THE government has announced strict new restrictions on staff and visitors to aged care facilities to protect residents against COVID-19
Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced the following visitors and staff will not be permitted to enter an aged care facility:
- People who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days
- Those who have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- Those with fever or symptoms or acute respiratory infection and symptoms
- Those who have not been vaccinated against influenza after the 1st of May
Mr Morrison said facilities must reduce the risk of transmission to residents, including limiting visits to a short periods and a maximum of two visitors at one time per day.
"Visits should be conducted in a resident's room, outdoors or in a specific area designated by the facility, rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission to other residents is greater," he said.
"There should be no large group visits or gatherings. Including social activities or entertainment to be permitted at this time."
Visitors to aged care homes have been limited to two people at a time, including professional visits.
No one aged 16 or younger is allowed in an aged care home without a special exemption.
Mr Morrison said aged care homes can put in "very strict arrangements" on a case-by-case basis for visits when someone is dying.
Mr Morrison said Australia should prepare for "at least six months" of disruption.
"The idea that you can just turn everything off for two weeks and then turn it all back on again and it all goes away, that is not the evidence, that is not the facts, that is not the information and it is not our way through this," he said.
"We are going to keep Australia running. We are going to keep Australia functioning," Mr Morrison said. "It won't look like it normally does but it is very important that we continue to put in place measures that are scalable and sustainable."
The Prime Minister stressed again that for most Australians, the illness would be mild, but the for the more vulnerable, for the elderly and those who have other health challenges, "this is a far more serious condition for them".
"The first priority of providers is to protect the older people in our care. We will always take the best advice of health authorities and it is clear that taking stronger measures is critical," said Ms Sparrow.
Pat Sparrow chief executive of industry group Aged and Community Services Australia said generally visitors are understanding of the restrictions.
"We continue to ask for that understanding. We wouldn't be taking these measures unless they were absolutely necessary, and providers will be doing everything they can to enforce them.
"At the top of our minds is the need to balance prevention with emotional care and compassion. Mental and spiritual health is just as important and providers know better than anyone that getting that balance right is difficult but important.
"We are working through a range of issues with the government that need more attention, such as supply of protective equipment when needed, to ensure providers have the support they need to protect residents and staff which is our absolute priority," Ms Sparrow said.
"We are all being asked to do our bit and if every Australian is conscious of minimising the risk to older Australians then we will see this through with limited consequences.
Peak consumer group for older Australians, National Seniors saiid the new restrictions were "timely, measured and sensible for our most vulnerable".
"We are all being asked to do our bit and if every Australian is conscious of minimising the risk to older Australians then we will see this through with limited consequences," said chief executive, Professor John McCallum who also welcomed the government's view that an outright ban on visits to aged care facilities is not needed at this time.
As the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy said a complete lockdown on visits would be "inhumane."
"We are controlling the imported cases today with the Level 4 Travel Advice not to travel so we're now focused on social distance and hygiene to prevent community transmission."
National Seniors also strongly supports the Prime Minister's firm language against people stockpiling grocery items such as toilet paper, sanitisers and basic necessities.
"This unnecessary, selfish behaviour is seriously affecting older Australians and I ask people when they go the shops, to spare a thought about just who is missing out on essential items if you are stockpiling.
'It is now up to everyone to do the right thing." Professor McCallum said