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Why I will stay locked down until we beat COVID-19

15 June, 2020

As social distancing restrictions ease, the risk of another COVID-19 outbreak rises, writes John Theodoporoulos.

It was mid-January when I heard about a virus that had a nasty kick to it. I did not pay much attention as my mind was occupied with the start of the AFL season and an upcoming overseas trip in March. 

The nasty little virus began to pop up on media platforms. It would soon become the greatest media megastar to hit our world. Its name: Coronavirus disease 19 or just COVID-19.

It soon became evident COVID-19 would consume all aspects of our daily lives and engulf our planet with its sinister traits.  No one was exempt from its contagion.

When both Federal and State governments imposed Coronavirus lockdowns to minimise the spread of COVID-19, I took heed of what was being said.

I am a 52-year-old C5 quadriplegic with anaemia (double whammy), who lives with an elderly parent who has coronary and diabetic issues (quadruple whammy).

The COVID-19 situation I was facing, mixed in with the existing medical conditions, made me and the occupants of my household vulnerable. I knew I would need to take many precautionary measures.

I went on a frenzy of purchasing cleaning products. Disinfectant, disinfectant soaps, hand sanitizers, alcohol wipes, gloves, face masks – whatever might minimise the health threat to my household.

I made the decision not to attend my workplace but rather work from home. This was easily accepted by my supervisor, and actions were taken to assist me. As well as wanting to keep my distance from colleagues, I was not willing to take the risk of travelling to and from work by taxi.

I immediately felt comfortable in avoiding my leaving home and being susceptible to COVID-19.

Anything entering my home is now sanitized. There is a no-visitor policy for anyone but my disability support workers. I have procedures put in place for my DSWs to protect as best as possible from contaminates entering the home. My elderly parent is isolated from the DSWs until they leave the premises.

There was a rationale behind keeping my normal care routine. My DSWs are students, and their only employment is disability support work. Both work for the same care agency. I know their other clients, and I am aware those people are as meticulous as I am in their COVID-19 home procedures.

My DSWs share my attitude to the COVID-19 situation, and limit their contact with the outside world to necessities. I trust they have a care interest in not jeopardising my wellbeing.

I leave my home only to travel to the local park, where my wife and our West Highland terrier do a few rounds of the oval.  I transfer into my vehicle and leave the wheelchair at home. My wheelchair has not been outside the perimeter of my home.

These measures might seem extreme, but I do not want my hands contacting the tyres as they push the wheelchair. Contaminates might be on those tyres which could transfer onto me.

I know that might sound intense, but I feel completely comfortable with my safety measures. My motto here: better safe than sorry.

The danger is far from over

This whole mess started with one person being infected, and if one person remains infected and the coronavirus cell structure remains the same, we will always have this threat to our wellbeing.

The Cedar Meats cluster in Melbourne started from a single person with the virus and grew to 111 cases - 67 staff and 44 close contacts. My thought, and I cannot see it changing, is that unless the virus weakens nothing has really changed. A new outbreak will always be imminent.

From the beginning of March till mid-April Australia recorded close to 6500 cases of COVID-19 and 65 deaths.  At the end of May six weeks later we had about 7200 cases and 102 deaths.  The reason case numbers grew much more slowly from mid-April was that most people adhered to the strict lockdown restrictions applied by Federal and State governments.

My concern is, now that the new infection numbers have dramatically reduced, people generally will presume there is a lessened danger. But as epidemiologists, virologists, scientists and health officials keep telling us, the danger is far from over and a second and possible third wave of coronavirus might occur.

If I am to believe anyone about the perilous coronavirus it will be the experts - not some frustrated layman annoyed with the lockdown and demonstrating for their human rights in the streets.

If we grow lax with the precautionary measures we have adhered to and previously taken, I can see us falling into an abyss of great misery. At this moment, other than COVID-19, complacency is society’s greatest danger. I sincerely hope I am proven wrong.

I have been adhering to the lockdown restrictions and will not budge till either a vaccine is produced or the virus weakens. Everything and anything else will always be a risk. I am not willing to play with fire to feel how hot it is – I know it burns.

Only when COVID-19 dissipates will I be able to live my life like before in comfort and peace, with no restrictions and no reservations.

With all that said, please do not think that I am in a complete panic and that I have cut myself off from the world, believing Armageddon is around the corner. I am not depressed or anxious. I still have regular phone or video app contact with family, friends and work colleagues. I still engage with work and I still go out and about for a coffee, even though I drink it inside my vehicle. I am still living my life but with some necessary precautions – that’s all.

Why I'm celebrating the easing of lockdown, with friends - Josh Hose offers an alternative view.

'I feel completely comfortable with my safety measures. My motto here: better safe than sorry.'

'I leave my home only to travel to the local park, where my wife and our West Highland terrier do a few rounds of the oval.'

'I am not willing to play with fire to feel how hot it is – I know it burns.'

John Theodoropoulos is an information officer with AQA/Spire. He has been living with a C5 spinal cord injury since 1992.

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