COVID-19 Terms

7 August 2020

Disability Royal Commission hearings sometimes use terms that most Australians aren’t very familiar with. We’re keeping a list of these and trying to explain them in plain language. Please feel free to contact us if you have suggestions for words that should be included.

Click here for general DRC terms.

Terms used in the COVID-19 hearing

Coronavirus: Coronavirus is the name given to a family of viruses that cause respiratory illness.

COVID-19: COVID-19 is the name given (by the World Health Organisation) to the disease caused by the new virus in the coronavirus family, officially named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), discovered in 2019.

Novel Coronavirus: ‘Novel’ means new and refers to the fact that this virus has only recently been discovered.

Epidemic vs Pandemic: An epidemic is a disease that affects a large number of people within a community, population, or region.

A pandemic is an epidemic spread over multiple countries or continents.

Epidemiology: A branch of medicine which deals largely with public health, including the incidence, distribution, analysis and control of diseases.

Immunosuppressed: Someone whose immune system is less effective as the result of a health condition and/or medications which suppress their immune system. People who are immunosuppressed are at greater risk of hospitalisation and severe sickness from COVID-19.

PPE: Personal protective equipment. This refers to anything used or worn to minimise risk to workers’ health and safety. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this may include medical equipment such as surgical masks, goggles, medical gowns, respirators and disposable gloves.

Essential Services: Services that must continue to ensure everyone’s basic needs are met. This may include things like supermarkets, pharmacies, delivery and postal services, waste collection, essential supply chains, food production, disability support services, public transport, aged care services, allied health services, and crisis support.

Though some services have been identified as “essential” over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we do not currently have a definitive list of what qualifies as an essential service in Australia. This is particularly important for people with disability, as services that are essential to our wellbeing may not be considered essential for or by many able-bodied people.

Continuity of Support: In the context of COVID-19, people with disability may have experienced disruptions to our supports due to restrictions, or due to service providers’ interpretations of health advice. The importance of continuity of support in emergency and/or disaster situations may be raised during the COVID-19 hearing.

Community Transmission: This term is used to describe the situation when a person is infected by a virus, but they have not been overseas recently, or been in recent contact with anyone known to be infected. It means that health departments have not been able to trace the source of the infection.

Contact Tracing: Contact tracing is a method used by health departments to prevent the spread of a virus. It involves identifying people who are infected and the people who they have recently been in contact with, and working with them to interrupt the spread of the virus.

Social Distancing: Social distancing is one method by which we can interrupt the spread of a virus. Corona viruses can be spread through droplets (when we cough or sneeze) or through smaller particles that drift in the air when we breathe. By keeping a physical distance between people, we can decrease the chance that the virus will spread. In Australia, health departments have recommended a distance of 1.5 metres.

Victoria Specific:

State of Emergency: This is a declaration that can be made under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008, when there is a serious risk to public health.

The Act gives wide-ranging powers to the Chief Health Officer. These include the power to quarantine people, prohibit mass gatherings and impose other restrictions on the movement of people and any other direction that is reasonably necessary to protect public health.

State of Disaster: This is a declaration that can address matters beyond public health issues. It is intended to deal with emergencies such as natural disasters, explosions, terrorism or sieges, but it can also be used to deal with an epidemic.

A state of disaster can be declared for a maximum period of a month at a time, though this can be extended if the disaster continues for longer.

The declaration of a State of Disaster gives the police minister power to override legislation if they believe adhering to that legislation would inhibit an effective response to the disaster.