News Coronavirus Readers sent 1000 coronavirus questions. An expert replied, explaining how to see mates, travel, work

Readers sent 1000 coronavirus questions. An expert replied, explaining how to see mates, travel, work

Your questions about COVID-19 answered. Photo: TND
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We asked you to send us your coronavirus questions. And you responded, en masse.

In an indication of how much confusion and uncertainty is going around about the pandemic, in less than 24 hours, we were swamped with almost 1000 (very good) questions about COVID-19.

Although we can’t answer every one, we looked at the trends to figure out where the most confusion lies and put them to the people at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is a rapidly changing situation and answers are current as of time of publishing.

To kick off the series, Monash University Professor of Medicine Paul Komesaroff, who directs the Centre for Ethics in Medicine and Society, is answering your questions about social distancing and travel.

Over to him.

We are running a business in Australia. Should we get our employees to work from home? 

If you only have a small number of employees it may be safe for them to continue to come to work, although to get there they may need to use public transport, walk through crowded streets etc, thereby incurring risk.

If there is a possibility for them to spend at least some of their time working from home, this is definitely a safer and more desirable option and would probably benefit you in the long run.

I live in Queensland and plan to go to Tasmania for a road trip in three weeks.  Is this advisable?

There is no reason why you should be at risk driving from Queensland or in Tasmania in your car.

If you were taking your car on the ferry you would need to spend some hours in proximity with a large number of other people and this would inevitably incur some risk, although there have been no cases reported from exposure in such circumstances.

During your holiday in Tasmania you would naturally take the usual precautions regarding hygiene and social distancing.

Can I attend small indoor music gigs, attended by about 80 people in regional New South Wales?

Strictly, gatherings of 80 people are not actively discouraged in Australia yet. However, overseas much lower limits have been set.

The events you describe undoubtedly would incur risk.

If they are not absolutely essential it would be prudent to avoid them.

Can my group of six friends meet for lunch?

There is no reason why you should not meet. But if you do so, you should observe some precautions.

If someone is sick they should not attend.

You should not shake hands or hug.

You should wash your hands before lunch.

You should try to maintain a one-metre distance.

If someone coughs, they should cover their mouths. These procedures should not limit your enjoyment of the lunch, or of each other’s company.

As a bus operator, how do I protect myself? I have to handle money and deal with everyone who gets on my bus.

There will be more guidance on this coming out in the next few days and you should discuss the subject with OH&S or your employer.

However,  frequent use of hand sanitiser is warranted.

Your employer should provide you with a supply, which you can keep near you.

I need to catch a few taxis over the next couple of weeks as I can’t drive. What precautions should I take? I am diabetic.

If you can avoid travelling, you should do so.

If you have to take a taxi it is recommended that you sit in the back seat and ask the driver to set the air-conditioning on ‘fresh’, instead of ‘recirculate’.

What about handling food? Does heating such as frying, even using the microwave, work to kill the virus? 

Heat does kill the virus.

It is spread primarily via droplets which are breathed in, rather than ingested, so there is little chance of infection via food.

Having said that, usual hygiene precautions should be exercised in relation to food and utensils, especially if there are people with an infection in close proximity.

My child has been rehearsing with a community musical society for a production that will perform in May.  Should I allow him to continue to attend multiple rehearsals each week in an enclosed space?

It could be reasonably assumed that the production will not go ahead if the epidemic continues to develop and the restrictions associated with it continue to be expanded.

While technically, meetings of 50 people are not yet banned, it would be reasonable to reconsider whether it is a good idea for your son to continue to attend these rehearsals.

Singing and dancing in close contact is inadvisable.

It would probably be best for you to approach the musical society and suggest that the event and the preparations for it be postponed until later in the year.

What happens if I travel to Japan for a holiday but flights get cancelled coming back? Where does that leave me? 

If you can, avoid travelling to Japan. Perhaps consider delaying your trip for another time and taking your holiday within Australia.

Why can’t we close our schools, airports and shopping centres for a month to limit the spread? 

Closing down everything for a month will not stop the pandemic – and in any case, society still needs to function.

We need to produce and distribute food, look after children and elderly people, and provide for all the goods and services on which we depend.

Our objective at this time is to slow the rate of spread of the virus to a level where our health services can cope.

It has been judged by health authorities that the prevalence of the virus in the community has not yet reached the stage where there is a need for schools to close, but we are fast reaching that point.

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