News Coronavirus Health workers raise fears about infection control while some Australians won’t take pandemic seriously
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Health workers raise fears about infection control while some Australians won’t take pandemic seriously

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Worried health workers are demanding greater virus protections amid concern the federal health department’s official infection control advice is not strong enough.

Victorian healthcare workers continue to be strongly represented in daily coronavirus case increases, with 139 health workers reported among 450 infections on Friday.

The total active cases among healthcare workers is 911.

There were 11 deaths, taking the state toll to 181 and the national toll to 266.

The Australian Medical Association has criticised the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) for not advising P2 or N95 respirator masks be used in all COVID-19 care settings.

The Australian Society of Anaesthetists also questioned whether Melbourne hospitals had adequate control guidelines.

It comes as an Australian College of Nursing survey found one in five registered nurses did not have new and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) available to them each shift, The Herald Sun reports.

Melbourne anaesthetist Dr David Story said many clinicians felt “fear and uncertainty” but that the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) was a respected body to be trusted.

The group advises the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and its other standing committees on infection prevention and control issues.

Dr Story said major hospitals with COVID-19 wards were all using P2 and N95 masks.

Daniel is a young, fit nurse. It's his second year of full-time nursing. And he's been diagnosed with COVID-19.He is…

Posted by The Royal Melbourne Hospital on Thursday, August 6, 2020

Meanwhile infection measures in the aged-care sector are also in the spotlight with the deaths of 181 aged-care residents in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders on Friday agreed to ongoing audits of the aged-care sector after recent deadly outbreaks in Melbourne nursing homes.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation aimed its strongest critique at private aged-care providers – to which a large portion of health worker infections are linked.

“Get your infection control practices and training in order and roster more registered and enrolled nurses,” a spokeswoman said.

“All providers should be ensuring all their clinical and non-clinical staff have access to the Victorian Government’s free face-to-face infection control training delivered by Monash University.”

Fresh tactics needed to take pandemic more seriously

As health workers risk their lives, another question is being asked as to what it will take for some Australians to take the coronavirus crisis seriously?

The behaviour of a small group of “sovereign citizens” has prompted calls for new strategies aimed at getting them, and others, to take the pandemic more seriously.

On Monday, a woman who refused to wear a face mask allegedly smashed the head of a Melbourne police officer into a concrete path.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews called the attack “disgraceful”.

Police added they’ve been forced to break car windows to arrest people who were “baiting” officers and refusing to provide personal details.

Although the vast majority of Victorians are doing the right thing, the highly contagious nature of COVID-19 means it only takes a few people ignoring the restrictions to spark a serious outbreak.

A COVID-19 patient is attached to a ventilator in the emergency room. Photo: Getty

So if the threat of being fined $1652 by police isn’t deterring rule-breakers, then how do we change their behaviour?

Would a confronting TV advertisement showing coronavirus patients on ventilators work? Or would a softer approach be more effective?

“We need to be careful,” said Julian Bell, the national government lead of Clemenger BBDO – the advertising agency behind the Transport Accident Commission’s ‘Towards Zero’ road safety campaign.

“The economy is already causing stress and anxiety, and COVID-19 is inciting fear. People will reach a limit in terms of what they’re prepared to look at and listen to in terms of shock-related advertising.”

So if a Grim Reaper-style ad campaign won’t work, what will?

Teach, don’t terrify

“Before we ask people to act or behave in a certain way, it is critical they understand the problem and what’s happening,” Mr Bell said.

“We’re being served the same advertising we’ve seen since February, telling us the same thing. Clearly the problem is changing, but the advertising is not.”

While it is important to remind Australians about the importance of good hygiene during the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Bell said what Victorians needed to know now was why the second wave of infections was happening, and why it was crucial to follow the Stage 4 rules.

“How is the virus behaving? What’s going on with it? Is it changing its behaviour?” he said.

“When we understand it, we’re far more likely to respond properly and change our actions. We need something that’s educational, but also emotionally engaging.”

He added one way of ensuring more Victorians accept their personal responsibility in the fight against COVID-19 was to make them realise it could infect them or someone they love.

“Many people don’t recognise their role in perpetuating the situation and deflect ownership,” Mr Bell said.

“This is true for road safety advertising. After they’ve reconciled they’re a part of the problem, then we can ask them to act by giving practical solutions.”

The biggest barrier facing the government is time.

Unlike previous campaigns targeting drink driving or smoking, the government only has a few weeks to help Victorians understand why Stage 4 is necessary.

More carrot, less stick

“We’re not seeing enough reward for doing the right thing,” said Ricci Meldrum executive director at TBWA advertising agency in Melbourne.

“Why don’t we reward people who go and get a COVID-19 test with an essential pack from the supermarket? Or a hotline number in case you are positive so you can get access to online deliveries?”

An effective Stage Four campaign would also need to target multiple groups of people, she said.

“There might be legitimate reasons for some people flouting the rules,” Ms Meldrum said, adding many workers feared losing their jobs.

“Some of the messaging needs to be targeted at employers.”

How do we get the message across?

“We need to be innovative,” said Eddie Micallef, chairperson of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria.

“The message has to be tailored to our multicultural communities.”

Simply translating the new Stage Four rules into different languages wasn’t good enough, he said.

“That’s an excuse to say you’ve catered for those who speak another language, but it will have a limited impact,” he said.

“We need community leaders and church leaders, and people who are running local radio shows – we need those people to present the message elsewhere, too.”

Mr Micallef said the message also needed to be different for younger and older people.

“Using hip hop, modern lingo, comedy, YouTube – a whole range of approaches can be used to reach out to the younger community,” he said.

“People need to hear things in their own language and culture.”

Mr Bell suggested delivering “advertising assets” like street signs or newsletters to local councils.