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Social distancing: Why we shouldn’t stop or get complacent

In January 2020 the term ‘social distancing’ wasn’t part of our collective vernacular. Fast forward to six months later, and today this new way of life of giving people around us plenty of personal space is now embedded in our day to day. For the past few months Australians have been self-isolating and social distancing hoping the threat of a pandemic that may overwhelm our healthcare system and cause harm to vulnerable segments of our community might come to an end.

While there may have been a great deal of success in slowing the spread and even dropping cases of the flu this year by 99%, the threat of future spikes and clusters of new locally transmitted cases is not yet over as we have seen recently in the state of Victoria. The rise in cases in Melbourne has seen the curve grow once again (source) resulting in residents subject to lockdown restrictions again.

While we’ve made positive steps forward in many parts of the country, it’s important that we maintain social distancing and each play our part - the early successes the majority of the Australian community have achieved in the battle with COVID-19 are not a reason for complacency. We can attribute a major portion of the success to people’s willingness to comply with restrictions, including the social distancing measures. movement restrictions and limits on the amount of visitors that people can have in each household.

Epidemiologists believe that distance is still the most effective barrier to stop droplets being transmitted between people (source) and the Premier of New South Wales has recently warned her constituents, now is not the time to relax.

"Don’t relax. Assume everybody in and around you has the disease.” stated Ms Berejiklian.

"Just because we haven't had the community transmission that's occurred elsewhere doesn't mean it can't happen … and the way that we stop it from happening is by maintaining the social distancing, the hand hygiene and sticking to the rules."

As restrictions were lifted, it seems that we’re all looking to see life resume to some sort of normality – as life was prior to the virus landing on our shores.

The reality is if Australians stop now or even become complacent, we risk everything. We risk lives and livelihoods; and sacrifice the countless hours our citizens, public health officials and dedicated healthcare workers have already put in. Any advances Australia has made with containing the virus and “flattening the curve” could be undone.

For these reasons we should expect to be keeping our distance until told otherwise by health experts. Continuing to play our part for the next three, six and 12 months will be crucial in slowing the spread of the virus.

For now, we should get used to the notion of working remotely, staying local for outings and connecting with friends and family responsibly within guidelines or even continuing with via video-conferencing for socialising. For those living in suburbs under mandatory lock-down measures, guidelines and restrictions should be strictly followed.

It will be strange and difficult to prolong his type of behaviour but we do so as a collective community to help those that are most vulnerable and to ensure that we don’t live in perpetuals loops of lockdowns, surges in virus cases and we protect our collective physical, mental and economic wellbeing.