Adjunct Professor Bill Bowtell AO of the University of New South Wales designed Australia’s response to AIDS, studied now as a world-leading model of best practice. As an expert on infection and immunity, he worked for over a decade with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. His appearance on ABC’s Q&A a fortnight ago was much heralded for waking Australians to the danger we currently face. He says the most important advice for individuals is to stay home but stay connected.
QNews spoke to Bill Bowtell this morning about the Australian response to COVID-19 and the precautions individuals can take to protect themselves and their communities.
“We should already be in a shutdown as strong as New Zealand’s. We are not in a serious shutdown because of politics.
“An effective shutdown makes the job of the virus as hard as possible.
“The virus wants to transmit from one person to another. That’s its business.
“We need to make that business as difficult as possible.
“The virus itself doesn’t move.
“It can only move between people and on surfaces.
“Therefore, if people don’t move, the virus can’t move.
“The government did not secure airports in January, or February, or even in March. Therefore, the virus entered the country undetected. Now we must deal with the consequences and that makes the job longer and harder.
“China started in a dreadful position and consequently needed to enact tough restrictions — very tough restrictions.
“The rest of the world, including Australia had forewarning by what occurred in China.
“Forewarning should mean forearmed.
“Countries like Singapore, Korea and Taiwan used the forewarning to become forearmed. They then responded with the correct measures early before the virus became too big a problem.
“Taiwan has a similar population to Australia yet less than one-tenth of the cases. Those countries acted while we lost precious time.
“We lost the same enormous advantage by watching the crisis unfold in December and January without acting.
“Our medical advisors either thought or hoped it wouldn’t happen here, or if it did, they could contain it.
“This pandemic is both precedented and predictable. We don’t need to look back to the Spanish flu a century ago. In recent years we’ve seen AIDS, Ebola, SARS and MERS. Bill Gates also gave a TED talk five years ago explaining our vulnerability to exactly the situation we now face.
“We learned with AIDS how to confront a virus effectively, but we’ve failed to heed those lessons with COVID-19.
“We are now caught in a very big scientific experiment to find out how far COVID-19 spreads.”
Bill Bowtell: Precautions to protect yourself and your community.
Adjunct Professor Bowtell said the best precaution individuals can take is to simply remember how the virus spreads.
“Again, the virus can only move between people and on surfaces.
“So the only answer is to minimise contact. If we stop moving, the virus stops moving.
“Until there is a vaccine or effective treatment, stopping the spread is our only effective strategy.
“Unlike HIV which could only transmit through specific activities, COVID-19 can be carried in droplets and so proximity to an infected person is sufficient to enable transmission.
“This virus doesn’t care who it infects.”
COVID-19 and LGBTIQ communities: Stay home but stay connected
Bill Bowtell says our only alternative is to take social distancing seriously and stay home.
“Therefore, we need, as a social animal, to maintain our social connections through the use of technology.
“The job of our community organisations is to build communities as never before.
“The experience in countries who’ve been where we are already is that social isolation leads to a myriad of mental health issues and domestic violence.
“So, use technology to avoid isolation and remain connected socially and to your community.”
For real insight into the pandemic, follow Adjunct Professor Bill Bowtell on Twitter.
And remember, stay home but stay connected.
We will not use your email address for any purpose but that once-weekly communication. QNews will not spam you or sell your address to anyone.
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.