On the 3rd of January 2020, China officially notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) of an outbreak of viral pneumonia of unknown cause (Xinhuanet 2020). Cases and deaths around the world rose astronomically over the coming days and weeks, specifically in China. By January 25, a man from Wuhan, China who had flown to Melbourne on 19 January became Australia’s first confirmed case of coronavirus (Ministers Department of Health 2020).
By the 30th January 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) (Kantis et al 2020). World leaders began to make major and unprecedented decisions to prevent the spread of the virus by closing international borders, enforcing travel bans and mandatory quarantining of travellers.
Since the outbreak of what has become known as the coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic, the virus has thrown the world into complete upheaval in every sense of the word, flooring healthcare systems, entire countries, industries, economies, families and life as we know it.
As of early October 2020, 214 countries have had COVID-19 cases, over 36.7 million cases have been confirmed globally, and over 1 million deaths have been confirmed worldwide (Kantis et al 2020).
Australia’s COVID-19 battle has included nationwide lockdowns, border closures, major governmental blunders involving cruise ships and hotel quarantining, critical issues regarding a lack of PPE and government direction faced by healthcare workers, mental health and employment crises, and Melbourne undergoing one of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world (Fernando 2020).
Melbourne has been under social restrictions since 16 March in line with the national restrictions. These were initially extended to 11 May, but on 8 July, Melbourne’s restrictions were reimposed following significantly increasing COVID-19 cases. By 2 August, a state of disaster and an 8pm-5am curfew was ordered (Fernando 2020).
To date in Victoria;
817 people have lost their lives to COVID-19
20,320 total number of cases
122 active cases
11 cases in hospital
no cases in intensive care
19,313 people have recovered
While our state government leaders have been praised for implementing strict restrictions and social distancing laws to reduce the spread of COVID-19, they have also been widely criticised regarding issues faced by healthcare workers including a lack of PPE, support and direction.
Along with the extreme dependence on frontline healthcare workers over the past ten months, inadequate national safety guidance resulted in an inconsistent and non-standardised approach to airborne precaution PPE across health care settings, with some making their own independent safety recommendations to their staff (The Conversation 2020).
A lack of available PPE including adequate face masks and shields, hand sanitiser, gowns and gloves put the lives of these healthcare workers at risk and indeed lead to large numbers of cases in the sector (Grenfell 2020). Furthermore, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) found that 20% of health workers across the country lacked access to the most basic protective equipment including masks, with some reports of staff being forced to reuse disposable equipment (RACP 2020). This is something that no healthcare worker should be asked to do, ever. Equally as troubling, the survey also found that only 61% of respondents reported having had recent workplace training in the use of PPE which is crucial to the prevention of transmission (RACP 2020).
RACP President and Respiratory Physician Professor John Wilson said,
Our Government must be doing everything they can to provide them with sufficient protective equipment. We must do everything we can to ensure that healthcare workers are protected from infection while at work – and that includes urgent PPE training for all hospitals who have not yet rolled this out .
As our country endeavours to pull itself from the grasp of an economic, employment and mental health crisis, it is imperative that we learn from the mistakes made in order to improve national policies surrounding our response to such a devastating pandemic as that of COVID-19.
Professor Nick Talley, Editor-in-Chief of the Australian Medical Journal, said the outbreaks in the two states (NSW and VIC) are actually the first wave of the virus in the pandemic.
People talk about the 2nd coronavirus WAVE. It’s NOT the 2nd in Australia.
We essentially never had serious community COVID transmission. Until now.
Please see full article for clarification here – https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/coronavirus-outbreak-seen-in-victoria-and-nsw-is-actually-australias-first-covid-19-wave-expert-says-c-1166607
- Fernando, G. SBS News. Is Melbourne’s coronavirus lockdown really the longest in the world? Here’s how other countries stack up, 2020. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/is-melbourne-s-coronavirus-lockdown-really-the-longest-in-the-world-here-s-how-other-countries-stack-up (accessed Oct 2020).
- Grenfell O. World Socialist Web Site. Twenty percent of Australian health workers lack PPE as infections in the sector soar, 2020. https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/08/10/vict-a10.html (accessed Oct 2020).
- Kantis C, Kiernan, S, Socrates Bardi J. Think Global Health. UPDATED: Timeline of the Coronavirus. A frequently updated tracker of emerging developments from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, 2020. https://www.thinkglobalhealth.org/article/updated-timeline-coronavirus (accessed Oct 2020).
- Ministers Department of Health. Media Release: First confirmed case of novel coronavirus in Australia, 2020. https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/first-confirmed-case-of-novel-coronavirus-in-australia (accessed Oct 2020).
- Royal Australasian College of Physicians. RACP survey: 20 per cent of physicians in public hospitals sourcing their own PPE – calls for greater transparency on government stockpile, 2020. https://www.racp.edu.au/news-and-events/media-releases/racp-survey-20-per-cent-of-physicians-in-public-hospitals-sourcing-their-own-ppe-calls-for-greater-transparency-on-government (accessed Oct 2020).
- The Conversation. PPE Unmasked: Why health-care workers in Australia are inadequately protected against coronavirus, 2020. https://theconversation.com/ppe-unmasked-why-health-care-workers-in-australia-are-inadequately-protected-against-coronavirus-143751 (accessed Oct 2020).
- Victoria State Government Health and Human Services. Media Release – Coronavirus Update for Victoria – Tuesday 20 October, 2020. https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-update-victoria-20-october-2020 (accessed Oct 2020).
- XINHUANET. https://www.linkedin.com/redir/general-malware-page?url=www%2enews%2ecn%2e China publishes timeline on COVID-19 information sharing, int’l cooperation, 2020. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-04/06/c_138951662.htm (accessed Oct 2020).