Kangaroo Island doctor says strict social distancing, isolation only way avoid epic coronavirus death toll

Staff at Kangashoo Shoes shop mark out the 1.5-metre social distancing spaces with tape. Photo Dr Tim Leeuwenburg
Staff at Kangashoo Shoes shop mark out the 1.5-metre social distancing spaces with tape. Photo Dr Tim Leeuwenburg

Kangaroo Island medical doctor and emergency retrieval expert Dr Tim Leeuwenburg has a stark survival message for all of Australia.

Stay at home and self isolate your family. Don't see friends or even extended family and only go out for the most essential trips such as resupplying at the supermarket.

Only strict adherence to social isolation will prevent a national catastrophe and a huge death toll from the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr Leeuwenburg is a rural doctor who most recently has been working interstate as a retrieval consultant.

He like other doctors around the world has since January been warning of the need to stop the coronavirus, as the alternative is almost too horrible to contemplate.

Doctors at the Kangaroo Island Medical Clinic, who will be dealing with COVID-19 patients at the Island's hospital, have also pleaded with KI residents to stay home.

Valda Pain at the Kangaroo Island Post Office marks out the 1.5-metre social distancing spaces with tape. Photo Dr Tim Leeuwenburg

Valda Pain at the Kangaroo Island Post Office marks out the 1.5-metre social distancing spaces with tape. Photo Dr Tim Leeuwenburg

Thanks Michelle M Barrett at Island Fodder for marking out the 1.5m distance with me.

Thanks Michelle M Barrett at Island Fodder for marking out the 1.5m distance with me.

And kudos to Turners Fuel/Caltex in Kingscote for making sure theres a flow of movement in shop to avoid bunching.

And kudos to Turners Fuel/Caltex in Kingscote for making sure theres a flow of movement in shop to avoid bunching.

In recent days, he has continued to get out the message on Kangaroo Island helping local businesses mark out correct social distancing distances with tape.

"From what I have seen on Kangaroo Island in recent days people are doing the right thing and the message is getting through," Dr Leeuwenburg said.

But he said he had real concern about what would happen in weeks when the fatigue and reality of self isolation set in, as everyone would potentially need to stay isolated for months.

People needed to start thinking as if everyone out there had coronavirus.

"The bushfire analogy is that when you smell smoke or see fire, it is too late, but with this virus, you can't see it or smell it and could be all around," he said.

Kangaroo Island like all rural communities had limited capacity to deal with an outbreak, with two ventilators, one in the emergency room and one in theatre.

But the harsh reality was that survival was very low once patients were admitted into intensive care, and so prevention of spread was by far the preferred option, he said.

Long-term solutions to how people can stay resupplied would a challenge.

The Chinese model was that people were issued tickets to shop on certain days and only certain numbers were allowed into the supermarket at one time.

"These are the kinds of things we are going to need to think about as a nation over the weeks and months ahead," Dr Leeuwenburg said

Kingscote accommodation provider Char Pahl meanwhile is making available units for those who need to self islolate for 14 days and need a comfortable place to do so. The only cost was a small contribution to electricity.

She said this included anyone living in temporary accommodation such as caravans and sheds due to the bushfires, which saw Kangaroo Island lose more than 80 homes.

Ms Pahl was also looking at how food and grocery deliveries could be implemented to those who were self isolating without support.

This story KI doctor warns strict social distancing only way to avoid epic coronavirus death toll first appeared on The Islander.

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