Informed people can help stem this virus
FORGET any notion of a second wave — in many respects Geelong is experiencing its first real wave of COVID-19 cases.
The bulk of Geelong’s 73 confirmed cases might have been recorded before the end of April, but with the majority either coming from or linked to returned travellers, the outbreak felt worrying but manageable and by early May we had no active cases.
The spike in recent days feels very different. From Rip Curl in Torquay to Coles in Belmont, a childcare centre in Ocean Grove to a manufacturer in North Geelong, COVID-19 has raised its ugly head in populated areas right across our region this week.
And this time it is the dreaded community transmission, rather than links to known cases or overseas exposure, that gives us the most cause for concern.
Consider, for example, the case of the Ocean Grove Boorai childcare centre. How many children, families, workers, would have been exposed in recent days? And how many would they, in turn, have then exposed?
Is social distancing in a childcare centre something that can even remotely be enforced among toddlers?
This is the power of this virus. Its transmission is so quick and easy that those trying to trace the movements of Victoria’s surge in known cases are struggling to keep up.
Until there is a widely accessible vaccine, the onus to keep ourselves healthy rests largely on our own shoulders. The need to practise social distancing, hand hygiene and to stay home if even slightly unwell, is as vital as it has ever been.
But we also need help from the authorities. It is so much easier to recognise if you are a threat to public health if you know whether you had been somewhere that might have been exposed.
When Geelong’s first cases were revealed in March, the public health authorities gave detailed descriptions of the locations possibly exposed to the virus. The public were then able to assess their own level of risk and if they should isolate or be tested.
This is no longer the case and this week’s reports of the positive Rip Curl employee, Coles worker and Incitec Pivot contractor were all revealed by Geelong Advertiser journalists, not the authorities.
While the contact tracing team are run off their feet, an easy way to immediately reduce risk would be to announce locations where confirmed cases had been. The better informed we are, the more able we will be to help keep our region safe.