‘We still have some feelings of trepidation’

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grey nomads and rural doctors association of Australia
Grey nomads are advised to take precautions before they set off. PIC: South Australian Tourist Commission

The President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Dr John Hall, looks at how the pandemic has impacted medical services in country areas, and has some words of advice for grey nomads looking to get back on the open road 

The Prime Minister’s recent announcement that Covid-19 restrictions will start to be eased in the coming weeks will be welcome news for millions of Australians, including grey nomads.

Like everyone else, rural doctors are keen to get things back to normal – but we still have some feelings of trepidation about what’s ahead. Three months ago, none of us really knew how the pandemic was going to play out … and, to be honest, we still don’t.

While our hospitals have not yet been overwhelmed, rural health services have been impacted with medication shortages and significantly reduced access to personal protective equipment – both of which continue due to the global impact of Covid-19.

And while the curve has flattened, we need to be mindful that we don’t do too much too soon and trigger a second wave. Although travel restrictions are being wound back in various states, we don’t think grey nomads should set out just yet on that big ‘round Australia’ trip. This is a time for short trips – not too far from home. And certainly, if you have any serious health issues, it is much better to stay home for another few months.

Those who decide to travel should do the following:

  • Check whether your jurisdiction is allowing wider travel, and what restrictions are in place
  • Download and use the COVIDSafe app
  • If you have any flu-like symptoms or fever once you are on the road, please self-isolate and contact the nearest health service to seek testing for Covid-19 – and make preparations to return to your home base
  • Please contact your local doctor or health service if you have other health concerns while in a rural town – note that it is likely you will be asked to ring ahead to discuss your concerns before visiting the practice or hospital, to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission
  • Ensure you and your family have had the annual flu vaccination before travelling
  • If you end up socialising with others while on your travels, ensure you are maintaining safe social distancing (at least 1.5 – 2 metres away), washing your hands frequently, and complying with state requirements around the number of people mixing in a group
  • Carry hand sanitiser with you and use it frequently (as well as doing lots of hand washing)
  • Ensure you have a sufficient supply of your current medications with you
  • Take extra hygiene precautions in shared spaces like caravan park bathrooms and public rest areas – this could include wearing gloves, and using hand sanitiser after touching taps and other surfaces in these facilities
  • Be ready to return home or  relocate to a larger town with minimal notice. If a second wave of Covid-19 occurs, it is likely the Government will reintroduce travel restrictions.

We recognise that, for many grey nomads, life became much more complicated when Covid-19 hit. We are grateful that many of you returned to a home base, or relocated to a larger community and ceased ongoing travel. By doing this, you greatly assisted in slowing the spread of the virus – and helped to save lives.

All of us in rural and remote Australia look forward to welcoming grey nomads and other visitors, friends and family members back to our communities in the coming months. We also have many small business owners and employees who will benefit greatly from your custom.

But we ask all Australians, for the moment, to continue to make your first priority minimising the spread of Covid-19. In this way, you will be helping to keep our communities, and your families, safe.

Find more information on how to protect yourself, your family and community from Covid-19 here. Updates on the state-by-state rolling back of restrictions can be found here.

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3 Responses to ‘We still have some feelings of trepidation’

  1. Words of wisdom indeed from Dr.John Hall!
    We all need to heed the ongoing risks of travelling, especially as the general age group of grey nomads mean that most have at least some health issues. We cannot compromise the rural health systems by inundating them and expecting treatment…..just STAY HOME this year folks.

  2. Thank you for this very clear message most people will do the right thing. But there are some that are selfish and just think of them selves.

  3. Staying home has consequences. If you don’t want to travel that’s fine.
    If I do that does not make me irresponsible. My view.
    Biggest danger for grey nomads at present is the attitude of some alarmists who place their views on everyone else.

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