An LED sign with "Abide by the 1.5 m spacing guideline" message

No, it’s Not Okay to See Friends or Have Them for Dinner – A Doctor’s Opinion

Last night, my neighbours in the terrace next door to me had a small ‘gathering’. About 6 friends over for dinner and a few drinks….which turned into a few more……and eventually they were singing John Farnham at the top of their lungs at midnight. While I’d normally find this behaviour rather irritating, last night, I also found it deeply worrying. I am worried that one of those nice young men who live next door might have just caught COVID-19. I am worried that I might have to put one of them on a ventilator at work next week because they become so unwell from the virus. I am also worried for the other people they might go on to infect, some of whom might be old, or already sick and frail, and therefore at high risk of dying from COVID-19. I am worried because the social distancing message just doesn’t seem to be getting through.

It is widely known that COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory virus. At a single wedding in NSW a few weeks ago, 35 people were infected. At a party at Bondi Bucket List a few weeks later, over 20 people caught COVID-19. This virus has infected movie stars like Tom Hanks, politicians like Boris Johnston and royalty like Prince Charles. Nobody is immune. Not even you.

The age group with the greatest number of infections in Australia is 20-30 year-olds. If you think it’s ok to hang out with friends who are currently feeling well, you are wrong. COVID-19 can be easily spread by people who have no symptoms. If you think that you are young and healthy so will only get a mild case anyway, you are wrong. Young people are dying from this virus. A 12-year-old in France sadly died this week, and there are many stories of critically unwell young people in China, Europe and the USA. If you think that you live somewhere with a great health system that will keep you safe, you are wrong. If we continue to see the exponential rise in cases, it wouldn’t matter where in the world you were, hospitals will be overwhelmed, ICU’s will be full, and it simply won’t be possible to save everyone.

This all sounds very doom and gloom, but there is some good news, and a simple way you can keep yourself and your love ones safe…..stay home and practice good social distancing! As Jacinda Arden (the prime minister we all wish we had) so nicely described in her address to the New Zealand people on Facebook this week, we all need to create our little bubble. That bubble includes is the people you live within your house every day, and nobody else. If we all stay in our little bubble’s then we can’t catch, or spread, COVID-19.

So that means you can’t have friends over for dinner right now. You have to put your regular Sunday morning walk/coffee/catch up with friends on hold for a little while. That ‘special’ friend that sometimes stays over can’t come to visit. It means generally not leaving your house unless essential and standing at least two arm lengths away from other people when in public.

I acknowledge that these things I am suggesting are easy to write, but not easy to live with. Only a few weeks in, I already miss seeing my family and friends. We are all going to miss celebrating important events like weddings and birthdays. We are all likely to feel a little anxious and lonely at times through this. But I promise, it will be worth it. Lives will be saved, and eventually, this will pass, and I look forward to joining my neighbours for that midnight yell sing rendition of “Your the Voice” when it does.

Natalie Purcell is an Anesthetist based in Sydney, Australia.