Tackling COVID-19 in aged care

Minister of Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, said a forum today in Canberra offered reassurance and practical advice to providers about the COVID-19 problem.


The forum follows a steady increase in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and wider concerns for the wellbeing of residents in aged care.


More than 70 representatives attended the forum including providers, peak bodies, workforce, consumers, state and territory governments and professional bodies.


“The advice for the aged care sector is the same advice to the general community,” Minister Colbeck said.


“Australians should practice good hygiene and go about their lives as they normally would.”


Washing hands with soap and water before and after eating, after coughing, sneezing or using the toilet was an important practice, he said.


Minister Colbeck said, importantly, the welfare of senior Australians in residential care relied on the availability of staff.


“There is no reason for staff at aged care centres to avoid going to work unless they are showing symptoms, have been in contact with somebody showing symptoms or have been specifically ordered to isolate,” he said.


Restrictions for staff who have travelled from mainland China, Iran and the Republic of Korea also remain in place.


Anybody returning from mainland China or Iran should isolate for 14 days.


Anybody arriving from the Republic of Korea, on or after 5 March, should also isolate for 14 days.


Travellers arriving in Australia from Italy must present for health screening at the border as directed.


People returning from Italy do not need to isolate but cannot attend work for 14 days if they work in healthcare or in residential aged care.


Today’s forum underlined the protocols and guidelines to reinforce local infection control, while offering a platform to address the wider concerns of residents, staff and families.


The COVID-19 Plan, agreed to by all governments, also outlines measures being undertaken and planned measures should risk increase.


“All aged care providers have been contacted with information to pass on to their staff, residents and their families.”


Fact sheets are available at the Department of Health’s website and will be updated as new information becomes available.


A 24-hour Coronavirus Health Information Line, run by healthdirect, has also been set up for public enquiries at 1800 020 080.


6 March 2020.