World Diabetes Day is celebrated annually on 14 November and this year it coincides with the opening of Western Australia’s borders after a 6-month closure due to COVID-19.
New international evidence now shows that people living with diabetes have twice the mortality rates from COVID-19, as compared to the general population.
A recent UK study has also found evidence that the COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year caused a 70% decrease in new diagnoses for type 2 diabetes as well as rates of important diabetes monitoring (HbA1c blood tests) as people avoided seeing their doctors, putting people at increased risk of developing diabetes complications in the future. The impact was more pronounced in vulnerable communities.
“In Western Australia we have been lucky to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks such as those seen in Victoria and New South Wales, and we recognise that the hard border had significant role in that,” said Deb Schofield, General Manager Health Services at Diabetes WA.
“With the border re-opening on World Diabetes Day, there is heightened anxiety among the Western Australian diabetes community. International experience is showing people living with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer severe complications and require ventilation or die from COVID-19. In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in Western Australia, these people will be extremely vulnerable, and we need to take the time now to make sure every person can access the support they need, especially in diabetes hotspots where rates of type 2 diabetes are higher.”
Morley resident Tim Benson, who lives with type 2 diabetes, has expressed concern over the border opening up. “During the initial phases of COVID-19 I put myself into isolation fairly quickly – I stopped going out in public, I drastically cut contact with friends and family and I switched all medical appointments to telehealth appointments. It was an incredibly isolating and stressful time and I have still haven’t gone back to normal, unlike most people.
“The borders can’t stay shut forever, we know that – but allowing people in from other states does carry a risk, and that risk is greater for people like me. It does play on my mind.”
Diabetes WA is calling on the McGowan Government to establish an interagency diabetes taskforce to specifically target the state’s ‘diabetes hotspots’ and to work collaboratively on developing and implementing a state-wide diabetes plan.
“Diabetes complications are in the top 1 or 2 potentially preventable hospitalisations for many regions in WA. We need to work together to ensure our most vulnerable communities can access the support they need to continue managing their diabetes and ensure those at high risk of developing diabetes continue to be screened for diagnosis.” said Deb Schofield.