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Covid-19 lockdown Sydney and your electric wheelchair

Using your electric wheelchair during Covid-19 lockdown Sydney

To say that the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it would be an understatement. In a few months the distant coronavirus we heard about in Australia on January 2019 became a massive part of our lives. Individuals with disability all over the globe and especially electric wheelchair users began understanding the effects of a global pandemic. The coronavirus did not only change life as we know it but it also united everyone in the community. As registered NDIS providers, disability equipment providers and advocates for inclusivity and disability , we know how much Covid-19 lockdown Sydney has impacted our community. Everyone of us on this planet has felt the impact of Covid-19. But how did these events unfold in Australia?

Timeline of events of how everything unfolded in Australia and resulted to where we are now: AKA Covid-19 Lockdown Sydney

 

January 2020

  • On January 23 2020, biosecurity officials began screening arrivals on flights from Wuhan to Sydney. Passengers were given an information sheet on the virus and were asked to present themselves if they had a fever or thought they might have the disease.
  • On 25 January, the first case of a SARS-CoV-2 infection was reported, that of a Chinese citizen who arrived from Guangzhou on 19 January. The patient was tested and received treatment in Melbourne. On the same day, three other patients tested positive in Sydney after returning from Wuhan.
  • Nine cases were recorded in January. From 31 January, foreign nationals returning from China were required to have spent a fortnight in a third country before being allowed into Australia.

February 2020

  • By 6 February, three returning members from a tour group in Wuhan were identified in Queensland and had Covid-19.
  • Twenty-four Australians were infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship with eight being sent to Darwin for two weeks of quarantine.
  • On 27 February, the prime minister activated the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), stating that the rapid spread of the virus outside of China had prompted the government to elevate its response.
  • On 29 February, after a Queensland case of an infected person returning to Australia from Iran, the government extended the enforced quarantine to people who had been in Iran, requiring them to spend a fortnight in a third country before being allowed into Australia. There were 14 new cases in February, bringing the number of cases to 23.

March 2020

  • On March the 1st Australia sadly reported its first death from Covid-19.
  • Covid-19 community transmission began

April 2020

May 2020

June 2020

July 2020

August 2020

September 2020

October 2020

November 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

April 2021

May 2021

June 2021

July 2021

TODAY

The pandemic has changed how we worklearn and interact as social distancing guidelines have led to a more virtual existence, both personally and professionally.

But a new survey, commissioned by Parade magazine and Cleveland Clinic, reveals the pandemic has also changed how Americans approach their health and health care in ways both positive and negative.

Conducted by Ipsos, the survey was given to a nationally representative sample of 1000 American adults 18 years of age & older, living in the U.S.

Here’s what the survey found.

Mental health challenges

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic has triggered a wave of mental health issues. Whether it’s managing addictiondepressionsocial isolation or just the general stress that’s resulted from COVID-19, we’re all feeling it.

It seems to especially be hitting younger people. Of those surveyed, 55% reported experiencing mental health issues since the onset of the pandemic, including 74% of respondents in the 18-to-34-year-old age range.

Of those respondents, four of the most common issues were:

  • Stress (33% overall; 42% of 18-to-34-year-olds)
  • Anxiety (30% overall; 40% of 18-to-34-year-olds)
  • Depression (24% overall; 31% of 18-to-34-year-olds)
  • Loneliness or isolation (24% overall; 31% of 18-to-34-year-olds)

Many are also feeling overwhelmed by the constant, sometimes shifting and conflicting flow of information around the virus and the pandemic. Overall, 41% of those surveyed claimed that they were so overwhelmed by COVID-19 news and information that they weren’t paying attention.

Pandemic-induced hesitation

While much of the world has come to a stop at times during the pandemic, the need for health care has not. Yet, 38% of respondents said they skipped or delayed preventive health care visits because of the pandemic even though health care providers have gone to great lengths to ensure that keeping those appointments are safe for everyone.

Women are more likely to skip these appointments than men, 46% to 29%, and as many as 15% of total respondents avoided visits for more serious issues like injury or even chest pain.

“In a time when we need to be able to focus on keeping ourselves as healthy as we can, we must not skip preventive visits to our healthcare providers. When we miss early signs of disease, we allow it to grow into a serious or even life-threatening illness,” says infectious disease expert Kristin Englund, MD.

“Our clinics and hospitals are taking every precaution available to assure patients are safe from COVID-19 within our walls. We cannot let fear of one disease keep us from doing what we need to do to stay healthy,” she continues.

This is especially true for children who need to continue their routine immunizations. As pediatrician Skyler Kalady, MD, points out, “We can’t lose sight of other diseases that children will be at high risk for contracting, like measles and pertussis (whooping cough), without those regular vaccinations.”

Staying healthy during the pandemic

But there is good news as far as respondents’ health is concerned. From lifestyle changes to better eating habits, people are using this time to get healthier in many areas.

Since the pandemic started, nearly two-thirds of the survey’s participants (62%) say they’ve made a significant lifestyle change, including:

Eating and exercise are new areas of focus for many respondents. One-third of the participants (34%) say they’re eating more healthy food and most (a whopping 87%) say they’ll keep the habit up.

Meanwhile over a quarter of respondents (28%) say they’ve increased their exercise frequency during the pandemic, perhaps a sign that more people are embracing the advantages of working out at home while gyms remain a risky venture.

Better health awareness

There’s more to healthy living than just exercising and food, though. And 68% of respondents said that the pandemic has them paying more attention to certain risk factors for other health issues. That number is even higher (77%) for those younger respondents, 18-to-34 years old. Some of those risk factors include:

  • Stress, anxiety, depression and mental health (37%).
  • Risk factors for chronic diseases, autoimmune or other chronic diseases (36%).
  • Weight (32%).
  • Physical fitness (28%).
  • Lung health (15%).

Additionally, the pandemic is motivating people to take better care of more serious issues with 41% of respondents who already have a chronic condition saying they’ll now be even more likely to comply with treatment.

Family and the Covid-19 lockdown Sydney

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen both benefits and drawbacks of being cooped up with family for long periods of time. And there’s certainly been added stress for families who have had to deal with remote learning situations for school-aged children.

Some, though, reported positive experiences with their families in such close quarters. Overall, 34% of those who responded said that they feel closer to their family and, in households with kids, 52% reported feeling like they’ve forged new connections. Additionally, 78% agreed that quarantine made them value their relationships.

As for that stress with kids, 27% of those surveyed who have kids in their households say their children have benefited from being able to spend more time with family.

Vaccinations

As flu season looms and the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, it’s especially important that everyone get a flu shot this year. According to the survey, 26% of respondents said they’re now more likely to get a flu shot. And among adults 18-to-34-years old, 35% are more likely to get vaccinated against the flu.

As for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, 60% of respondents said that yes, they absolutely would get that vaccine when available. Of those who answered no or that they weren’t sure if they’d get the COVID-19 vaccine, the top reasons given were concerns about potential side effects (61%) and concerns about the efficacy of the vaccine (53%).

Outlook

In the short term, those who took the survey show a dedication to being safe and following guidelines for the foreseeable future. And that’s where their concerns remain, too.

Staying vigilant

Of those surveyed, 78% say they won’t spend the holidays as they normally do with only 9% planning to attend holiday church services and only 12% planning to attend holiday parades or New Year’s Eve firework celebrations.

Respondents are also putting common personal interactions on hold with 78% saying they won’t shake hands with people through the end of the year and only 13% saying they will hug a non-family member.

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that a resurgence of COVID-19 is a big concern among those surveyed. Over half (59%) said they were concerned about another surge of cases while 44% said they’re worried about another round of quarantine.

It’s also not a surprise to see that two-thirds (68%) of respondents aged 55 years or older, the group with the highest risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, are concerned about another surge of cases.

Staying positive

Despite these concerns and the difficulties faced throughout the pandemic, those who responded to the survey also showed that they’ve managed to find positives in their experiences.

Overall, 78% of those surveyed said that while quarantine and social distancing was difficult, it’s made them value their relationships. Meanwhile, 65% said the pandemic has made them reevaluate how they spend their time and 58% said it’s made them reevaluate their life goals.

And while 58% say that the pandemic has changed their way of life forever, nearly three-quarters (72%) said that they still have hope for the future.

Services provider Achieve Australia said the only way forward was for everyone to be vaccinated, but it continued to feel "forgotten" as its disabled clients and staff were still unable to get the jabs.

Chief executive Jo-Anne Hewitt said she was "alarmed" at recent comments from some politicians and the business community about the need to live with COVID-19 in the community.

"I do understand that opening up the economy is incredibly important but people with disability already face extreme barriers to inclusion and isolation," Ms Hewitt said.

"The idea of letting COVID rip in the community actually sentences people to a life of exclusion."

 

Achieve Australia runs group homes across NSW for about 300 people with profound disabilities, but only 85 have received a first dose of the vaccine.

The not-for-profit organisation has encouraged its 1,300 staff to get vaccinated by offering $50 supermarket vouchers as an incentive.

Ms Hewitt said the initiative would cost the organisation tens of thousands of dollars, but it was needed.

Western Sydney resident Carmen Martin has been unable to see her 53-year-old brother Louie for weeks, as his group home run by Achieve is in isolation due to the current lockdown.

Carmen (left) and Gabrielle have gone weeks without seeing their brother Louie.(Supplied: Carmen Martin)

"It's breaking our heart," Ms Martin said.

"We picked him up every single weekend but now with COVID there's so many times we haven't been able to, so many months [during the pandemic], and it's just shocking."

Ms Martin said while the staff at Achieve Australia were wonderful to Louie, and he could get outside during the lockdown because his home was on an acreage, he really needed his family.

"It means everything to him and it means everything to us," she said.

Ms Martin filled out a form in March for Louie to be vaccinated. While he received a booking at the mass vaccination hub in Homebush, this was not suitable.

She said that Louie, who lives with severe cognitive delay and Down syndrome, needed a doctor and nurse to come to him at his group home.

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