University of Western Australia: Three things to consider when you’re invited to a gathering

With the WA border open and the spread of locally acquired cases of COVID-19 accelerating, there are three things to consider if you’re invited to a social occasion where one or more guests are unvaccinated, according to Dr Barbara Nattabi, senior lecturer at The University of Western Australia’s School of Population and Global Health.

“First and foremost, before you even think about who’s not vaccinated, you need to think about whether you’ve received all three of your vaccines if you’re eligible, because that’s something you have personal control over,” Dr Nattabi said.

“It’s important you’re triple-dosed as an individual so that your immunity is primed in case you are exposed to COVID-19, because it’s going to get to the point where all of us are going to be exposed to this disease.”

Secondly, she said, you need to know whether there is anybody coming to the event who has any signs or symptoms of the virus.

“Do your homework and don’t be afraid to be upfront and ask the question of your host because this is about your health, and the health of those you’re close to,” she said.

Dr Nattabi’s third consideration, ensuring that limits on the number of people invited to the event are being observed, has been made easier by the recently introduced Level 2 restrictions, she said.

“Home gatherings are now limited to a total of 10 people indoors and outdoors except at weddings and funerals and that includes the people who live there, so there isn’t going to be the chance for large get-togethers for a while.

“Personally, I would be reviewing the number of events I am attending at all, because you want to reduce the risk of contracting an illness, particularly if you have an underlying condition.

“Though we worry a lot about the unvaccinated, even the vaccinated can pass on the disease to you. And especially when the case numbers go very high, there won’t be a difference between those who are vaccinated and those who aren’t, in terms of the people who are transmitting the disease.”

Dr Nattabi said that the fact that she herself had been recently exposed to the virus at a community event where she’d gone to give a talk on COVID-19 and the need for vaccination, emphasised that we don’t know who has the infection.

“It could be anyone so ask yourself; do you have to be there? Is there going to be enough space around so that you can socially distance? We saw a lot of people in the eastern states, for example, who chose not to go to events at Christmas time because they didn’t want to contract an illness.

“This is how we need to live for a while until we see how the wave goes, because every time we come together; we contribute to that wave.

“Also, if you’re mixing with people who aren’t in your immediate household, even within the home of someone you know, you should be wearing a mask because once you bring in people from outside, that ceases to be a household.”

With a PhD in international health and decades of experience treating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in East Africa, Dr Nattabi said every individual action counts when it comes to ‘living with’ COVID.

“The virus doesn’t travel on its own, it hitches a ride on human beings, so as long as we’re the ones moving around, and refusing to wear a mask or to socially distance, we’re the ones who are transmitting the illness,” she said.

“Listen to the health advice and do as little as possible to expose yourself and other people to the disease – otherwise you’re part of the problem and not the solution.”

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