Plea from a frontline doctor
Up to date as of 18th March 2020
As a doctor working in Emergency I’m continually updated with protocol on who to test, how to safely isolate patients and what advice to give to the concerned public. Everyone is talking about it and with this, a palpable stress is rising as we prepare for an unprecedented strain on our healthcare system.
Information is changing daily with data on mortality and transmission rates constantly being updated, making fertile ground for misinformation. The consistent messages throughout have been that:
- You should attend a COVID-19 clinic if you have cold and/or flu-like symptoms AND
- Returned from overseas in the last 14 days OR
- Been in close contact of a confirmed case
- Those travelling from overseas are at increased risk and should therefore self-isolate
- Improved personal hygiene and social distancing can help to slow the spread1
- Mortality rates increase with increasing age and illness over 50
Amongst the stress there have been some fantastic displays of humanity. People across the world are creating COVID-19 friendly home exercises, limited ingredient recipes and local supermarkets are delivering supplies to those affected by the bulk-buyers.
It’s the daily anxiety that reinforces the importance of community measures. We’re relying on the people in and out of hospital to follow Public Health advice to support our staff and patients.
The importance of health precautions for all
Without encouraging panic, especially when my toilet roll supply isn’t looking too good, the importance of following Public Health precautions is paramount given the projected rate of spread. WHO report people infected with COVID-19 can infect others after they stop feeling sick3 You may be younger than 50 and otherwise well but your family, friends and colleagues might not be. Look after one another with some simple measures.
You need to isolate yourself in your home/hotel if you have been:
- In contact with a person sick with COVID-19
- Travelled overseas in the past 14 days
- Tested and are awaiting the result
Isolation is a challenge not to be underestimated. Manage this by staying active with home workouts, stay busy (get creative – puzzles, arts and crafts, do your taxes, clean the house, build a fort) and although physically separated, people should remain in contact with friends and family. “You are also allowed to leave your house to go for a walk or exercise outdoors if you are well and stay away from other people”2
Both flu and COVID-19 are viruses transmitted in the same way: coughing, sneezing or contact with contaminated surfaces. It’s for this reason that improved hygiene can reduce the rate of spread.
Things you can do to help:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Clean any shared equipment e.g. computers, gym equipment
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing/sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow
- Stay at home if you are sick
See ‘Making Exercise Viable’ for ways of keeping your physical activity COVID-19 friendly
The Washington Post have a fantastic article with a simulation on spread of COVID-19 with and without social distancing – click here4 to see. This echo’s the words of the World Health Organization’s Director General: “social distancing measures can help to reduce transmission and enable health systems to cope”
Keep your distance from others, avoid unnecessary meetings, work local, shop local, utilise skype/facetime and avoid crowded areas. It’s a lot to think about but making even small changes will help.
The Importance of Exercise
With all of these measures it’s easy to feel like we’re forced to stay inside, stay inactive and go mad in the process. There’s not been a more important time to protect your health and the simple things are the most effective. Eat well and move more.
Anita Hobson-Powell, CEO of Exercise & Sports Science Australia writes “We all understand that exercise supports our physical health, however, during times of crisis such as this, it is the first activity we tend to ignore. Being active can not only keep us healthy, it can also help us fight off infection”5
Making Exercise Viable
You can always find a way to exercise, if in doubt contact me and I’ll help!
I would hate to warn people away from exercise facilities that could lead to loss of income for independent active businesses, however the reality is that group gatherings have to change to reduce the risk of viral transmission. Trainers and facility owners across the world are showing their clients how they’re helping to protect the community, if yours isn’t ask them how, to those that are I say a huge thank you.
- Avoid busy periods – Lift3 have posted their busy times and are encouraging responsible 24 hour use to enable social distancing
- Avoid physical contact – exchange the high-five for a shoe tap or my personal favourite, the comical middle finger (warning this one has scope for misinterpretation)
- Limit your equipment – trainers such as LeadingEdge are going equipment-free. Find a body-resistance or kettlebell workout so you can practice good hygiene
- Clean your equipment – before to protect yourself and after to protect others. If you’ve touched it, you’ve contaminated it – show other gym users you care by using disinfectant sprays/wipes.
- Provide cleaning products – Active Fitness HQ are leading the way with an abundance of cleaning stations, creating a positive culture about hygiene.
Now’s the time to ask a trainer to run you through an outdoor workout or invest in some 1:1/small group sessions. Start that marathon training plan or explore the walking routes you’ve been meaning to.
If you’re concerned or have questions about COVID-19, utilise the Australian Government’s National Coronavirus Helpline 1800 020 080
3World Health Organisation: “Director General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 16th March 2020”
5 ESSA 2020 Media Release: COVID-19 Response: Why exercise is more important than ever