The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the world, impacting the way we work, socialise, study and more. But what does the future look like? A team of UQ researchers collaborated with university colleagues from the Group of Eight to contribute to the Roadmap to Recovery report – some of these researchers share their thoughts below. Other UQ researchers are working to find treatments, predict economic impact and help students learn in these testing times.
The importance of pandemic health messaging
Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities Associate Professor Elizabeth Stephens
“Public health education campaigns play a pivotal role in managing public health, especially in moments of crisis. And yet public health education, as we know it, is just over a century old. A product of the First World War, the importance of public health education became especially evident during the 1918 influenza epidemic. One of the key lessons of this epidemic, which killed an estimated 50-100 million people worldwide, was the importance of clear messaging and regulated public health communication. This lesson is particularly important in the current moment, with the rise of social media and circulation of sometimes dangerous health advice.”
Contact: Associate Professor Elizabeth Stephens, firstname.lastname@example.org, + 61 7 3365 7183
Pandemics past and present
School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences Dr Kirsty Short
“I’m interested in the ways the virus acts in the body, and how this pandemic impacts people living with obesity and diabetes. There’s a lot we can learn from the 1918 flu pandemic, and scientists will be studying COVID-19 for decades to come.”
Contact: Dr Kirsty Short, email@example.com, 0452 374 811
Mapping COVID-19 in Queensland
Queensland Centre for Population Research Dr Julia Loginova and Dr Pia Wohland-Jakhar.
“Like many Australians, we have been trying to track the progress of the COVID-19 spread and found limited information that shows details about infections in regions and communities across Queensland. The spread of COVID-19 clearly highlighted the importance of geography and demography as some areas seem more vulnerable to the virus spread. Using publicly available data released by Queensland Health, we have built a dashboard that shows the regional distribution of the COVID-19 in Queensland and changes over time.
Here at the Queensland Centre for Population Research, we see geographic and demographic mapping as essential to understanding and communicating the spread of the COVID-19. As more detailed data becomes available, there is a need to represent it in an accessible manner.”
Social distancing and the impact on mental health
School of Psychology Professor Jolanda Jetten
“With the world in the grip of COVID-19, the threat of infection affects how we navigate our social world and the way we interact with others. Even though COVID-19 has brought us together in new ways, it has also torn us apart in other ways and this has important consequences for our mental health and wellbeing. Because being socially connected is so important for our mental health and wellbeing, the cost of social isolation and disconnection cannot be underestimated.”
Contact: Professor Jolanda Jetten , firstname.lastname@example.org, 0424 744 831
Mental health and COVID-19
School of Public Health Professor Harvey Whiteford
“The universal nature of the threat posed by COVID-19 means a larger and broader impact on the mental health of the population than in more localised natural disasters. There is a need to protect and sustain the mental health of all the population, provide additional support for those at higher risk of developing mental health problems, manage the increased incidence of mental disorders arising from the pandemic, and ensure those with existing mental disorders continue to receive the treatment and support they need. Recovery from the mental health impact will need to continue well after the spread of the pandemic has been contained.”
Contact: Professor Harvey Whiteford, +61 7 327 18659, email@example.com
Australian Institute for Business and Economics Director Professor John Mangan
“Almost overnight the COVID-19 crisis has changed Australia from a free enterprise economy to a command economy with unprecedented Government spending. The future is uncertain but promising, with Australia emerging as one of the few relatively safe places (economies) in the world.”
Contact: Professor John Mangan, firstname.lastname@example.org, +61 7 334 61630
School of Economics Professor John Quiggin
"Some parts of the economy will snap back to normal once restrictions are lifted, producing a 'V-shaped' recovery. But in other respects, the recovery will be slower and more fragile, requiring continued government commitment to full employment."
Contact: Professor John Quiggin, email@example.com, +61 7 334 69646
Home learning during a pandemic
School of Education Deputy Head Associate Professor Rhonda Faragher
“Teaching children at home can be a pleasure and a challenge for both parents and teachers. The pleasure comes in watching our children learn, and recognising that learning can take many forms, not just 'school work'. Challenges can come from many sides, not least because this is all so new for many parents and teachers. Minimising stress around school work at home is key. Family harmony and our relationships with our children are more important than ticking off school work.”
Contact: Associate Professor Rhonda Faragher, firstname.lastname@example.org, +61 7 3365 6481
Telehealth during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
“The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is again reminding us of the importance of using telehealth to deliver care, especially as a means of reducing the risk of cross-contamination caused by close contact. For telehealth to be effective as part of an emergency response, it first needs to become a routinely used part of our health system. Hence, it is time to step back and ask why telehealth is not already mainstreamed. The pandemic continues to raise awareness of telehealth amongst health workforce - but just as important, is the experience gained by our healthcare consumers.”
Contact: Professor Anthony Smith, email@example.com, +61 413 901 644
The wellbeing of older people
School of Psychology Dr Theresa Scott
“Community mobility and social participation are profoundly important aspects of ageing well and maintaining quality of life for community-dwelling older adults. Older people are particularly susceptible to increased risk of physical and mental health problems resulting from loss of social connections during physical distancing and lock-down, especially if their only social contact is outside of the home. Social isolation can increase risk of cardiovascular, autoimmune, and neurocognitive problems, depression, and anxiety. Recent research has quantified the health risks of chronic loneliness as being equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It is vital to stay connected with, and to check-in on the older people who are living around us during this time.”
Contact: Dr Theresa Scott, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0430 731 227.
Wet markets and animal welfare
“Poorly treated animals are stressed, and stressed animals are more likely to harbour new diseases because their immune systems are compromised. This means these wet markets, where there are stressed animals in close contact with humans, are the perfect breeding ground for new diseases. In the long term China may have to restructure its animal industries for global food safety.
My colleagues and I at The University of Queensland recently established a Sino-Australian Animal Welfare Centre, and our latest research has found a growing number of scientists studying animal welfare issues in China. What’s more, there’s a big opportunity to bring 'clean meat' and meat replacers into the Chinese diet. Clean meat can be grown synthetically from muscle cells, without the massive land and water resources required of traditional meat production in China, without the emissions of pollutants and, most importantly, without the risk of transmission of novel diseases.”
Contact: Professor Clive Phillips, email@example.com, +61 406 340 133
Testing and tracing
School of Public Health Associate Professor Linda Selvey
“A number of countries (including Australia) have now introduced contact tracing apps in order to speed up contact tracing to reduce spread of COVID-19 while relaxing social distancing measures. Because of the risk of transmission before the case is symptomatic, there is a very short window of time (about three days from when the case develops symptoms) when contact tracing can effectively limit spread. This means that we need to speed up the whole process, including detecting cases as well as contact tracing. To speed up on detecting cases, we need to have readily accessible testing with results available quickly. People need to be aware of the early (non-specific) symptoms of COVID-19 and be willing to get tested at that time. Doctors also need to be aware of this and request tests even if they think it is unlikely that the patient has COVID-19. Our laboratories have to have the capacity to do all this testing quickly and to make the results available quickly to public health units.”
Contact: Associate Professor Linda Selvey, +61 7 336 55281, firstname.lastname@example.org
UQ Business School Associate Professor Gabby Walters
“The Australia’s tourism industry has been heavily impacted over the past six months but according to new survey data we have collected, many Aussies (58 per cent) are looking to travel locally as soon as they can, particularly to coastal and regional areas – which is welcome news for the economy, tourism operators, sector workers and the industry as a whole.
“But it won’t be back to business as usual; coronavirus will change travellers behaviour and expectations, and tourist operators will have their own ‘new normal’ imposed by tourist demands."
Contact: Associate Professor Gabby Walters, email@example.com 3346 0593.
Impact on real estate
UQ Business School Professor Sean Bond
“The current pandemic is impacting the Australian economy and real estate market in a completely unprecedented way. It’s inevitable real estate will take a hit over the next few months – a lot depends on getting the economy working again.
Real estate in Australia is currently a buyers’ market, and those forced to sell will need to be realistic in terms of pricing.
For those looking to buy, it is wise to pause and consider how your ability to pay back a mortgage might be impacted given the strong likelihood the economy will fall into a severe recession. It will take several months for the impact of the crisis to become clearer.”
Contact: Professor Shaun Bond, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0422 072 895.
School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences Dr Keith Chappell
"I’m leading a team of experts who are working to develop a vaccine over the next six months. We’re hoping to help contain this outbreak. The vaccine would given to first responders, helping to contain the virus from spreading around the world. We’re collaborating with philanthropic partners and international agencies to bring the usual timeline for a vaccine forward as much as possible."
Contact: Dominic Jarvis, email@example.com, 0413 334 924.