Australia’s experience with COVID-19 has certainly been a rollercoaster – while in some areas cases remain low, others are in lockdown, and others remain on what’s been called ‘a knife’s edge.’
One of the biggest things driving this uncertainty is community transmission, having the potential to derail the suppression of COVID-19 in an area. Both federal and state governments, as well as health authorities, have said that a large amount of this community transmission is happening between young people.
As Dr Nick Coatsworth, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, recently said: “It’s particularly important of course for young Australians to be aware of this.
“Why is that? Because unlike influenza, COVID-19 predominantly spreads through the age group of 20 to 29-year-olds. Those statistics hold in Australia. 20 to 29-year-old Australians have the highest rate of infection.”
Although this age group’s rate of hospitalisation and death are lower than other groups, it creates significant danger with more potential points of infection for vulnerable people in the community.
In response to this, campaigns have been launched across the country that highlight some of the ways that young people can limit community transmission and socialise in a responsible way, particularly in relation to venues.
One of the latest pieces of advice comes from NSW Health, recommending that people only visit one venue when they go out. Essentially they’re asking people to not go out for bar crawls, and instead pick a place and stay there.
The NSW Health Twitter feed states: “Heading out tonight? Only visit one venue. If you or someone in your group is infectious, and doesn’t know it yet, less people in the community will be exposed.”
This advice is timely, considering the public concern earlier this month when one person tested positive after attending multiple venues across Sydney’s CBD and Inner West. Although this didn’t create clusters, the issue surrounds the risk of this type of action, as well as the impacts to the venues themselves, as explained to Bars and Clubs last week.
Another campaign is from the Federal Government, and highlights how easy it can be to spread COVID-19 through a group of young people without their knowledge. The short video shows the virus moving from a barista ‘with just a sniffle; adjusting their face mask, to her co-worker with ‘just a cold’ who makes dinner for a friend, who then passes it to his mother through a game of cards. It communicates the points of transmission, and why we should never ignore symptoms.
Speaking about the ad, Dr Coatsworth said: “What this ad is about is to show young Australians that the way forward is to control the virus as quick as possible, the way towards economic recovery, the way towards getting jobs back is to bring those numbers down.
“So, we act as a whole community, we each do our bit, and our bit differs from whether we are in our late teenage years or young adults, throughout- whether in middle-aged or elderly Australians, we all have our bit to play. But the ad will show us that there are very specific things that young Australians can do to protect vulnerable people in their families and in the community from COVID-19.”
Dr Coatsworth also identified the challenge that young people are more likely to be employed casually, in community facing roles, and particularly mentioned their involvement with the hospitality industry. But he also specifically said that this isn’t reason to blame the age group or industry for flouting rules, because that hasn’t necessarily been happening. It’s more aligned at reminding people how easy it can be to spread the virus, and the importance of taking responsible precautions wherever they can.
Another campaign of this accord has been created by the Victorian Government, and features videos of young Victorians describing their experience with COVID-19. It includes a young mum talking about being separated from her sons for six weeks, her severe reaction to the virus, and eventually being hospitalised again.
One of the most powerful lines is when the young woman says: “If you’re thinking about bending the rules, think about those you love most in this world and think about them in ICU.”
What all the campaigns have in common is highlighting the best ways to avoid transmission: following all the rules and restrictions that apply to your area or the venue you are visiting, washing and sanitising hands, wearing protective equipment like masks (but also knowing how to safely use them), maintaining social distancing and importantly, not ignoring symptoms, no matter how mild.