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Announcement on restrictions and advice from the Australian Government

On 18 March, the Australian Government made some announcements on measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Public gatherings

The Government has banned non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. This does not apply to essential activities such as public transport, medical and health care, pharmacies, emergency services, correctional facilities, youth justice centres or other places of custody, courts or tribunals, Parliaments, food markets, supermarkets and grocery stores, shopping centres, office buildings, factories, construction sites, and mining sites, where it is necessary for their normal operation. Outdoor gatherings may include no more than 500 people.

The National Cabinet has agreed that Anzac Day ceremonies and events should be cancelled. The Australian War Memorial will aim to conduct a national televised Dawn Service with no general public attendance.  State and Territory Governments and the RSLs will work together on local community arrangements to commemorate Anzac Day.

Schools will stay open. University and higher education is advised to continue with risk mitigation measures, including working from home arrangements where effective.

Community sporting activities could continue with risk mitigation measures. Guidelines have been prepared for community sporting organisations.

Travel

Domestic air travel is considered low risk at this time; however, Australians should only consider travelling when it is essential.

Australians should not travel overseas. Anyone arriving in Australia from overseas, including Australians citizens and permanent residents, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days from the date of arrival. Yesterday the Government made a statement encouraging Australians currently overseas who wish to return home to do so as soon as possible.

Public transport will continue to be available, but people are advised to practice social distancing to the extent that they can while on it and to adhere to hygiene recommendations.

Aged and Health Care

There are new restrictions on visiting aged care homes including:

Limiting visits to a short duration;

  • Limiting visits to a maximum of two immediate social supports (family members, close friends) or professional service or advocacy at one time, per day;
  • Visits should be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors, or in a specific area designated by the aged care service, rather than communal areas;
  • No large group visits or gatherings, including social activities or entertainment;
  • No school groups of any size should be allowed to visit.
  • Visitors should be encouraged to practise social distancing where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.
  • Children aged 16 years or less must be permitted only by exception. Exemptions can be assessed on a case-by-case basis, for example, where the resident is in a palliative care scenario.
  • Measures such as phone or video calls must be accessible to all residents to enable more regular communication with family members. Family and friends should be encouraged to maintain contact with residents by phone and other social communication apps, as appropriate.

In the case of a resident nearing the end of their life, a home will have discretion to make special arrangements for family to visit them.

Aged care facilities should request that staff and visitors provide details on their current health status, particularly presentation of symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Screening for fever could also be considered upon entry.

Staff should be made aware of early signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Any staff with fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath) should be excluded from the workplace and tested for COVID-19. Staff must report their symptoms to the aged care facility. Further information is available at:www.health.gov.au/committees-and-groups/australian-health-protection-principal-committee-ahppc

Restrictions remain for:

  • Those 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 of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath); and
  • Those who have not been vaccinated against influenza (after 1 May)

The Commonwealth Government will relax international student nurse visa work conditions to provide workforce continuity for aged care facilities, home care providers and other health care workers. This will allow international student nurses and other aged care workers to work more than the 40 hours a fortnight that they are currently. This measure will be examined on an ongoing basis.

Further work will be progressed by Friday 20 March 2020 and will include additional support for vulnerable Australians including indigenous communities and NDIS participants.

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