BULOKE Shire Council has urged residents not to underestimate COVID-19 virus

BULOKE Shire Council has urged its residents not to underestimate the seriousness of the COVID-19 virus, and take social distancing seriously. 

In a statement released on Monday, Buloke Shire Council (BSC) mayor Carolyn Stewart called on residents to practice "responsible decision making". 

"It has been a trying week as we find ourselves in this new world of navigating the COVID-19 response but there is still so much more to do," Cr Stewart said.

"It has been wonderful to hear of many community-led initiatives evolving in response to the impact our communities are feeling.

"There is no doubt the messaging coming to us through many and varied channels as well as new regulations and responses changing by the hour are adding to the uncertainty and anxiety at this time.

"As we all navigate how new controls translate to our local space, there is one message in this that is acutely clear: this is the most serious situation our nation has faced for a very long time and the only way we can help slow the spread of COVID-19 is through responsible community decision making."

Cr Stewart said "responsible decision making" now would be the difference between slowing the spread of the virus.

"We won't get this time and opportunity back as the world has proven," she said. 

"We need communities to be thinking beyond themselves in the health risk of this virus. 

"Authorities are not going to be able to keep up with this dynamic situation and being able to issue specific directives to each individual situation will be impossible.

"Because of this we will need to rely on individuals making responsible decisions in the interest of the safety of their entire communities. C'mon Buloke, we can lead the way with this."

Cr Stewart said there was still a lot authorities don't know about the way this virus spreads, even as they work to enact messages coming through state and federal channels. 

"But, there is also much we do know," she said. 

"What we do know is this virus is incredibly dangerous if contracted by vulnerable members of our community.

"What we do know is one characteristic of the vulnerable community is people aged 60 and over."

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 39 per cent of Buloke's population is aged 60 and over, with 20 per cent of those aged 70 and over. 

"And this is just using one characteristic of vulnerability, not taking into account the many others who are most at risk, including those in our communities with compromised immune systems and people with chronic medical conditions," Cr Stewart said.

"What we also know is we have small rural health services who provide health care to our rural communities that we simply could not do without.

"We know that without a pandemic they already stretch their resources and continually find new ways to deliver essential care across a large geographic reach. 

"We know we are so very fortunate to have professionals within our communities who work day in and day out for the sole reason of caring for others. 

"So a spike in demand on their services would present unprecedented challenges."

Cr Stewart said while the health services were leading through the pandemic, they relied on their collective communities to be following advice and making responsible decisions that err on the side of caution. 

"They need us to help protect their critical staff, our valued wise community members in their residential facilities and they need us to take simple actions like social distancing, postponing gatherings and heightened hand hygiene so they can be there to respond when we need them," she said. 

Cr Stewart said council had noticed elements of complacency about the virus in the local community, and urged them to "think again". 

"Replace the 'I'll keep doing what I'm doing until they tell me otherwise', with 'will it really be that bad if I postpone an event/rethink my travel/advocate good hand hygiene for the time being in order to protect those in our community who cannot protect themselves?'" she said. 

"We will continue to endeavour to keep you up to date with the latest advice and directions, but that will never take the place of or be as effective as responsible decision making in the best interest of your fellow community members."

Cr Stewart said council had enacted its pandemic plan and activated its emergency management network. 

"We have made changes to services and we have closed public toilets so we can do twice as much cleaning on half as many toilets in the best interest of your public health," she said. 

"Where possible, we are keeping our staff separated to keep them healthy and able to continue delivering critical services. 

"We want to keep collecting your rubbish, keep cleaning the toilets, keep our premier parks pristine, keep working on roads, keep delivering in-home care to our clients and continue supporting our communities and with your help we can do this."Spread the social distancing word, keep informed with credible information and while we take in the seriousness and urgency of this situation,

Remember to look after yourselves and each other."