Now that human to human transmission is increasing in NSW, it is only a matter of time before the disease Covid-19 will reach the New England region says long-term GP Adrian Allen.
Dr Allen wanted to give residents clear guidelines about what to do if they think they are infected and what to do to reduce the chance of getting infected
"As this is an evolving situation, some of these guidelines will necessarily change," he said.
"To delay Covid-19 viral spread through our community, containment is the correct approach at present. Containment works best if we know exactly who has the infection.
"The testing of all with symptoms is necessary for this to work optimally.
"At present the government is suggesting testing only those returned from overseas and have a temperature or cough/shortness of breath, those with known contact and those with severe pneumonia of unknown cause," he said.
But the Walcha-based GP said this approach may not go far enough.
"We might lose containment if we do not test a wider cohort. We know the doubling time of known cases is six days.It is estimated overseas the real incidence of infection is at least ten times the known cases. So, without testing being used in other groups, there can be no clear direction.
"For instance, if your son has a sore throat or a mild cough with a slight temperature and off his food a little and testing is not done. Do you isolate him? If so, for how long? Do you then carry on with your usual weekly visit to your friend who has diabetes? Do you visit your elderly parents?"
Hopefully, in the near future testing the protocol will become less rigid Dr Allen says.
"Testing may not become necessary if containment does fail and this infection behaves like a bushfire rather than a controlled burn. We must then simply assume you have Covid-19."
Life as we have known it will change significantly in the medium term if the overseas data is reflected in AustraliaDr Adrian Allen
Dr Allen explained that if you think you have Covid-19 but have no symptoms then no test will be done. If you have a any of the symptoms: cough, shortness of breath, sore throat and a temperature then make an appointment with your doctor. But don't expect to visit them as you would normally.
"We have instituted special procedures at our practice," Dr Allen said.
"Please be patient, as the process outlined will no doubt slow things down."
Patients must ring ahead and explain they have symptoms.
"Anyone making an appointment for any other reason will be asked if they have any respiratory symptoms," Dr Allen said.
"We aim to keep all those with symptoms away from the reception staff and the practice nurses. You will only come in contact with the doctors.There will be no contact or sharing of the same physical space with patients attending for other reasons."
On arriving at the practice, those with Covid -19 symptoms are to ring the surgery from their car and stay there until the doctors are ready to see them
On arriving at the practice, those with Covid -19 symptoms are to ring the surgery from their car and stay there until the doctors are ready to see them. Then they will be asked to enter from the left hand door and not the usual entrance where they will be met by the doctor, given a mask, asked to use alcohol hand rub and shown into a separate isolation room.
"This room is dedicated for seeing all those with respiratory symptoms," Dr Allen said.
" The room is cleaned between each consultation according to up to date guidelines and the doctor will be wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE)."
After patients are assessed and treated they will leave by the same door and will not need to see the reception staff or nursing staff at any time.
"Those that walk into the practice without an appointment will be asked if they have any respiratory symptoms and if so to turn straight around and wait outside," Dr Allen said
"Those who have close contact with a positive case must isolate for two weeks."
While not wanting to be an alarmist Dr Allen said he did want to impress upon everyone the potential seriousness of this pandemic.
"Conservatively it is estimated 25 percent of our population will get infected," he said.
"That is roughly six million people.
"If the mortality rate is only one per cent, that means at least 60,000 deaths in Australia.
"At the same time, we must keep this in proportion.
"Eighty per cent of people who get it will only get a cold.
"Life as we have known it will change significantly in the medium term if the overseas data is reflected in Australia."