Latest update from the Bellingen Covid-19 Clinic with Dr Trevor Cheney

Dr Trevor Cheney gives his weekly report from the Bellingen Shire Covid-19 Clinic

Dear Bellingen Shire


Everyone is talking about the Covid 19 outbreak in Victoria.

Well actually probably not everyone. There are lots of people who don’t want to know and have turned off the news. There are still folk who believe conspiracy theories (the latest crazy being that our nasal swabs are inserting microchips into victims noses!!). And despite what shrill news media would have us think there are lots of people who either are not interested in the world around them, or simply can’t understand.

And here is part of the next step in understanding our off again/on again lock down waves that will go on being as reliable as the sunny surf at Victoria’s famous Bell’s Beach. (My family once travelled thousands of kilometres to Bells Beach just to say we had done it and the swells were 12 inches, 2 meters from the gravelly shore and there was an Antarctic breeze at about 10 degrees!)

Last week health department officials announced that they probably should have put more info out in more languages. This is a factor in Melbourne’s outbreak being in dense housing, in the most disadvantaged and vulnerable populations. I heard a Somali community leader state that the attempted translation of Covid 19 info into his language was uninterpretable.

In the meantime we have had state politicians shouting at each other, with a certain leader saying in public –“ Victorians go away – we don’t want you here”. Maddening language of division in our modern federation!

The NSW –Victorian Border is being shut for the first time in a hundred years. This is a curious anniversary coming. It is little taught in schools of a time in the 1920s and early 30s when Australia nearly fell into civil war. Riders went through the Mallee and Southern NSW calling settlers and farmers to arms.

The coming enemy? – the Catholics. This appears absurd now.

This is what rumour and division and blame and neglect and ignorance feed.

So the point? Covid19 is amoral, apolitical. Like all life forms it exists to persist. Infections do so well when communities are in conflict, divided, disadvantaged. But when we act together, communicate with compassion, we can achieve miracles. Remember – deadly smallpox that ravaged indigenous Australians and native Americans, was eventually eliminated off the planet. Polio nearly followed suit, but the terrible events in Cambodia and other civil wars destroyed that lofty millennial goal. Now Diphtheria has re-emerged in Syria.

The point is that for society to flourish we need lots of clever enterprising people and things, but we also need the vulnerable to be safe, informed and with hope. Lest they become victims, then reservoirs of disease, and worse, disconnected, neglected and angry.  We do not need conflict at any level. We only have to look across the Pacific to see harvests of neglect.   Ensuring that weaker parts of society are looked after, and well informed, protects and elevates us all. Hence my surprise that the Dept of Health only belatedly put more effort into the information campaign in more languages (now 63).

Politicians easily like to do chest thumping. They even more happily Blame and shout at “ the other” at our total cost. Blame is creeping into the rhetoric around the Public Housing towers in Melbourne.

The pandemic all around the world is showing that we are all at risk – Australia just hasn’t really felt it yet. No race, nation, group is superior. But blaming “others” does not help. Looking to inform and bring everyone along does.

We have lots of visitors in town – many from Victoria before the lockdown came on. Indeed our shire has long depended on tourism. Please be considerate. Some have already come through our local Covid clinic.   Not because they were sick – just they were trying to be responsible and careful. They are also nervous about their right to be here. Let’s be sure that we are not be a community that shuns.

An elderly patient recently commented spontaneously to me that people walking past her garden had simply stopped and asked if she was ok. This was tremendously uplifting and has prevented her becoming a statistic in the other wave – the mental health impacts.

The numbers are a bit tough. This week Australia is reporting >8.4k cases and now 104 deaths. That is about 1.2% mortality. This number has been consistent for us and is amongst the best in the world. With over 11million cases now and over half a million deaths the average mortality is around 5%. The Americas count for about half of the cases and deaths now. Covid19 is currently the 6th most common cause of Death in the USA and it is only halfway through the year! It is currently tracking to eclipse all but heart disease and cancer there.

It was put to me that it seems the cases are going up but faster than the death rate. Sadly this is simply an illusion of time. There is a couple of weeks between people contracting the virus and then the sudden desperate dive in health, for the unlucky. There are still folk in ICU struggling from the last spikes. We have a few weeks before we see the tragic consequences of this spike. There are also emerging delayed impacts in immune, cardiac, respiratory systems. Please share this fact with friends who believe a certain world leader claiming that 99% of cases are fine.

And yet ironically the USA and Europe are again sources of hope and salvation for us in Aus. This is because their doctors and scientists have such a big pool of cases to study, and a driving desperation to find some effective treatments. Again this is part of the reason for Australia locking down at such cost.  We have had time to prepare, and to observe and to participate in finding effective treatments before we face the stark reality seen elsewhere. Again comparing Sweden – a modern industrial economy with a population just a little bigger than NSW. They now report >71 000 with 5420 deaths. That is more deaths than all of our cases.

The WHO has some nice graphics about wearing masks for those who want to do it right. It will be very important to be ready and understand how to do this right, soon, ie when we receive the surge in community transmission. Please look it up. Cashiers, table servers, public transporters, shopkeepers, those who feel vulnerable, need to be informed. And if you know someone who has trouble with English the DOH now has multilingual sources – please encourage them to read and catch up. So too those who say they just don’t want to know.

And someone who gets sick or is isolated must not be blamed for being sick or isolated.


Dr Trevor Cheney


This is just one perspective – please check with your own local GP who knows you, and your situation, and your family’s vulnerabilities.


  • Yvonne says:

    Thanks for an informed and compassionate account of the situation. Your message that we should not blame is a powerful one during these times.

  • Jenny parkin says:

    Thank you for your sanity. I find it easy to tune out of media because Covid seems to be the sole topic of conversation but keeping informed is important and if you limit your exposure to the news you can cope. It’s a fine line between informed journalism and sensationalism

  • Janet Hosking says:

    Thanks again Trevor.

  • Kate Smith says:

    Thank you for your insights and medical advice. Always measured and factual with great overviews of the reach of this pandemic. Much appreciated.

  • Colin Broadfoot says:

    Thanks for your valuable contributions Trevor. Great to have a local voice of reason to remind us all to be vigilant and understanding.

  • Wendy Tanner says:

    Yes! I agree with previous comments. Thanks Trevor for a very measured, considered, informed and compassionate perspective!!

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