Get serious about keeping your distance, bush told

Get serious about keeping your distance, bush told

Coronavirus
QUIET LIFE: If ever there was a time to bask in the isolation of country living, it's now. Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

QUIET LIFE: If ever there was a time to bask in the isolation of country living, it's now. Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

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Doctors, agri leaders urge country towns not to squander the advantage of space

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THOSE in the bush have been urged not to squander the natural advantage of space by taking a cavalier approach to COVID-19.

Rural doctors, along with farming and agribusiness leaders, say there are concerns social distancing and hygiene measures are not being taken as seriously as is necessary in country areas.

A false sense of security seems to have emerged, where country people think they have the protection of distance and fewer numbers.

President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Dr John Hall, said the virus would absolutely penetrate rural Australia.

"It is the most infectious virus we've seen in a long time and it will touch everyone across Australia," he said.

"In today's era of modern transport and high volumes of grey nomad traffic, it will reach the bush, there is no question."

Agribusiness owners and farming leaders have reported a general line of thinking that the social distancing happening in cities won't have to kick in until a case is confirmed in the local town.

That will be too late, Dr Hall said.

METRES MATTER: President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Dr John Hall.

METRES MATTER: President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Dr John Hall.

"There will be people carrying the virus who don't know they have it," he explained.

"We also know it can be spread for up to four weeks after someone has contracted it.

"All it takes is for one person to drop in for a cuppa - you have no knowledge of who they've interacted with in the past week."

Social distancing is the key way to slow the spread of coronavirus, authorities are telling us.

"The main thing is to keep your distance. Stay 1.5 to 2 metres away from other people all the time. Metres really do matter," Dr Hall said.

Rural Funds Management's general manager of farming Harvey Gaynor said it was concerning people in the bush might be incorrectly thinking they were safe because of where they live.

SURROUNDED BY SPACE: Rural Funds Management's general manager of farming Harvey Gaynor keeping his distance.

SURROUNDED BY SPACE: Rural Funds Management's general manager of farming Harvey Gaynor keeping his distance.

"We know coronavirus won't be confined to cities - it is already showing up in some country towns," he said.

"Rural health services are stretched thin already. They will not cope if the infection becomes widespread.

"Rural populations are older and less healthy than average, with a higher incidence of many conditions that lower immunity levels including obesity, diabetes and alcohol intake.

"We have the advantage of lots of space, and work that's often well apart from others - don't squander that by gathering in large groups, ignoring social distancing, ignoring hygiene or 'toughing it out' if symptoms appear."

A data study from the University of Sydney released this week shows if social distancing measures were adopted by 90 per cent of the Australian population, the spread of COVID-19 could be controlled by July.

The work also showed if less than 70pc adopt the measures, it would not suppress the pandemic.

"There is a clear trade off - stricter measures imposed earlier would reduce how long our lives are impacted by this disease," said pandemic modelling expert Professor Mikhail Prokopenko.

Cattle Council of Australia president Tony Hegarty also urged vigilance in the bush, saying even though risks were lower on farms, the consequences were severe.

He said cattle producers were making sure on-farm practices prevented transmitting sickness and taking steps to reduce non-essential contact.

This included using e-learning resources for children's schooling and not allowing anyone on farm who did not need to be there.

"Our industry has solid experience in biosecurity management and integrity systems," Mr Hegarty said.

"The broader red meat industry employs more than 400 thousand people across Australia, which includes processors in regional towns, so it is important we keep the beef industry strong."

The story Get serious about keeping your distance, bush told first appeared on Farm Online.

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