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Self isolation V Social distancing

posted 18 Mar 2020, 20:22 by Happi Mess   [ updated 26 Mar 2020, 00:57 ]

Self Isolation


Coronavirus: What does self-isolation mean and how does it work in Australia?

With measures ramping up to control the spread of coronavirus, increasing numbers of people are being required to self-isolate in Australia.

You need to self-isolate in your home (or a hotel) if you think you have been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19, or if you arrived from overseas after March 15, even if you're showing no symptoms.

That's because it can take up to two weeks for symptoms of COVID-19 to appear — although most commonly they show after five days.

Photo: COVID-19 can be spread through water droplets like sneezes or coughs, but hand washing helps kill the virus. (Pixabay)

Self-isolation is not the same as social distancing, which just involves avoiding large crowds (but still going to work or school) and minimising physical contact.
Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap

If required to self-isolate, you need to stay at home to reduce the risk of transmission. No public places like work, school, childcare or university, and no public gatherings.

Police have the power to force people to comply with self-isolation, with fines of up to $63,000 for people who flout the rules.

Elsewhere, self-isolation has helped curb the increase of coronavirus transmission, with cases steadying in places like China and South Korea.
How to self-isolate?

The goal of self-isolation is to put as much distance between you and other people as possible.

Only people who usually live in your household should be in the home, so it's important you don't have visitors during the isolation period. If you are in a hotel, you should avoid contact with other guests or staff.

If you're self-isolating but feeling well, there is no need to wear a surgical mask at home.

However, if you must leave the house, such as for a medical appointment, wear a mask if you have one to protect others.

Where possible, ask friends, family or neighbours who are not in isolation to pick up food and necessities for you, and leave them at your front door.

To minimise the spread of germs (especially if you live with others), you should regularly clean frequently-touched surfaces (like door knobs) and wash your hands — frequently and thoroughly.

Can I share a bed with my partner?

While you're in self-isolation, health authorities also advise against sleeping in the same bed as your partner.

People living with you are not required to be isolated as well, unless they also meet one of the isolation criteria (outlined above).

However, if you develop symptoms and are suspected to have COVID-19, they will be classified as close contacts and will then need to be isolated like you were.

What if I'm suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19?

It's important to monitor for symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, tiredness and shortness of breath.

If you develop symptoms during the isolation period, you should arrange to see your doctor for an assessment.

(Remember, you need to telephone your local health clinic or hospital before you arrive, to tell them your travel history or that you have been in contact with a potential case of coronavirus.)

If you're suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, you may be required to self-isolate at home (rather than hospital) if you're well enough.

In this case, you should wear a mask while you're inside your home when other people are present.

Other people living in the home should consider staying elsewhere. If that's not possible, you should stay in a different room from them and be separated as much as you can.

Use a separate bathroom, if you're lucky enough to have one, and wear a surgical mask when you're in communal areas like the lounge room or kitchen.

How do I get home from the airport when I self-isolate?

You should wear a mask on the trip home from the airport, whether you are showing symptoms of coronavirus or not.

It's recommended that you use personal transport, such as a car, to minimise exposure to others.

If you need to use public transport, taxis or ride-share services, it's important to avoid direct contact with other passengers (and drivers), and to practice good personal hygiene, in addition to wearing a face mask.

If you are showing symptoms of the virus and have not been tested, you should call your doctor or the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

Can I go outside while in self-isolation?

Try not to leave the house — but a walk around the block with a mask is relatively low-risk and can be a welcome relief once a day.

If you live in a private house, it is safe for you to go outside into your garden or courtyard.

If you live in an apartment or flat and have access to a common garden, balcony or courtyard, wear a surgical mask while you're out there.

What do I do while I stay home?

It's important that you look after your mental health during this time, including maintaining a normal routine as much as possible.

Exercise each day is advisable, and can be done in the privacy of your room using YouTube exercise tutorials or by walking around your home or garden.

Reach out to friends and family using the telephone or social media to stay connected and relieve loneliness.

What are the rules of self-isolation and how is it enforced?

So far most people asked to self-isolate have been willing to comply and there are yet to be any reports of people facing criminal charges for refusing to do so.

However, the police do have the option to impose some hefty penalties for those who repeatedly refuse.

In New South Wales, breaching an order to isolate carries a maximum penalty of $11,000 and six months' imprisonment.

In Queensland, you can be fined up to $13,345 and face other penalties, while in South Australia, the maximum penalty for failing to comply is $25,000.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.Video: Dr Norman Swan explains coronavirus terminology (ABC News)

In Western Australia, those ignoring a public health order face imprisonment of 12 months or a fine of $50,000; in Tasmania the maximum fine is $8,400.

The Commonwealth also has the power to issue a "human biosecurity control order" under the Biosecurity Act.

If such an order is imposed, individuals who fail to comply face penalties of about $63,000, five years in prison, or both.

Most searched questions on social isolation, past 48 hours in Australia
  • What does self isolation mean?
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Social Distancing


What does social distancing mean?

Social distancing practices are changes in behaviour that can help stop the spread of infections. These often include curtailing social contact, work and schooling among seemingly healthy individuals, with a view to delaying transmission and reducing the size of an outbreak.

How do you practice social distancing?

As an individual, you can lower your risk of infection by reducing your rate of contact with other people. Avoiding public spaces and unnecessary social gatherings, especially events with large numbers of people or crowds, will lower the chance that you will be exposed to the new coronavirus as well as to other infectious diseases like flu.

Other measures include working from home if possible, organising meetings via video calls rather than doing them in person and avoiding unnecessary use of public transport, says Stuart Neil at King’s College London.

Social distancing “should be approached sensibly and rationally”, says Neil. If you do have to be out and about, the World Health Organization recommends maintaining a distance of at least 1 metre between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. It is also recommended that you avoid physical contact with others in social situations, including handshakes, hugs and kisses.

Does social distancing work?

There is evidence from previous outbreaks, including the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2014 Ebola outbreak, as well as from outbreak simulations, that social distancing can effectively limit the spread of infections. We don’t know exactly how the new coronavirus spreads, but similar viruses are predominantly transmitted by droplets emitted from the mouths and noses of infected people when they cough or sneeze, which can land on surfaces and people’s hands.

How are countries implementing social distancing?

China implemented particularly stringent measures in Hubei province, where the first new coronavirus cases were detected. In addition to quarantining the region and building isolation facilities, the Chinese government used mobile phone tracking to monitor people’s movements and prevent people with confirmed infections from travelling.

Since Italy went into lockdown, many other European countries have imposed travel restrictions and closed schools as well as other public places like restaurants and bars. The European commission has put forward plans to close European Union borders and restrict all non-essential travel in the Schengen area of countries that have no border controls between them. The UK government is advising its citizens to stop all non-essential contact with other people.

What are the potential negative impacts of social distancing?

It has already affected the global economy because people are staying at home and demand for goods and services has fallen.

“Social distancing is a societal effort to contain transmission and it comes at a significant economic cost,” says Kalipso Chalkidou at Imperial College London. “There are always trade-offs,” she says.

Concerns have also been expressed that social distancing could lead to increased loneliness, especially among older people who are at a higher risk of severe covid-19.

How can you maintain social distance from people you live with or care for?

It is recommended to separate yourself from people you live with as much as possible. If you can’t avoid sharing a bathroom or toilet, clean these areas regularly. If you have covid-19 or suspect that you are at risk, the priority should be to avoid transmitting the disease to others, particularly if you are caring for someone vulnerable.

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