2020.
On July 14th, the NSW Government announced increased preventive measures and precautions due to the increasing rate of cases piling up. The step introduced new rules for pubs and restaurants. It allowed ten seating per table instead of 20 and a maximum of 300 people in any venue.
On the 18th, the federal parliament announced that its schedule for the first two weeks of August was canceled. The parliament is now scheduled to commence once again from August 24th.
On July 19th, the Victorian premier announced that covering your faces was made mandatory in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. The residents are not allowed to leave their homes if they are not wearing a mask. The rule was implementable after 11:59 AEST on July 22nd 2020. Those who are not wearing any protective gear will be fined 200 dollars. Moreover, the emergency period was extended until August 16th.
On July 20th, the number of daily overseas arrivals allowed at the Sydney airport was decreased from 450 to 350. Also, on this day, the job keeper program was extended but in an altered and at a lower rate. On July 22nd, Victoria announced that visitation at their old-age facilities would only be restricted to caregivers with a one-hour visitation schedule per day.
On July 2nd, the premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews announced the "Judicial Inquiry into Hotel Quarantine Program." The inquiry was supposed to investigate the breach in hotel quarantine infection control.
To protect the country's population, the Australian Department of Health has implemented some safety measures and precautions. These precautions are aimed at stopping the spread of the Coronavirus. It includes some common precautions like wearing a face mask, regularly washing your hands, and maintaining social distancing.
One of the most important in this list that can contribute the most in stopping the spread of Coronavirus is the use of face masks. These masks help contain the virus as it stops the respiration droplets from spreading out into the air around its wearer. There are several different types of masks available in the market. From expensive N95 masks to cheap but effective reusable cloth masks, all of them serve one common purpose of stopping the spread of the virus.
Although, the non-medical are generally discouraged from buying N95 masks as they are a rarer commodity at the moment and should be reserved for the medical staff working in hospitals and clinics. Another important safety measure advised to the general public is to wash their hands regularly for almost 20 seconds.
Most of the time, we do not realize how much we are used to touching our face and mouth. These habits could be very dangerous as our hands could have touched a surface or an object that has been contaminated by the virus. Therefore, it is important to keep your hands clean at all times. If you cannot wash your hands, it is advisable to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer of a minimum of 60 percent strength, with you at all times.
The next safety measure that is recommended by the authorities is to observe social distancing at all times. Social distancing is the most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting infected. It is recommended that you keep a minimum distance from others when you have to go out or, in the best-case scenario, stay indoors all the time. These are some of the most important and basic precautions; every person should take to get on top of the COVID-19 crisis.
Why masks are necessary to defeat COVID-19?
Masks are considered as an essential asset in protecting yourself against the novel Coronavirus. The main function of a mask is to act as a barrier between the person and its surrounding environment. Chairman of the Centre for Disease Control said in a news conference recently that the patients of the Coronavirus could be reduced by 70 to 80 percent if everyone started wearing masks.
In Australia, the department of health has also recommended or, in some areas, forced people to wear masks when out in public places like public transportation. Wearing a face mask can provide an extra layer of protection if you happen to be in a place of the high transmission rate. But it is still advised to stay at home if you are feeling sick or do not have any important business to take care of.
Face masks and respirators are especially crucial for healthcare workers, who are working day and night among COVID-19 patients. In a situation where doctors and other health care workers are so needed, it is not affordable to have them on the benches if they contract the virus. Healthcare workers are not only Australia but also all over the world are facing a shortage of proper personal protective kits like face shields and masks. Therefore, the public needs to use clinical masks whenever they step out of their house, so the load on these hospitals and health caregivers is lightened.
Shortage of Face masks and Respirators
As mentioned earlier, health care workers all over the world are facing an extreme shortage of face masks and respirators. Australia is, unfortunately, no exception to this situation. Doctors all over the country are appealing to the government to increase personal protection equipment production, as they are at the end of their rope.
A local manufacturer of the equipment mentioned above, who supplies this equipment to more than 500 hospitals, said that most of these hospitals are going to running out of required protective gear within days. The federal government has said that they have ordered 30 million medical masks, which will be delivered within a week, but the hospitals claim that their stocks need to be replenished within days.
One of the most required commodities at the moment is the coveted N95 masks. These specialized masks contain a specialized filter that prevents your breathing particles from getting out and restricts particles from outside from getting in your respiratory tract.
But as these masks are disposable and need to be discarded after a single-use, replenishing them is extremely important. With its increasing demand and low production, the price of these masks has skyrocketed, making it even harder to access them by local hospitals. International companies like 3M™ and Honeywell have as of yet been unsuccessful in coping up with the demand of the market.
With its increased demand and inflated prices, the situation has given birth to another problem which is forgery and fraud. Unregistered companies are starting to manufacture self-proclaimed N95 masks, which have caused increased patient count instead of decreasing them. The total demand for masks in Australia right now is almost 48 million face masks per month. With such high demand, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the state and federal governments to cope with it.
The rise in COVID-19 patients
One of the most common ways a person might get infected is through airborne transmission. These cases could have been reduced drastically if everyone makes sure to wear masks and conform to the rules of social distancing. As of yet, the government has not been able to implement this precaution firmly. As a result of people not wearing masks, the recorded cases have jumped to more than 15 thousand cases, with 180 deaths.
The rise of these cases can easily be attributed to people not following the guidelines given out by the Australian health department and the world health organization. One of the hotspots for transmission is considered the Victoria region. The government recently implemented a strong mask compulsory rule in the second biggest city of Melbourne, where the cases were increasing day by day. These decisions, if taken seriously, could prevent a lot of lives. It is important to know that wearing a mask cannot guarantee your safety; it is only a guard that is supposed to protect others from your breathing particles unless it is an N95 mask. Another reason for the high rise in COVID-19 patients is clustered.
These clusters are easy to identify but harder to locate. Smaller clusters could be an extension of a large cluster, which could contribute to a larger number of patients. The number of novel coronavirus patients has been increasing day by day. People must take this virus seriously. Otherwise, it will be even harder for the government to contain the number of patients in a manageable bracket.
The psychological and economic impact of Coronavirus in Australia
Apart from having an adverse medical impact, the COVID-19 has also impacted the Australian community's psyche and economy. The Australians are facing one of the most difficult economic periods of current times. When businesses are closed and people are forced to work from home, it has created a stark impact on the psychology of Australian citizens.
The rate of domestic violence, as well as the crime rate, has jumped up because of the lockdown and the lack of resources to survive the lockdown. People must be provided with proper incentives and resources to survive their lockdown. Another important aspect is to provide citizens with ample entertainment to incentivize them to stay at home.
Moreover, the absence of economic opportunities is putting a dent in the national economy as well. People are being laid off daily, and it is getting harder to provide them with enough money to keep them afloat. Small businesses that do not have a huge bank reserve are closer to liquidation every day.
The novel Coronavirus has affected every person in the world. Apart from creating great medical issues for the public, it has also caused psychological distress and economic instability. Australia has not been an exception to this scenario. Like any other country in the world, Australia also has been hit hard by this deadly virus. With the death toll nearing 200 and the total number of cases in the 15000s, the Australian government is trying its hardest to contain it.
The day-by-day spread of the virus has confused experts worldwide in coming up with ways to overcome this problem safely. With a global pandemic like this, it is important to keep on your feet and learn from your previous mistakes. As mentioned before, the last global pandemic that spread like this was influenza. The novel Coronavirus of 2020 and the Spanish flu of 1919 has a lot of similarities. Both of these diseases were at first downplayed, making the death toll higher and the situation direr. With this pandemic that has enveloped the whole world, the lack of supplies makes matters worse. While major companies like 3M and Honeywell failed to cope with the high demand for medical supplies and personal protective gear, the markets are starting to fill with second rate products that are hurting the case count.
With the high demand for medical supplies like respirators and masks, their prices have skyrocketed. This scenario has given birth to opportunists like hoarders, making it even harder for them to gain access to proper personal protection equipment to deal with their patients.
In regards to Australia, one of the major problems the country is facing right now is the non-compliance of the residents to wear a face mask or a shield voluntarily. More than 80 percent of coronavirus patients can be spared if people start wearing masks whenever they are out in public.
Moreover, with cluster patients popping up from Victoria to Tasmania, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of each cluster's origin. Australia must focus on imposing more strict rules to follow as well as power down on implementing stricter rules to stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus.