‘A critically important activity’: Blood donations remain essential during coronavirus social distancing


March 26, 2020 14:47:25

Australians are being reminded that donating blood and plasma is an ‘essential service’ as more of us bunker down to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Key points:

  • The Australian Department of Health and the Red Cross Lifeblood service advise that donating blood remains an “essential service”
  • Social distancing and changes to health services designed to stop the spread of coronavirus have led to many people cancelling their appointments to donate blood and plasma
  • Lifeblood needs 10,000 donations before Easter

As people socially distance by staying home, authorities have ramped up measures to arrest the spread and ease pressure on health services, to allow them to treat those who have become seriously ill after being infected.

But that advice has also coincided with an increase in cancellations or people not showing up to appointments for blood and plasma donations.

Red Cross Lifeblood needs 10,000 donations before Easter, and it is urging people not to skip this activity.

“A blood donation is a life-saving donation and much of modern health care depends on availability and support of blood donors, so it is definitely an essential service,” Lifeblood medical director, James Daly, said.

“Leaving home to do essential activities like shopping and visiting pharmacies; blood donations should be included in those essential activities.”

Blood donors are ‘essential’

Nyankur Bol is 22 months old, but she has spent more hours in hospital than some of us would in a lifetime.

The Perth toddler needs blood regularly because her bone marrow does not produce enough platelets.

Her mother, Anthiang, is urging people to continue to give blood in this uncertain time.

“It is quite unpredictable, it could be next week, it could be tomorrow, it could be today,” she said.

The little girl is on medication which is working — meaning she does not need extra platelets at the moment — but that could change.

“We rely on blood product so if there is no one out there donating, obviously, her life will be at risk,” Ms Bol said.

“It’s a risk, yes, but you are saving someone’s life.”

Mr Daly said while supply and demand for some services was changing in this pandemic, the need for blood has not, and will not, waiver.

He said every effort had been made to ensure clinics were safe to visit.

“You are not allowed to donate blood if you are unwell,” Mr Daly said.

People who have returned from overseas recently and who have coronavirus or have come into contact with a confirmed case will not be allowed to give blood.

The clinics have even ditched the stress balls used to increase blood flow, or are cleaning them between use if they are needed.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

The Department of Health is encouraging people to keep donating, confirming it is an “essential service”.

A spokeswoman for the department told the ABC restrictions on travel and services do not prevent anyone from donating if they are healthy and well.

The spokeswoman said it was a “critically important activity that must continue”.

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