SOCIAL distancing and regular hand washing is no longer just good advice, it is "absolutely crucial" to slowing the spread of COVID-19, public health expert Dr David Durrheim warns.
The Hunter New England Health (HNEH) physician said we all needed to do more to beat COVID-19.
"We have to flatten the curve, we cannot possibly afford to relax at the moment," he said.
"I have worked in public health for a long time, and I have been at the forefront of responses to diseases including Ebola, cholera, and the 2009 flu pandemic, and none of them have posed the threat of COVID-19.
"Because it is droplet-borne, it is more infectious than flu, and it is certainly much, much more serious.
"It has probably got a case fatality rate eight to 10 times that of seasonal flu, and the last time we faced a challenge like this globally in public health was probably the 1918-1919 pandemic."
I have worked in public health for a long time, and I have been at the forefront of responses to diseases including Ebola, cholera, and the 2009 flu pandemic, and none of them have posed the threat of COVID-19.Public health physician Dr David Durrheim
Dr Durrheim said the health sector was gearing up to surge. The community needed to step up too.
Yesterday, Thursday, March 26 HNEH released a breakdown of locations which had confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region.
From the first 100 cases, there were 19 in the Newcastle local government area, five in Port Stephens, 24 in Lake Macquarie and six in Maitland.
There were 19 in the Lower Mid North Coast, 15 in the Hunter Valley and 12 in the New England regions.
"It is really crucial that all of us practice proper physical distancing, that we absolutely enhance our respiratory hygiene, and wash our hands very regularly," he said.
"We have to slow this virus's spread.
"We need to do more.
"COVID 19 is close to all of us. Now is the time for all of us to do everything we can."
Dr Durrheim said the available testing capacity for COVID-19 had "ramped up massively" in the past two weeks.
The John Hunter Hospital laboratory was now "online" and processing specimens.
The local lab meant tests were getting turned around much faster.
"As the supplies and lab capacity increases, we want to test as many people as possible, particularly going into winter."
Because COVID-19 was spread by droplets, gravity played a "wonderful role", dropping them within a metre.
"If we stay a metre-and-a-half from other people, and we wash our hands carefully, we can slow this virus down," he said.
"We can protect vulnerable people in the community, and save lives."
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