Cowra's medical leaders, police call for better social distancing practices

Local health experts, along with Cowra police, have called on the community to practice better social distancing amid the spread of COVID-19.

While no cases of the virus have been recorded in the Cowra Shire, emergency services and medical practitioners fear the messages from the health department are simply not getting through to Cowra residents.

Dr Peter Davidson said it's a matter of when, not if, a case of COVID-19 will be in Cowra and residents need to take the risks seriously.

"Some of this is out of our control but there are some things we can do that are incredibly important and social distancing is one of those," Dr Davidson.

"Social distancing means keeping at least 1.5m away from each other, all the time."

Dr Davidson said people should be encouraging others to keep their distance.

"My grandchildren have been taught to say "stop, I don't like it". We should be saying "you're in my space and I'm uncomfortable". This should be community driven - we forget, remind each other, it will be sad, in a society like ours, if this became a law enforcement issue."

He also stressed the importance of hand washing - soap and water is perfectly adequate and more effective than disinfectants.

"The virus stays in oils on the skin and soap and water is most effective," he said.

Cowra Police Inspector Adam Beard said police have stepped up their patrols in areas such as the CBD, supermarkets and pharmacies.

"We've seen a lot of businesses change their trading practices with the closures, which has seen customers or patients having to alter the way they deal with staff," Inspector Beard said.

"What we would like to remind the community is that a lot of businesses have set up waiting areas outside their businesses for them to use, and you'll note most of them have safe distance zones set out for the community to follow.

"What we would like to see is the community to adhere to those safe distance exclusion zones and to patiently wait for their turn."

He said there has been a mixed response to the latest health guidelines

"We've seen a mixture of people who are very vigilant in these regards to others who perhaps haven't got the message," Inspector Beard said.

"Although at this stage Cowra is okay, we need to be ever vigilant that at some stage, we may not be and we need to be practicing these techniques to avoid our community being adversely affected."

Inspector Beard said police have certain powers that can be enforced under the Public Health Act in terms of social distancing, self isolation and mass gatherings.

"If required, our action can be anywhere from a warning through to on the spot fines and, as a last resort, can include being arrested by police," he said.

"But we don't want to see any of that happen, we want the community to be aware of the situation, be aware of their own responsibilities and to comply. This pandemic can only be stopped through a whole community approach.

"Local health and emergency services have been preparing and they're meeting regularly to discuss any progress on the pandemic and we are ready to act if such a case is recorded in Cowra."

Pharmacist Suzie Nash urged customers to stay home unless absolutely necessary as both pharmacies have set up a delivery service.

"We need them to know that they don't need stockpile, they don't need to get extra medications, we are going to be open for the duration for it, we've got systems in place to make sure we can stay open, that's why we've shut the door now to protect out staff so they can be here for the long haul," she said.

"We are encouraging people to give us notice for their scripts, for the MedAdvisor app and we will home deliver, free of charge within town limits on weekdays."

Customers simply need to call their pharmacy (for Zest, 6342 2285 or Optimal 6342 3452), give staff an email address, mobile phone number and their Medicare card to be signed up for the service.

"They will link to their own profile here at the store, they can see how many repeats they've got available at all times and they can order in advance with that app," Suzie said.

"If they order before 3pm, we can get it out that day."

Should customers need to come to the pharmacies, Suzie said they must wait outside and remain 1.5m away from each other.

She also stressed that elderly clients should be staying at home.

"It's more of a community effort now, they are the highest at risk patients in our community and we want to protect them," she said.

"We understand that a lot of their independence comes from doing their own shopping and organising their own medication... but they need to stay home, if they've got someone that can it get it for them or they can use our delivery service.

"Just be patient and kind to each other."