Like most people, I’ve been overwhelmed by the rapid escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the worldwide response. With borders closing and a state of emergency declared in Victoria, things have been moving very quickly.
My office has received many calls and emails. It warms my heart to know that so many of you want to help each other during this crisis.
I’ve put together this blog, with information and links, in response to common questions. I hope you find it useful.
I encourage you to get in touch with my office, which is still open for now, if you need support, have ideas or would like to discuss any issue related to COVID-19.
1. DO YOUR BIT TO 'FLATTEN THE CURVE'
'Flattening the curve' means slowing down the spread of COVID-19 to take the pressure off our hospitals and save lives.
What is known about the virus so far suggests it’s mainly transmitted by respiratory droplets and close face-to-face and face-to-hand contact. This means things like touching door handles and taps, then our faces and each other.
To slow the spread of the virus we ALL must:
- Stay at home if you can. If you must go out - stay at least 1.5m away from other people wherever possible.
- Wash your hands frequently - USE SOAP, it kills the virus
- Use hand sanitiser where you can’t wash your hands (if you have it)
- Clean 'high touch' areas like door handles, taps and flush buttons frequently
- Avoid sharing food, especially on platters
- Stop greeting each other with hand shakes and kisses. Elbow bumps, winks and foot taps are in
- Cough into our elbows or a tissue (hankies are out, sorry nanna)
- If you can work from home and limit your contact with other people, do so. But recognise not everyone has the ability to do this (e.g. essential workers).
- Follow the Government's advice - large group gatherings over 100 people indoors are banned. Pubs, clubs, cafes are closed, except for take-away. Click here for the latest restrictions.
I know it sounds like obvious common sense, but these actions really make a difference! The BEST place for up-to-date advice is the Department of Health website here.
2. THINK OF THOSE AT RISK
Be extra conscious of the elderly, those with a disability and anyone with significant illnesses or a compromised immune system. 'Social distancing' is a confronting phrase, but it means you should stay away from others wherever possible, and it's about keeping everyone safe, especially those who are most at risk. Here’s a great article about why our response matters.
3. HELP OUT IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD
It is important we stay connected (digitally, even if we can’t in person!) and keep an eye out for each other. If people need to self isolate, neighbours can coordinate dropping off supplies, walking the dog, or having a (phone) chat.
A number of Facebook groups have emerged across Melbourne with people offering and asking for help.
Here are some existing Facebook groups you can join:
- Love your neighbour Melbourne - COVID-19 inspired local connection
- Northside Melbourne Coronavirus Outreach
- Westside Melbourne Coronavirus Outreach
You may also like to set up smaller groups for your street or building, to support each other at a very local level.
Instructions on setting up your own local Facebook group are here.
Instructions on setting up a WhatsApp group are here.
4. STAY CONNECTED FROM A DISTANCE
In our 21st century lives, there are plenty of ways to be social without being in the same room. There’s no better time than now to embrace them!
Here are a few suggestions:
Zoom is a free, easy-to-use video conference software. Zoom play dates? Zoom bedtime stories with nanna? Zoom coffee catchups? Zoom doggo e-pats? It’s all possible!
Info on getting started with Zoom is here.
If you have an iPhone or iPad or Mac computer, you can video chat by FaceTime. You can find out more about getting started here.
A note of warning: Digital engagement will be the most positive where it’s directly with those you know or in your community. Be wary of the endless scrolling through alarming stories that leaves you more stressed and less connected!
5. SUPPORT THOSE HARDEST HIT
Many people have already lost shifts, some may lose jobs and work entirely. Artists and performers have had performances cancelled, venues are being closed and casual workers face sick leave without pay or having their employers shut down completely.
If you’re worried about how your work might be affected by the spread of the virus you can find out more about your rights and OHS safety here.
The Greens want protection for people in insecure work and affected industries. In parliament we are calling for:
- Protection for casuals by giving workers 14 days paid coronavirus sick-leave
- An increase to Newstart and Youth Allowance
- $500m to stave off mass job losses in the arts industry
On top of this, there are other ways we can support those affected.
The Australian music industry is compiling submissions from those who have lost work due to cancelled events. You can find out how you can help struggling artists here and if you’ve been impacted, they want to hear from you.
If you’ve been affected by cancelled gigs or lost work in the arts industry, Support Act provides a well-being hotline and crisis relief services for artists, crew and music workers. You can help by sharing this link.
Rough sleepers are at particular risk because they can’t bulk-buy food and hand sanitizer or self-isolate. Often they live in crowded spaces where COVID-19 could thrive. Front-line organisations providing care to rough sleepers need our support in times like this. You can donate to help here. We’re also advocating for these people with the Minister.
Similarly, refugee support organisations like the ASRC are being affected by sold-out supermarkets, so if you have any extra food you can donate to support them here.
Small businesses are also struggling right now. I've put together a list of businesses in Melbourne who could use some support - click here for the list. You'll also find a link to submit your business if you'd like to be added.
6. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
The constant media coverage and impact on people already has been really stressful. These are scary times and it’s important we look after our mental health and do our best to remain calm.
Take care of your own health, follow government health advice and you can find tips on how to cope with stress here. And remember, engage online in ways that help, and not harm!
WHAT NOT TO DO
Supermarkets are staying open. I know it's an uncertain time, but if we all hoard food and essentials, other people miss out. Only take what you need. We’re all in this together.
If you need support or help, please reach out to my office on 9328 4637 or firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do what we can.
Take care and stay safe.
Note: This blog was published 18 March 2020, some advice may have become outdated. Please ensure you stay up-to-date by visiting the Victorian Health Website.