There are fears Victoria’s elderly may be put at risk as the state opens up, with the government refusing to mandate vaccines for those visiting aged care facilities.
The decision has received widespread condemnation from the industry, with some calling it “bizarre” and questioning why hairdressers could only have vaccinated clients but aged care did not have a similar rule.
Visits to facilities still remain restricted, but those who enter are not required to be vaccinated.
“Aged care homes are the frontline of the pandemic. This is our most vulnerable group of people,” Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Paul Sadler said.
“Everyone who visits aged care should bring the protection of a vaccine with them. The government must rethink this decision as soon as possible.”
The Victorian government has mandated vaccines within industries across the state, requiring healthcare and hospitality workers, transport employees, lawyers, public servants and construction workers to get the jab.
The mandate includes workers in the aged care sector, which has recorded record high vaccination rates for both workers and residents.
Despite the state opening up further on Friday, facilities still remain under tough restrictions, meaning Victorians can only visit for seven reasons, including caregiving and support.
There can only be two visitors at a time, and unvaccinated visitors only have access to a resident’s room or outdoor space.
The government has allowed unvaccinated people to visit due to “high vaccination rates” within residents and staff.
“These rules are proportionate in balancing the transmission risk with the effects of prolonged isolation on the health, wellbeing, and functionality of residents,” a spokesperson said.
Rules for the sector are “continually reviewed” and could change based on public health advice.
Victoria will enjoy greater freedoms from Friday evening, with restrictions around retail, hospitality, events, regional travel and mask wearing to ease.
Despite the high vaccination rates of staff and residents, the sector fears that the easing of restrictions will increase the virus’s circulation in the community and put aged care facilities at greater risk.
“At a minimum we need further rules around visitation when community transmission is high and support for the use of rapid antigen testing,” Sadler said.
“New rules in Victoria mandating Covid-19 vaccination for home care workers need to be rolled out nationally as soon as possible.”
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton on Friday said there would be mixed feeling within the community as restrictions eased and the risk of transmission rose.
He said it was likely some people would feel anxiety about restrictions easing.
“We will all at some point risk encountering Covid and maybe getting it, but it is a good thing that we will largely, as a vaccinated population, get mild illness,” he said.
“If people are coming to the open world with some anxiety, they should just move at a pace that suits them.
“Don’t feel obliged to take every invitation that you get to busy places until you’re comfortable in seeing how that’s playing out for you.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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