Rural and remote communities need to manage COVID-19 risk

Rural and remote communities need to manage COVID-19 risk

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While rural and remote communities across Queensland have seen very low numbers of COVID-19, it is important to prioritise their physical and mental health.

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Story sponsored by Queensland Health.

Rural and remote communities manage many risks every day. Over the past couple of years those risks have included drought, severe floods and fires.

While there is never a good time for a pandemic to hit, COVID-19 took risk management to another level.

Rural and remote Queensland have seen very low numbers of COVID-19. But we are not out of the woods yet. It is important rural and remote communities prioritise their physical and mental health.

Get tested

Make sure you get tested if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild. This includes fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose and fatigue. On average it can take five-six days to develop symptoms if you've been exposed to COVID-19. But, in some cases it can take up to 14 days, so make sure you are on the lookout for symptoms, no matter how mild.

This will involve a visit to your closest local health centre (don't forget to phone ahead).

The recent outbreaks in other states show how quickly things can change from one day to the next. Getting tested is the best thing you can do to keep your family and community safe.

Stay home until your results come back. This doesn't mean you have to stay locked up in your house. You can be anywhere on your property as long as you don't come into contact with other people.

Make sure you still continue to get your normal health checks

Queensland has done an amazing job at flattening the curve. Normal services are starting again at GP practices, community health centres and local hospitals sooner than expected. It's important that you don't delay any health checks you might need.

It is safe to go to your local health centre, who have strict plans and policies in place to keep you and their staff safe. Or you can arrange an online or telehealth appointment. If you have poor connectivity or reception, chat to your health centre staff.

Importance of good hygiene

One of the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to maintain good hand hygiene. Wash your hands as much as possible, particularly if you are out and about or mixing with other people. Also clean any surfaces you touch, including your vehicle.

Local businesses have done a great job making their businesses COVID Safe. It's up to all of us to adhere to safety and hygiene directions instore.

Some handy tips are:

  • Use sanitiser provided
  • Keep 1.5m distance from other shoppers as much as possible
  • Pay with cards instead of cash
  • Maintain good hygiene and distancing when you are out and about in town
  • Keeping hand sanitizer in your glovebox to keep your hands clean when you are out and about
  • Clean any shared equipment after each use, including your work vehicle or machinery. This is particularly important if you have external contractors working with you.

Stay up to date with the current health advice

Stay up to date with the latest health advice. Follow the Queensland Health and your local Hospital and Health Service Facebook pages. You can find the current hotspots and health advice on the Queensland Health website.

One of the best things you can also do to keep your friends and family safe is download the COVIDSafe app. If you don't have good phone reception, keep track of your movements as much as possible. You can add notes to your phone or keep a diary. This is particularly important for contact tracing.

Look after your mental health

COVID-19 has been a very stressful time for many families, who have already been managing drought, floods and fires. This has been a very trying time for a lot of families.

If you feel you are struggling it is important that you talk to close friends and family. They may better understand what you are going through. Don't bottle it up inside. Often this can be the first step to getting help.

You can also seek professional help

You can access many counselling services online or over the phone if you can't get to a face-to-face session. You can always speak with your GP as well.

You can use this list to find a mental health support service in Queensland.

BeyondBlue's Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service is available 24/7 to support all Australians. It offers trained counsellors, as well as an online platform with forums and mental health resources.

Alternatively, visit the Australian Government's Head to Health program for a range of digital mental health resources.

Get immediate help from a medical professional if you think you might harm yourself or others, or you're thinking of ending your life. If you think it's an emergency or someone's life is in danger, call Triple Zero (000) or head straight to the closest emergency department.

Lifeline can also offer further support: visit the website or call 13 11 14

Alcohol and other drugs

People may have also starting drinking more during the pandemic as a way of coping with the pressures of COVID-19. With restrictions easing, these patterns could continue with people eager to catch up with others. This could potentially lead to binge drinking, as a way of coping and masking stress. This can be very bad for your health.

If you've noticed you're drinking or using other drugs more than normal, or you're using them to manage how you're feeling, you can get anonymous support 24/7 from ADIS by visiting their website or calling 1800 177 833.

Additional information is available from the QMHC Alcohol and other drugs and COVID-19 fact sheet

There are also simple strategies you can use to cut back on drinking. This might include keeping no alcohol in the house, having alcohol-free weeks, and participating in febfast, Dry (or Dryish) July or Ocsober activities, and alcohol-free social functions.

Travel and recreation - find safe ones, do them, love them

Although many shows, festivals, rodeos, races and other local events are postponed, Queenslanders now have more freedom to travel and gather.

It is important that everyone continues to social distance and that businesses continue to follow the health directions now that people are out and about more. Always remember stay at home if you are sick.

COVID-19 has also changed people's consumer habits. Many people are keen to support local businesses. A great way to showcase your region is by offering your products online to give people a taste of your region.

How you can support regional Queensland

One of the best things you can do to support regional Queensland communities is to travel there during your holidays. Your tourism dollars will go a long way to support the community. This has huge flow on effects right across the community.

There are so many unique tourism experiences to explore right here in Queensland, from the taking in the vast landscapes of the Outback, to spending your days exploring tiny towns, uncovering Indigenous history and to learning more of Australia's pioneering past.

The pandemic has also changed people's consumer habits, with more people keen to support local businesses and buy local. Buy some local produce either directly from a local supplier or from a butcher, fish monger or green grocer. Many communities are doing it tough and how you choose to spend your dollars will go a long way.

If you have someone's birthday coming up, why not buy them a locally made gift this year to support local businesses. This could include body lotion, soaps, locally made home goods, jewellery or giftware.

Story sponsored by Queensland Health.

The story Rural and remote communities need to manage COVID-19 risk first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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