March 13th 2020

Dear Interpreter colleagues,

We have all read or heard lots of information about the Coronavirus COVID-19 in recent days and weeks. It is a developing situation and new information and advice is coming to light everyday, but we wanted to pass on some advice related to interpreting. We are likely to issue updated advice as it comes to hand.

While NZ is currently affected less than many other countries, it seems likely we will have a widespread outbreak at some stage. Latest advice from the Waitemata DHB is that healthcare workers are not more prone to catching the disease than other people. However, it is reasonable to predict that as professionals who spend the day working with different groups of people, interpreters are at a slightly higher risk of infection than many other people, and of carrying the disease. Information out today suggests an infected person could be a carrier and show no symptoms for up to 2 weeks (or 24 days in some extreme cases). This makes containment more difficult. Worse case scenario in terms of interpreting services is that there are more cases of Deaf becoming unwell and requiring interpreting services, but fewer unaffected interpreters to support them. This is an outcome we all need to do our bit to avoid happening.

The better news is that the virus is not that easy to catch. there are no reports of airborne infection which is a huge bonus. Contamination seems by contact with infected water droplets, mainly from surfaces. This means we can increase our chances of prevention by following public health advice, summarised here by WDHB (thanks to Taria for the notes – view the full document here):

Best ways of prevention:

  • Hand washing,
  • coughing into a tissue and disposing of it,
  • social distancing
  • avoid touching your face,
  • do not hongi (there is more information coming regarding Tikanga Maori and COVID-19)

In addition Connect would like to advise the following:

  • We suggest you regularly carry and use hand sanitizer, keep one in your bag or the car. Use the sanitizer provided in medical centres and elsewhere.
  • To protect yourself when getting the ICF signed: cut up some small squares of cotton fabric, and use these to wipe your device with sanitizer before and after getting the signature. The cotton squares can be washed and reused. And again, hand washing before and after a job if possible; if not possible, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid physical contact with clients (no hearing handshakes or Deaf hugs!)
  • There seems little evidence that the use of masks makes any difference to the risk of infection. This will please our Deaf clients!
  • If you discover you are working in an area that has the virus please let us know straight away so we can assess and plan further work and reduce the risks for you and others.

While we are all committed to supporting the Deaf community as much as we possibly can, naturally the priority is the health of our families and loved ones. Also of concern to many will be the financial ramifications of getting infected or of self-isolating. While all members of our interpreting team are contractors, we can offer some financial support if you find yourself in that difficult situation, so please keep that in mind and talk to us if you would like more information. We do not want anyone to have to choose between heightening the risk of contamination, or paying their bills, so we pledge to support you if that happens.

If we all work together, as we do so well in other ways, we can minimise the impact and disruption to our lives and those of others we commit to support.

Best wishes,

Lynx, Dan, Shiz, Louise, and Janet at Connect Interpreting