We are truly in the midst of unprecedented times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the nation to a screeching halt. As you will be aware, Victoria and New South Wales have been ordered into lock-down, with all "non-essential" businesses ordered to close.
And as the virus spreads, so too does dangerous and harmful misinformation.
I'd like to take this opportunity to clear up some misconceptions and address the crisis that we are facing.
Above all else, the health and safety of you and your family is the top priority.
I know it is easier said than done, but we must try to remain calm.
The next few months are going to be extremely tough for many, and that is why Beyond Blue has introduced Coronavirus resources for those in need.
With that said, this selfish stockpiling has to stop.
This panic buying is depriving our most vulnerable of survival necessities.
For those who aren't aware, Australia produces enough food to feed 60 million people every day. We aren't going to run out of food!
However, people are raiding supermarket shelves so quickly that replenishment staff simply can't keep up.
And on that note, staff at our major supermarkets are under immense pressure; and yet they're still being abused and yelled at by customers.
I recently spoke to an employee who was extremely stressed and scared; feelings that had been exacerbated by aggressive customers.
Please remember that we are a community. We need to consider our neighbours.
The Coronavirus is a result of the Corona beer. Drinking alcohol will kill the Coronavirus. We need herd immunity to defeat the virus. Warm salt water can kill the virus.
These are just some of the ludicrous and unfounded theories that are circulating throughout the community.
While we are all concerned about the spread of COVID-19, we need to be equally mindful of the spread of misinformation.
We're facing an overload of information, making it hard to distinguish between what is fact and what isn't.
Social media users will often hit post or retweet a lot of what they see and agree with, without fact checking it.
Even many of the media outlets have been getting it wrong.
A hospital in Italy, where social isolation and distancing measures were not followed in a timely manner.
The concept of self isolation is a very unusual one in today's day and age.
You may be young, fit and healthy; questioning why you need to stay indoors and avoid contact.
But this isn't about the young buck. This is about taking measures to protect those who are a high-risk.
Unfortunately, due to unprecedented global population growth, our health services aren't equipped to handle a pandemic of this magnitude.
That's why we need to "flatten the curve" and slow the spread of the virus.
For too long, Governments across the world have failed to ensure our hospitals are up to the task of treating seven billion people.
If we don't heed self isolation advice, Australia could become akin to Italy, whereby the elderly and vulnerable are simply being turned away by hospitals and medical facilities.
Please, do the right thing. Limit social interactions to that which are ABSOLUTELY necessary to slow the progress of the virus and give our hospitals a chance to treat everybody.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus.
Symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat and shortness of breath.
The virus can spread from person to person through droplets, as a result of sneezing or coughing, but good hygiene can prevent infection.
While the above symptoms are common, the virus can cause a range of symptoms, including pneumonia, and sometimes it may have no symptoms at all.
It is also worth noting that due to the gigantic size of our population, there is a global shortage of the test kits that pathologists use to diagnose COVID-19.
In any instance, if you suspect you may have the virus, you should immediately call the National Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080.
As of midday Monday, Victoria has gone into shutdown, with only "essential-services" remaining open as part of a nationwide effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
- Hospitality businesses including bars and cafes; but delivery is permitted.
— AFL season, suspended for two months
— Licensed sections of hotels
The essentials are slated to remain open, including supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, petrol stations, freight and delivery services, butchers, bakeries and greengrocers, newsagencies, bottle shops and the accommodation section of hotels.
The Government has also decided that hairdressers and beauty salons are an "essential business".
Given the risk of exposure to the virus in these close-contact industries, it is an odd decision.
I previously mentioned how there is no need to stockpile, and this is another reason why.
Any Victorian required to self isolate, due to the Coronavirus, are eligible to receive a two week supply of essential supplies.
The relief packages will include items like: long life milk, pasta, cereal, canned vegetables, soap, toothpaste and deodorant.
Households with young children may be eligible to receive nappies and baby formula.
The emergency relief package program is being coordinated by the Red Cross and Foodbank Victoria and can be accessed through the Coronovirus Hotline on 1800 675 398.
Further to that, those who lose their jobs as a result of the national lockdown, will receive doubled Newstart payments to assist them during the difficult time.
While it may not be the ideal situation, it is worth noting for anybody who is now desperate to ensure their financial survival.
Applications can be made on the myGov website.
It is going to be a very difficult few months, but we must stay strong and support one-another.
We will get through this and it will take time, but it is essential that everybody plays their part.
Perhaps this is a consequence of pushing the boundaries of a global economy, based on increased population and consumption worldwide.
It may even mark a significant change in how we manage globalisation, with more reliance on building our local industries and agriculture with a sustainable population policy.
Hopefully, it will also lead to genuine change surrounding regulation of China's wet markets.
In the 21st century, we need to outlaw the cruel and unsanitary ways we treat animals.
In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact me directly: Clifford.hayes@Parliament.vic.gov.au
While the Electorate Office will likely be closed, I will try my best to address your concerns.