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What’s next for people living with chronic conditions under COVID?

The government hasn’t yet released any new coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for people with chronic conditions, however, we can make some predictions. While coronavirus is still a risk in the community, people with conditions that put them at greater risk will still need to take extra precautions. This will mean staying at home if you can, and using options like telehealth and ordering prescriptions from home. There are also processes your workplace should be following to keep you safe.

As restrictions ease, there will still be some rules that everyone will need to follow. These will vary state to state, but may include things like:

  • physical distancing
  • restaurants and venues asking for your contact details
  • wearing face masks
  • getting tested if you show any symptoms.

If you’re in a high-risk category, recommendations will not likely change for you until the risk in the community has significantly lowered or a vaccine is readily available.

What conditions put you at a higher risk?

People with chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems have a higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus. If you have two or more conditions, your risk can be higher still.

You are at high risk of severe illness if you:

  • have had an organ transplant and are on immune suppressive therapy
  • have had a bone marrow transplant in the past two years
  • are on immune suppressive therapy for graft versus host disease
  • have had blood cancer, in the past five years, including leukaemia, lymphoma or myelodysplastic syndrome
  • are having chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

You are at medium risk of severe illness if you have:

  • chronic kidney (renal) failure
  • heart disease (coronary heart disease or failure)
  • chronic lung disease, excluding mild or moderate asthma
  • had cancer in the past 12 months
  • diabetes
  • severe obesity
  • chronic liver disease
  • some neurological conditions, such as stroke or dementia
  • some chronic inflammatory conditions and treatments
  • other primary or acquired immunodeficiency
  • poorly controlled hypertension.

Your level of risk depends on other factors as well, including your age, gender and whether you smoke.

What your workplace should be doing

If you have a health condition that makes you more vulnerable to coronavirus, your workplace should be doing a risk assessment and, where possible, finding a way for you to continue working safely. Safe Work Australia lists the steps an employer should take to make sure any vulnerable employees are kept as safe as possible from contracting coronavirus. This includes options like:

  • redeploying staff away from customer-based roles
  • allowing staff to work, or continue to work, from home.

Employers shouldn’t be telling you to take leave to keep you safe. They first need to try and find a solution to keep you working, if that’s what you want to do.

Original resource

You can read more information about coronavirus and people with chronic health issues on the Department of Health’s website.

You can find information about what employers should be doing to keep vulnerable people safe on the Safe Work Australia website.

You can find coronavirus information for specific conditions from a list of organisations like Diabetes Australia and the Lung Foundation on the Health Direct website.

23 September 2020
Applies to all states