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“Social distancing” is the problem

Most people won’t keep their distance. I have been in a few public places in the last few days and haven’t witnessed any discernible difference in people’s behaviour.

That is why the “social distancing” policy is mostly ineffectual because:

  • it’s seen as rude to deliberately distance yourselves from others, particularly in a social setting.
  • personal risk of the virus won’t hit home to many people until someone they know has the virus.

Unfortunately, shut-down is the only next step worth taking. This removes places that people can come together and transmit the virus.

Masks are the new fashion

I wear a mask whenever I come within two metres of another person. If you come within two metres of another person, you should be wearing a mask.

People are infectious with the virus for four days before symptoms appear. The most common transmission occurs not from surfaces or hands, but from breathing. It surprises me that more in my local community are not wearing masks – in other countries, it is default behaviour to wear a mask even if you have no symptoms. Given that there are now projections for 50,000 to die in Australia, you could save a life by wearing a mask.

A four day incubation period with no symptoms. Any mask is better than no mask. Act as if you have the virus.

Coronavirus and social media

The way that news is propagated to the public has changed.

Before social media

Before social media, important government announcements in Australia were efficiently transmitted via:

  • two newspapers in each city; and
  • five television channels in each city.

The situation now

Now, a large proportion of the public’s primary source of news is via social media channels. News-related posts are mixed in amongst posts about cats and selfies.

This makes it more difficult during crisis situations for government to communicate a consistent message to the public. There is no consistent timing for social media posts to appear in a user’s feed, so it can happen that news stories can be out of sequence in a user’s news feed, resulting in misinformation and confusion.

What needs to happen?

In future, government should legislate so that in a crisis:

  • Government posts are mandated as highest priority across the main social media used in Australia; and
  • Mandated SMS text messaging should be used for official government information.

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