There have been a number of recent changes to the rules and directives which have been in place across Australia’s States and Territories in response to COVID-19. Most of these changes see a relaxing of the relevant restrictions due to the low number of COVID-19 cases nationally.
Industry code for visiting residential aged care facilities
On 20 November 2020, the Visitor Access Code was updated and contains the following key changes:
- Visitors should not attend an aged care facility if they are unwell or displaying any cold/flu, respiratory or COVID-19 related symptoms.
- Staff must screen visitors and provide guidance regarding social distancing and appropriate hygiene during visits. However, staff must not supervise visits.
- If there is a suspected or actual cluster of COVID-19 in suburbs surrounding an aged care facility, or a suspected/known case of COVID-19 within a residential aged care facility, the site may decide to temporarily increase restrictions on visitors.
On 1 December 2020, Queensland implemented Aged Care Direction (No. 14). The new Queensland direction contains the following key changes:
- People are now able to enter an aged care facility without having the influenza vaccination (the peak of the 2020 influenza season is over and the vaccination is no longer readily available).
- The two person visitor limit has been removed. The normal visitor rules at each aged care facility will now determine visitor numbers. However, the rules regarding collecting and keeping contact information about all visitors, including volunteers and contractors, remains in place.
On 6 December 2020, Victoria implemented the Care Facilities Directions (No. 18). The new Victorian direction can be accessed and contained the following key recent change:
- Removal of the limitations on the purpose, number and time limits for visitors to care facilities.
Providers must still require that visitors declare in writing at the start of each visit (before entering any area that is freely accessible to residents) that the visitor is free of SARS-CoV-2 symptoms, that they have not been in contact with a confirmed care within the preceding 14 days and that they are not currently required to self-isolate or self-quarantine.
South Australian directive
On 3 December 2020, South Australia implemented Residential Aged Care Facilities Direction (No. 16).
This is in addition to the Residential Aged Care Facilities Direction (No. 15) which was recently released in South Australia. Because these directives were released within quick succession, we have summarised the key changes from both:
- Removal of restrictions on entry for persons who live on or near a South Australian border and who ordinarily are a resident in Victoria within 70km of a South Australian border.
- The requirements regarding the 2020 influenza vaccination have been relaxed (e.g. regarding notifying the Department of Health and Wellbeing and taking all reasonable steps to access an adequate supply as soon as it is reasonably practicable). Under the current directions, a person may now enter a residential aged care facility if the influenza vaccination is not reasonably available to them.
- A person (other than a resident or a child under 12 years) must not enter or remain on the premises of a residential aged care facility, unless the person is wearing a single use surgical mask (covering their mouth and nose) at all times when in the physical presence of other persons. This requirement does not apply when the person is eating or drinking.
- People on site must wear a facemask however it does not need to be a single use surgical mask.
- Notwithstanding the above, there is now circumstances where a mask does not need to be worn including:
- if wearing a mask will hinder the provision of care;
- if a person is affected by a relevant medical condition including breathing problems; or
- where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication such as for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Providers must now also keep a visitor register.
Other States and Territories
There have not been any significant recent changes to aged care directives in other states or territories in Australia as at the time of this blog.
If you have any questions about the updated directions, please contact a member of our national Health, Aged Care and Retirement Villages team.