Home | News | COVID-19 UPDATE: Third death at aged care home, Vic and ACT announce state of emergency
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (C) speaks as he sits with Australian state Premiers and territory leaders during a media conference after the Meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). Photo: DAVID GRAY / AFP

COVID-19 UPDATE: Third death at aged care home, Vic and ACT announce state of emergency

A third resident at the Dorothy Henderson Lodge has fallen victim to the coronavirus, COVID-19, along with a Brisbane woman – taking the national death toll to five.

This news comes as the Victorian and ACT governments declare a state of emergency.

ACT chief minister Andrew Barr said the declaration of a public health emergency would give Canberra’s chief health officer more powers to enforce isolation and quarantines.

“I want to be clear at this point… any directions under the public health act would be the last resort measure,” he said.

“At this point, we will continue to focus on containing the spread of the virus.”

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said: “We are taking these steps, after agreement from the National Cabinet that includes the Prime Minister and all premiers and chief ministers, to contain the spread of coronavirus as much as we can.

“Make no mistake, the next few weeks and months will be tough for everyone, but we’re doing what is necessary to protect Victorians.”

Aged care home death confirmed

A 90-year-old woman died on Saturday and testing confirmed that she had COVID-19, NSW Health said in a statement on Sunday night, and a 77-year-old woman from Brisbane died in Sydney the same day after developing symptoms on her flight from Brisbane on Friday.

In a statement released late on Sunday, BaptistCare CEO Ross Low said: “We are overwhelmed with a great sense of loss. Our residents call Dorothy Henderson Lodge home, and their families trust us with their care. This outbreak is devastating for our residents, families and staff.”

“Amidst this tragedy I wish to thank the teams of people who are working around the clock to support and care for our residents and their families.”

The total confirmed cases from Dorothy Henderson Lodge have now reached 10 – six residents and four employees. Three of the six residents confirmed positive to COVID-19 have died.

However, The Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck has announced that aged care providers will be encouraged to limit visits from today under national guidelines.

“Given the risks to older Australians from COVID 19, particularly those with chronic disease and other frailties, we now recommend that residential aged care providers restrict visitor access,” Minister Colbeck said.

“Our plan is to slow the spread, to save lives.”

The Health Department will continue to work with aged care peak bodies to finalise more detailed guidance developed by the Communicable Diseases Network (CDN) regarding visitor access, the management of non-compliant residents and physical distancing.

It follows the release of AHPPC recommendations for wider distancing measures.

The five Australians who have died so far have been aged 95, 82, 78, 90 and 77. With some aged care facilities already employing self-imposed lockdowns, it could only be matter of time before the government enforces nationwide lockdowns.  

In the US, The New York Times reported that the coronavirus has killed 13 residents at a nursing home in Washington State and other residents and staff have fallen ill. Some American states, including New York, have banned most non-medical personnel from setting foot inside nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, which nationally have about 2.5 million residents.

COTA chief executive Ian Yates said that while the government response to residential aged care has been good so far, the message needs to be clearer when it comes to home care.

“I think it is sensible to propagate some restrictions, but we need to balance that as far as possible with those in aged care in contact with loved ones.

“What has not been clear so far is a clear strategy with regard to home care, which of course is a much larger number of people,” he said.

Yates believes that home care staff may not be as rehearsed on stringent infection controls and worries about the likelihood of home care staff getting infected, and who will treat home care recipients in that case.

Patricia Sparrow, Aged & Community Services Australia chief executive, supported government action so far but agreed with Yates that home care needs some attention.

“Home care is inherently less controlled than residential because it’s an individuals’ home, which makes it more challenging and difficult for handling infection control, but we do have similar procedures, training and safeguards. Given the rapidly changing situation, home care has now become a focus, and we are working with Government and health authorities at the moment.”

Quarantine measures for travellers

The Australian Government also announced that anyone returning from overseas must self-isolate for 14 days, while cruise ships will be banned from arriving at Australian ports for an initial 30 days. They also announced the immediate cancellation of public events with more than 500 people.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Monday said he has made the order under the Public Health Act 2010, and individuals who fail to comply could face up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $11,000, or both. Additional penalties could be imposed for each day the offence continues.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian urged people to be careful and not take chances with their own health and the health of others.

“Don’t just think of yourself or your own family, but you could be unintentionally infecting and causing the death of so many other people,” she told reporters in southern NSW on Monday.

“We do know older people in particular are very vulnerable to this disease.

“This is life and death.”

She warned that people need to brace themselves as the number of cases in NSW continues to rise.

“I want everyone to brace themselves. It’s not a time to be complacent or reckless or think that it’s not going to affect you,” she said.

NSW schools will implement social distancing measures from Monday and cancelled assemblies, excursions, and travel, as well as some events and conferences in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.

All new jury trials in the NSW Supreme and District court will also be suspended indefinitely from Monday, but jury trials which have already begun will continue.

Several large events across the state including the Sydney Royal Easter Show have been cancelled to try to slow the virus’s spread.

RSL NSW representatives are meeting on Monday to make a decision on upcoming Anzac Day marches and parades.

Globally, there has been 153,517 confirmed cases of the virus with 5735 deaths. As of the last WHO update on the 15 March, Australia has 249 confirmed cases of the virus.

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