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We need to be the 90% during the COVID-19 pandemic

Red Cross National Resilience Adviser John Richardson and Health Technical Lead Lisa Natoli urge us to become 90% heroes in the fight against coronavirus.

26 March 2020

The streets and office buildings are emptying, bars and restaurants shuttered. Homes are filling with daytime activity generally seen only on rainy weekend days. People are playing their part, staying home, saving lives. 

We are at a critical point here in Australia. Governments are taking increasingly drastic measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), so that lives will not be lost. 

Governments are not taking these actions lightly. Think about it. No government knowingly puts an economy into recession. It is a badge of honour for them to manage budgets in the black. This is serious.

Getting to 90% matters

Researchers from the University of Sydney have suggested that at least 80% of us need to stay home and limit our contact with others. But others are going further, including Victoria's Chief Medical Officer, Brett Sutton. He suggests - and we strongly agree - that anything less than 90% and our fight to flatten the curve will be lost.

This is why governments have introduced physical distancing measures. It is why we promote simple measures such as handwashing and cough etiquette. These measures are all about putting distance between ourselves and the virus. But social distancing does not have to mean we lose our social connection.

Physical distancing works

We know the virus can spread through contact with others and through droplets on surfaces – and that people pick up COVID-19 unknowingly and pass it on. We also know that without action, each person will pass the infection to two to three others, and then each of those will do the same. This is how the numbers increase so quickly. The more we limit contact with others, the more lives we save. This is what China and South Korea did, and it worked.

It is great that people are already doing their bit

But we need more people to join them.

Don’t be fooled by the “it’s only a cold” or “it only affects old people”. 

There have been cases of people in their 30s who have been hospitalised, with intensive care support. We all need to act as if we have the virus and can pass it on. By thinking that way we won’t pass it on to our parents, grandparents, our loved ones with cancer, our friends with suppressed immune systems, and our family, friends and colleagues who are working day and night to manage the spread of the disease. 

Thank you for being a 90%'er

We know that staying at home is going to be different, stressful and challenging. It takes a heroic effort. And there are ways to make the time easier. We are creating guidance and useful tips so you can stay at home, be healthy and stay happy and hopeful. 

What to do to stay occupied, how to manage in close confines, looking after your mental health, and looking after people who might be quarantined and self-isolating. 

It will also bring out the best of us. There are also examples of amazing things that people are doing to come through the crisis.

We will go the (physical) distance. We can join together to become the 90%. When we become a 90%er, it allows the 10% - the doctors, nurses, cleaners, bakery assistants, supermarket re-stockers, logisticians, emergency managers - to do the very best they can to help us get through the greatest challenge in generations. 

We can do this.

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