Scott Morrison today announced more measures aimed at curtailing the spread of the coronavirus, including new aged care guidelines and lifting work restrictions on student nurses.
In a wide-ranging press conference, the Prime Minister laid out restrictions on non-essential gatherings of people, banning the congregation of up to 100 people indoors and 500 people maximum outdoors.
Morrison has also told Australians not to travel overseas and for the first time in the country’s history a level 4 travel warning is in place for all countries.
However, the Morrison Government has stopped short of closing down schools – citing Singapore as an example of good practice – as the medical advice suggests the virus works differently in younger people.
Morrison said that it is “in the national public interest” to keep schools open as any measure they take today would have to be adhered to for at least six months. In that scenario jobs would be lost and up to 30 per cent of public health workers would be impacted due to their kids staying home, placing a further strain on hospitals.
As for the health workforce, Morrison announced that 20,000 student nurses have had their work restrictions lifted and will be engaged to help respond to the pandemic.
In regards to aged care, Morrison has said that visitors who are sick or anyone returning from overseas will be barred from going to aged care facilities. Only short visits to residents at facilities will be allowed, with a maximum of two people once a day.
Any visits must take place in a resident’s room or designated space barring any communal areas and Morrison urged everyone to practice social distancing of 1.5 metres.
He has also reiterated that any staff who have been overseas may not enter a facility or anyone who has been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, as well as anyone who doesn’t have up to date flu vaccines.
All visiting school groups have been barred from aged care as has any outside entertainment. Children under the age of 16 can only visit with special exemptions.
Morrison has said that palliative care restrictions will be left to the discretion of the facilities, as long as they adhere to the general social distancing principles already expected of the general population.
“There is no sense in locking down aged care,” said Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy who appeared alongside Mr Morrison.
He said that we need to protect the elderly for the long term and reiterated that any lockdown would have to last six months and this is not practical in aged care, much like schools.
ACSA chief executive Pat Sparrow thinks the measures strike the right balance between preventing the spread of the disease and keeping the emotional wellbeing of residents in mind.
Sparrow also believes that aged care is well placed to tackle this virus, proven by the fact that only one aged care facility has been affected so far.
Sparrow thinks the focus should now be on getting the right information out to providers.
“Every year [aged care homes] have to manage flu and gastro and the whole process of locking down and infection control is not new to them.
“We’re working really closely with the department of health to provide one source of truth for providers, those arrangements are being put in place,” she said.
“We’ll make sure, as I’m sure all of the peak bodies will, that we’re supporting the members, making sure that they have the information that they need.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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