Asthma Australia encourages employees in all professional sectors to discuss their concerns with their supervisor or manager at work. If the employee falls into vulnerable categories, they should be adapting their working practices to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. Where their day to day role involves close contact with people, this will need to be discussed and negotiated between employees and employers. Indeed, all requirements of the day to day role, including the need to commute to work if this involves public transport, should be discussed. This might also apply to employees who are the main carers of family members who are vulnerable.
Australian expert leaders in severe asthma have recommended that people with severe asthma self-isolate from others and practice strict physical distancing in doing so. Even though people with asthma do not appear to be at great risk of COVID-19, experts believe it important for people with severe asthma to take extra precautions. This will include working from home and schooling from home. Speak to your doctor about communicating with your employer or school about these recommendations to reduce the disadvantage you might worry about under these stressful circumstances. Refer to Safework Australia for further information about workplace requirements.
People with asthma may be facing other challenges during this time as well. The increase of cleaning regulations for workplaces and the use of strong or stronger than usual cleaning products and hand sanitisers can be a trigger for people with asthma. Additionally, we know many people with asthma have experienced new or increased symptoms of anxiety and depression during COVID-19, which has a known impact on asthma control.
It is imperative that our frontline staff are equipped to protect themselves against infection whilst looking after their patients in hospital and community settings. The Commonwealth Government has developed some useful material for the health sector workforce, especially in support of how businesses can run safely and effectively despite the disruption of the pandemic.
The Commonwealth Government says that personal protective equipment should be used when caring for someone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19. This includes gown, mask, eye shield, and gloves. PPE should be donned before entering the patient’s room and removed before leaving. Hands should be sanitised or washed after removing PPE.
In community settings, like general practices, pharmacies, and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, PPE will be supplied by the Primary Health Network (PHN). The use of PPE should be the same as above. In the case of suspected or confirmed cases, the same precautions should be taken.
Like many other professions, there are many in health who have asthma and who are worried about their individual vulnerability in the context of patient care. There are also those who are worried about the vulnerability of their families in the case that the health carer might return from work carrying the virus. There are occasions where the family member might be especially vulnerable due to an existing medical condition or due to their age. These are all understandable concerns.
State and Commonwealth Governments are employing measures to change the way health care is delivered. This includes changes to the delivery of healthcare to over the phone and via video. This is another way staff and patients can maintain their social distancing and maximise safety. Asthma Australia on behalf of people with asthma would like to thank the 10s of thousands of Australian health care workers and health facility staff who continue to provide critical care and a safe environment for our patients across the country.
State governments are responsible for the decisions to open schools and managing risks within their school environments during the Coronavirus pandemic. Please refer to your state Department of Education updates or updates provided directly by your school for the latest information on how your children will continue their education in your state:
- Australian Capital Territory: https://www.education.act.gov.au/public-school-life/information-on-novel-coronavirus-covid-19
- New South Wales: https://education.nsw.gov.au/covid-19
- Northern Territory: https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/community-advice/schools
- Queensland: https://qed.qld.gov.au/about-us/news-and-media/novel-coronavirus
- South Australia: https://www.education.sa.gov.au/supporting-students/health-e-safety-and-wellbeing/covid-19-coronavirus
- Tasmania: https://www.education.tas.gov.au/parents-carers/novel-coronavirus-covid-19/
- Victoria: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/department/Pages/coronavirus.aspx
- Western Australia: https://www.education.wa.edu.au/coronavirus-school-update
The Commonwealth Government committee of advisors for Coronavirus has released a statement related to reducing the risk of Covid-19 transmission in schools if and when states reopen schools. View the statement for their recommendations. If you or your child has asthma we understand your concern about the risk of transmission and the worry you might feel about your child getting sick. Neither children nor people with asthma seem to be particularly at risk during this time. But we reinforce the recommendations we’ve made previously:
- Optimise your child’s asthma control
- Ensure you have an updated asthma action plan
- Follow public health advice carefully.
AGED CARE SECTOR
Consistent with the directions from the Australian Department of Health, we call on the community to do all within its means to protect the elderly from infection with coronavirus by:
- Not visiting aged care facilities or contact elderly family, friends, or community members if you’ve recently returned from overseas
- Not visiting aged care facilities or contact elderly family, friends, or community members if you’ve been in contact with someone with a known or suspected case of coronavirus
- Not visiting aged care facilities or contact elderly family, friends, or community members if you have a fever or symptoms of respiratory illness
- Limiting and shortening visits to the elderly
- Ensuring visits are capped at 2 visitors at one time per day
- Not visiting the elderly in communal areas where there are many elderly people in close confines
- Not visiting the elderly as part of a school group
- Prohibiting children under 16 from visiting aged care facilities.
- Showing evidence that you have received your 2020 flu vaccination
- Maintaining 1.5m social distancing rules
Please refer to the Australian Department of Health guidelines for aged care facilities and staff.