This week, Italy’s government decided to lock down the whole country to stop the spread of the coronavirus as the country became the worst place for the sickness outside of China.
There are now growing calls from doctors for Australia to do the same before the cold weather hits.
GP Muhammad Mohsin, who heads 13 CARE and founded internet health service provider Prime Medic, said Australia needed to urgently put in place similar strategies to those in Italy stop the virus from taking off here.
“I believe the only way to stop the spread of the virus is to shut down all schools, universities, businesses and public places for four weeks,” he said.
“We urgently need to get people working from home, learning from home, and watching sport and other events from home.”
Dr Mohsin said if we don’t stop it soon, it will become more difficult to handle later on.
“This is the only way we can avoid a complete and utter epidemic in Australia. Otherwise, the virus will spread and it will devastate our country and our economy.
“We must do it before winter arrives. This is absolutely critical.”
Cathie Hull, an emergency doctor who works at Ryde Hospital in Sydney, has been self-quarantining along with other colleagues after being exposed to the virus via a doctor at work.
“Isolation after exposure is scary because there is time to consider the risks,” Dr Hull said.
“That leads to worrying days of information gathering, sharing and overload, pondering any slight change in our bodies and enduring long anxious nights.
“We call each other and talk.
“We worry about our families, our friends and our future, our sick doctor, our hospital colleagues, our responsibilities, and our community.
“Over 60, I have life-long asthma and I’m allergic to medications that may be needed for secondary infections.
“I packed a bag ready for the hospital.”
Dr Hull agreed that to protect everyone, especially the elderly and vulnerable, we should all self-isolate for two weeks.
“Two weeks now will be difficult and expensive, but at least most people will be well,” Dr Hull said.
“Taking this action later will be much harder.
“People half-expect strong government action similar to other affected countries.
“Committing to isolation to slow spread at this critical stage, and reducing close contact when possible, may help us to manage the weeks and months before we have a vaccine, or forms of treatment, to lessen the impact of COVID-19 disease.”
On Wednesday the federal government unveiled a $2.4 billion coronavirus health package as the country confirmed its 100th case.
The package includes 100 pop-up fever clinics, a $30 million advertising campaign and a Medicare item for tele-health consultations to slow the spread of the virus.
Italy was also added to Australia’s coronavirus travel ban, alongside China, Iran South Korea and China.
In Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews said a state-wide closure of schools and workplaces was an “inevitability”.
“Now’s not the time for those things, but that time will come, and it is appropriate … to be frank with people, to be honest with people,” Mr Andrews said on Wednesday.
“We are going to ask a lot of Victorians.”
But Dr Danielle McMullen, the vice president of the Australian Medical Association’s NSW branch said a nationwide quarantine now would just be “kicking the can down the road”.
“Firstly at the moment, community spread is very low,” Dr McMullen said.
“Outside of that small pocket in north-west Sydney, we haven’t had other reports of sustained community spread.
“It’s at least premature to put the whole country into lockdown. It just kicks the can further down the road.
“Coronavirus isn’t going anywhere quickly, so two weeks of significant quarantine, then what do you do two weeks from that?”
Dr McMullen said the best thing people could do right now was wash their hands, cough into their elbow and stay “alert but not alarmed”.
“It is an evolving situation.
“Our advice may change and that’s OK.
“At the moment, locking down the country is not likely to help and will cause widespread panic.”