Doctors’ lobby warns on social distance, hygiene

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Australian Medical Association WA president Dr Andrew Miller has warned residents not to be complacent about the ongoing threat of COVID-19. Coronavirus.
Camera IconAustralian Medical Association WA president Dr Andrew Miller has warned residents not to be complacent about the ongoing threat of COVID-19. Coronavirus. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian, Jackson Flindell The West Australian Picture: Jackson Flindell

Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller has warned South West residents COVID-19 is “not over by a long shot” and that social distancing and hygiene requirements are crucial to avoid community infections as the region braces to receive an influx of Perth residents during the next few weeks.

With accommodation and tourism operators confirming a surge in bookings after Premier Mark McGowan flagged easing restrictions at the weekend, some operators feared opening the border might surrender the region’s natural advantage as a COVID-19-free haven.

But more operators were concerned about the health of the economy.

Dr Miller told the Times the health benefits of travel and improving the economy were important, but caution was needed.

“The current testing rate is nowhere near high enough to rule out community transmission, so for now we are relying on the lack of very sick cases coming forward to let us know there are not a lot of infected people,” Dr Miller said.

“The disease, however, can spread for weeks through many people of all ages without causing any significant symptoms before breaking out again to cause disability and death.”

“The South West is not as vulnerable as the North West, but locals and tourists alike must remain aware that anyone could be carrying the virus.”

A spokesman for the Premier said border relaxations were on advice from police and WA’s chief health officer responding to “the community’s strong response to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“As restrictions are eased, it’s more important than ever that all Western Australians continue to practice good personal hygiene and social distancing. This will help to prevent any further outbreaks occurring in the future.

“The State Government will be monitoring phase two of the easing of restrictions very closely.”

The Premier’s office said decisions were made carefully to balance health and economic outcomes.

Registered Accommodation Providers Margaret River Region spokesman Alan Wilkie said social distancing and public gathering limits would minimise risks.

“We believe that the changes made so far in relaxing travel restrictions would only have been implemented if the Government was very confident that the risks involved were very small and manageable,” he said.

“Whilst wishing the virus on no one, people have to go back to work at some stage, or the community will suffer in other ways due to unemployment, financial stress and the inherent danger that many businesses that provide value to the general prosperity of the local community will not re-emerge from the shutdown.”

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam told the Times risks remained.

“We all must take personal responsibility in ensuring that we can continue to see the easing of restrictions continues with social distancing, hygiene and testing as required,” she said.

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