Kangaroo Island prepares for its first coronavirus case

Dr Jeremy Wells reads the statement on behalf of the seven doctors at the Kangaroo Island Medical Clinic.
Dr Jeremy Wells reads the statement on behalf of the seven doctors at the Kangaroo Island Medical Clinic.

Kangaroo Island is gearing up for what inevitably will be its first coronavirus case, although as of March 23 there are no confirmed cases on the Island.

Residents are being advised to avoid all non-essential travel and stay at home at all times.

Organisations around the Island from Kangaroo Island Community Education to the KI Council are putting in place measures to deal with the health emergency.

SA Health has set up a COVID-19 clinic at Kangaroo Island Hospital.

Kangaroo Island Health Service COVID-19 clinic is located at 3 Esplanade, Kingscote, in the day centre building with designated access through a side entrance.

All cases must however go through the KI Medical Clinic, who will assess and triage cases to the clinic.

If you believe you have symptoms or are concerned about anyone in the community, contact the clinic directly on 8553 2037.

The KI Medical Clinic will be putting out updated statements every few days, which can be accessed on its Facebook page and here on the Islander website and page.

Dr Jeremy Wells on Sunday, March 22 read a statement on behalf of the Island's seven doctors, which can be read in full at the end of this article.

Dr Wells implored all KI residents to avoid leaving their houses for all but the most essential trips, such as going to the supermarket. Ask yourself is it absolutely necessary

Parents should consider taking kids out of school but only if they can be cared for properly and be isolated in the family.

Tourism and non essential trips to and from the Island should end now. Bushfire recovery is essential and families need to be housed before winter.

There are months of difficult times ahead so please look out for each other.

Full statement:

Important message from the Kangaroo Island Medical Clinic Doctors to the community of Kangaroo Island - Sunday, March 22, 2020.

To our fellow Kangaroo Islanders,

We at the Kangaroo Island medical clinic would firstly like to say that we stand with you and for you during this unprecedented time of health emergency across the world, from which we on Kangaroo Island are not immune.

We at the clinic - our doctors, nurses and administrative staff - are working calmly and proactively to keep you (and ourselves) as safe and as healthy as we possibly can in the weeks and months ahead.

You will have noticed a number of changes in the way we are doing business and structuring our appointments, and I do ask you to keep a close eye on our Facebook page, our website and the Islander for updates, bearing in mind of course that as the pandemic escalates, this advice may well be changing from one day to the next.

Our doctors are also your emergency and inpatient and critical care doctors at the Hospital, together with an excellent team of nurses and auxiliary staff.

We have your back - all of you, but we are going to be busy -

And we need your help.

That is why we feel it is important to put out a message that we hope the whole community will understand and participate in.

We must stick together.

There are - as of 12 noon Sunday 22nd March - no confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Kangaroo Island - but if they are not here already, they will come.

We believe the time has now arrived to practise dedicated physical distancing.

1. WHAT WE MEAN BY DEDICATED PHYSICAL DISTANCING

Before you leave your own home, please ask yourself - is it absolutely necessary?

- From this point on, large family gatherings, birthday parties, going to the gym and just about any meal out in a café, restaurant or pub fall into the category of NOT necessary. So please do not go.

If the answer is yes, necessary, ask yourself - can it be substituted?

- Can you work from home? Can you live stream an event? Can you do meetings via teleconference or Facetime? Can your meals or drinks be takeaway or home delivered? I have seen a number of Kangaroo Island businesses and organisations already moving to a different way of doing business, and we thank them for being proactive in that respect.

If it cannot be substituted, can it be postponed?

- If it can, postpone it. And be prepared for it to be postponed for months, not weeks.

If it cannot be postponed, ask yourself: have you been honest with the above questions?

- If no, please reconsider. This is serious.

If you have been honest, there should NOT be many reasons left to go out in public.

But there will be some. For example, to do the weekly shop. Please be assured that, even in Italy, where the situation is dire and tragic, the supermarkets and pharmacies remain open. Our freight will keep coming.

Our supermarkets will not close.

There is no need to hoard or panic buy.

Think about others.

But, when you go out - go alone. Perhaps you could offer to do the shopping for your elderly neighbour and leave it on the doorstep.

But please, minimise the time you spend out,

keep physical distance from others,

wave a lot (we are good at that on Kangaroo Island),

but avoid touching people,

and please, please practice exceptional hand hygiene with regular hand sanitisation, although there is nothing better than 20 seconds of proper scrubbing with soap and running water.

2. AM I COMING DOWN WITH SOMETHING??

If you or your children are sick, even with a sniffle, please stay home completely. We would encourage you, if sick, to stay home completely for a full 2 weeks. But for further guidance, watch our regular updates and if unwell, ring the medical clinic for further advice.

3. SCHOOLS

At this stage, schools remain open and the decision to close schools will be made by state or federal government. We have been asked by many people what our stance is towards keeping children at home and not at school or childcare.

Should you keep your children home?

Our answer is YES -

But...

Not if it means grandparents or vulnerable people caring for them.

Not if it means they don't actually stay home (eg. hanging out in groups or at friends' houses).

Not if it means essential workers or healthcare workers can't work.

Reducing class numbers will help with healthy spacing and creates more opportunities for those teachers and child care workers who may be vulnerable to be moved out of classes. To those teachers and school and childcare staff who remain, we say thank you: you are valued highly for everything you do.

4. THE RECOVERY EFFORTS ON KANGAROO ISLAND

Furthermore, we know that many of you are living on disaster sites after the bushfires. We have been advocating to council and other representative bodies, and will continue to do so, that provision must be made to prioritize your safety and living circumstances as we move towards winter.

We believe that bushfire recovery efforts constitute 'essential services' and we will support a coordinated community approach to the safe but sustained movement of essential traffic to and from the mainland.

5. TOURISM

If your family or friends want to visit Kangaroo Island now is NOT the time.

Ask them to rebook later this year or in 2021.

It is with great consideration of all factors that we have arrived at our FIRM VIEW that that TOURISM MUST STOP - TODAY.

This is vital to enable us as your local health system to manage the potential influx of severely unwell people AS WELL AS our usual influx of emergency presentations as safely and as effectively as we can.

6. LOOKING AFTER OUR MENTAL WELLBEING IN ALL OF THIS

For us, as locals, we are fortunate on Kangaroo Island in that we have easy access to remote and beautiful beaches and areas of wilderness where (unlike Bondi) we can walk, swim, surf, or sit without being in close proximity to others.

Take advantage of this.

And ring each other. Facetime, Skype each other.

Whilst physically we must be apart, emotionally we must stay close together.

7. ITS ALL ABOUT TIMING

We understand all too well what the impact will be of social (or physical) distancing, especially in a community so emotionally and economically traumatised by our recent bushfires. This new type of behaviour is not something we have to practise forever, but it is something we must practise right now to slow the spread of this virus. If we act now, when numbers in the community are low, we buy ourselves time and we can avoid completely overwhelming our already stretched and isolated health system, and we give ourselves the best chance of returning in some months to life without these measures.

Every single one of you has an important part to play, including doing everything we can to make sure we protect the most vulnerable people who are likely to get very sick or, in some cases, die. And to those people - the vulnerable - we say to you: we have not forgotten you. It is for you that we are saying this. And we will be there for you.

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