Covid19 restrictions ramp up, and Tips for disinfecting your groceries after shopping

Fawkner Skatepark to close under Covid19 edict on Monday night

The latest announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday 29 March limited public and private gatherings to just two people, closes all public playgrounds, outside gyms and skateparks. (see below for more detailed explanation). The Premier Dan Andrews on Monday said Victoria was moving to Stage 3 restrictions from Monday night, involving the restrictions as outlined by the Prime Minister. People flouting these restrictions on gatherings greater than 2 (excepting families who live together) could be liable for a $1600.00 on the spot fine.

We also have below some tips by a US doctor and health care provider, Jeffrey VanWingen, on cleaning groceries to minimise risk of bringing in the Corvid19 Corona Virus to your home.

New rules for gatherings limited to two

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced new limits for gatherings, whether in public or private, to reduce from 10 people to two people to come into force at Midnight on Monday night (30 March). The ABC News explains the intricacies of this new restriction and how it will be applied. For example, it does not restrict families or groups of people living under the one roof, such as in a share house.

Public Playgrounds, outside gyms and skateparks to close

The Prime Minister also said that all “public playgrounds, outside gyms and skate parks” would be closed as of Monday.

Reasons for leaving your home during the Covid19 crisis

The four acceptable reasons to leave the house as articulated by Scott Morrison (and explained by the ABC):

  • Shopping for what you need (Mr Morrison expanded on this, and used the example of his wife buying his children “a whole bunch of jigsaw puzzles” as something that is essential for a family that is going to “need to completely change the way they are going to live for the next six months at least”).
  • For medical care or compassionate needs.
  • To exercise, provided it is in compliance with the gathering rules (no more than two people in a group).
  • For work and education if you cannot work or learn remotely.

Simple methods to disinfect and clean groceries

There are simple methods to disinfect and clean groceries, fruit and vegetables after shopping for them.

VanWingen advises when you go shopping:

  • Wipe down your cart
  • Commit to what you are buying
  • Don’t shop if you have any respiratory symptoms or have been exposed.

When you get home you methodically clean and disinfect your shopping.

Survival of the virus on different surfaces

The Corona virus can survive on plastic and stainless steel for 3 days, and on cardboard for 24 hours, and copper for 4 hours. Under test conditions the virus could exist in aerosol form in the air for up to 3 hours – this would mostly be a high risk for hospitals. (See ABC news article: How long does coronavirus last on surfaces?)

If you don’t want to bring your groceries inside to clean, it might be an option, depending on your circumstances, to leave them outside for 3 days. Of course this might not be advisable for some perishable foods.

If you use reusable bags, disinfect them afterwards (or leave outside). Cotton bags can be put through a washing cycling.

Stability of Covid19 on surfaces

He also advises “Don’t allow your loved ones over the age of 60 to go to the supermaket. We need to take care of our elders in these times.”

Elderly people more at risk

While all people are at risk of death from this virus, yes, even teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s, fatality is skewed towards the elderly and those with co-morbidities.

According to data from the pandemic so far, people in the 60-70 age bracket have approximately 3.6 percent chance of death if they contract the Covid19 disease. That risk rises if you have related health issues such as Type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer or any respiratory tract problem.

Here is data from the Our World in Data Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Statistics and Research website curated by researchers at Oxford University in the UK –

Case Fatality rates by age for Covid19
Covid19 Case fatality by medical condition (from China data)

Pandemic Projections from researchers at the Imperial College in London say Coronavirus pandemic could have caused 40 million deaths if left unchecked. Since 17 January researchers at this institution have put out 12 academic reports on the Corona Virus pandemic to date (30 March)

A glimmer of hope for Flattening the curve

The Prime Minister did give some hope at his press conference on Sunday evening, saying the exponential rate of growth of the virus transmission appeared to be slowing, the curve for Australia and the various state curve were starting to bend, to flatten slightly.

The impact of Physical distancing requires 12-14 days to start to show an impact on the growth in diagnosed cases. This was shown in the example of Wuhan, and we are now seeing this here in Australia.

Actions we take today as a society to stem infection transmission will not show up in the confirmed diagnosed cases for around two weeks.

The trajectory for the Covid19 curve to 30 March

Scott Morrison announced first ‘social distancing’ and limits on gatherings on Friday March 13. The messaging was highly imperfect, so the take up of physical distancing was not done as rapidly as it could have been.

The Citymapper app provides one (imperfect) indicator of the change in mobility compared to usual for Melbourne. By Saturday (28 March) Melbourne was still on an 18 percent mobility compared to usual, whereas many European and some north American cities were on single digit mobility ranges.

On Friday March 13 when social distancing announced Melbourne was on a 95 percent mobility. Ten days later on March 23 when NSW and Victoria announce lockdown of pubs, cafes, restaurants mobility drops to 33 percent. In the five days since to Saturday March 28 mobility has fallen to 18 percent.

While this is significant, to Flatten the curve and limit the time under restrictions to contain the virus transmission we really do need to get below 10 percent mobility or less. Hence the importance of the Stage 3 restrictions.

Covid19 mobility change compared to usual for Melbourne in March

Modelling done by Sydney University researchers shows coronavirus can only be controlled if at least 8 out of 10 Australians stay home, according to the ABC News. If too many people don’t stay at home, it means all our sacrifice will be for little gain in preventing hospitals being overwhelmed and deaths escalating.

Here is the image by ABC News based on Sydney University research: Modelling transmission and control of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. (The study has not yet been peer reviewed)

Flatten the curve. At least 80 percent physical distancing compliance necessary according to research.

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