Lessons for Australia from Melbourne’s COVID-19 spike

An opinion piece by the Australian Government Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Alison McMillan.

Date published:
Media type:
General public

The recent spike in COVID-19 cases in areas of Melbourne is disappointing, but we always expected more cases. It is an important reminder for the whole country.

It is vital we learn the lessons from these spikes, or we risk seeing many more across Australia, putting in jeopardy much of what we all have worked so hard to achieve in our fight against COVID-19.

An important message I would like to reinforce is, despite our success in combatting COVID-19, we are not at a stage where we can go back to living our lives the way we did before Australia had the pandemic. The virus is still with us, and will be for quite some time — and the international situation continues to get worse, not better.

The spike in Victoria shows just how easy it is for outbreaks to occur if we don’t continue to practise physical distancing and good hygiene, and stay at home when sick. It’s also a reminder of the importance of downloading the COVIDSafe app so health authorities can quickly find close contacts of people confirmed to have contracted COVID-19.

The faster the 'disease detectives' can find these close contacts, the quicker they can prevent the virus from spreading.

So what have we learned from the Melbourne spike? A significant number of the new cases are connected to family gatherings.

What does this tell us? It would seem some Australians don’t appreciate that COVID-19 can be dangerous, even among people they know well — including family members.

As COVID-19 restrictions have eased and more people are able to meet in homes and venues such as hotels and restaurants, some Australians are choosing not to socialise at a safe physical distance. This puts at risk other, typically older, family members who are more vulnerable to succumbing to the effects of COVID-19, as well as the wider community.

So please, if you do go to meet friends for a drink or bite to eat in a venue or someone’s home, make sure you do so safely by maintaining proper physical distancing.

I encourage you to share this important message with family members, friends, neighbours, and through your community and business networks.

The Victorian spike also tells us we need to keep working to get the key messages of practising physical distancing and good hygiene, and downloading the COVIDSafe app, to communities where English is not the first language spoken or read.

Much effort has gone into ensuring our multicultural communities are kept up to date as the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed.

For instance, key information to help individuals, households and businesses has been translated into 63 languages.

There have been more than 900,000 unique page views of the COVID-19 Information in your language website since it was launched.

The Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs, through its community liaison officers, has made contact with multicultural community groups more than 4300 times nationally since the start of the pandemic.

Beyond this, it is clear some people may be worried about getting tested for COVID-19 when they needn’t be. So let me reassure people on a couple of fronts: getting tested at an Australian Government-funded GP-led Respiratory Clinic is absolutely free — and you don’t need a Medicare card.

There is a long way to go to beat COVID-19, and now is not the time for complacency. Please continue to practise physical distancing and good hygiene. And please, stay at home if you are unwell.


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