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Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a medical emergency not seen in our lifetime. There have been other outbreaks of diseases which alarmed the world like HIV, SARS, MERS and Ebola but their spread has been a lot slower allowing the medical profession to learn about the diseases and find ways to stop the spread and/or treat the victims.
 Medical Instructions
COVID-19 gave little window of opportunity to find ways of saving lives. To begin with it was seen as a Wuhan disease which could be contained. But environments have changed markedly in recent decades. China opened its borders to free up movement of people and increase trade opportunities. To contain a fast moving epidemic is not easy when people from every country of the world are flying from place to place in large numbers. Unfortunately COVID-19 has one feature that is difficult to control and that is the high speed in which the disease passes from one to another.
No country was prepared for the fast spread of COVID-19 so when it landed on a country’s shores action had to be taken urgently. The medical professional was grappling with possible treatment options while governments were wondering if they had sufficient health resources to handle the sudden increase in the demand for health care.  Some countries had to make quick decisions but the most important was informing the population what to expect from COVID-19 and how the spread could be minimized.

Communication and Translation key to Educate about COVID-19

Many countries have mixed populations originating from many different nations so no COVID-19 campaign and information sharing would be possible without translations of key information. One of the first multilingual fact sheets contained the following information:

  • How do you catch COVID-19?
  • Preventive measures to stop a COVID-19 infection.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19.
  • What to do if symptoms are severe?
  • Social distancing: how to stop the spread of COVID-19 in your household/community.
  • What are the state’s social distancing rules?
  • Who can go to work?
  • What are essential services?
  • Will schools be open?

Also, slogans can be found in many languages on Ministry of Health websites, alerting people to the threat of COVID-19. The translated slogans include some or all of the following.

  • Protect others and stop the spread.
  • We can all help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Australia.

To Protect others you Must:

  • practise good hygiene
  • practise social distancing
  • follow the limits for public gatherings
  • understand how to self-isolate if you need to
  • If you have the virus, isolate yourself to stop it spreading

Many health departments offer information in many languages on apps downloaded on to a smart phone, such as the “Coronavirus Australia” government app found in Google Play or in the Apple App Store. Some have WhatsApp channels you can join after downloading the app on an iOS or Android device.
If the translations for less common languages aren’t available on the government website there might be a link to Google Language Tools where customers can select the required language from the list on a drop box and copy and paste the desired text to get a translation. The translation of the document will process almost immediately.
A professional human translator or interpreter is always a better choice when accessing important information about COVID-19.  Most government departments have a list of interpreters and translators which can help those who cannot understand the COVID-19 guidelines on the website. These can be accessed by phone or email so there is no need to meet face to face.