Date published: 
6 March 2020
Media type: 
Media release
Audience: 
General public

The Federal Government is ensuring age care providers across Australia are ready to implement infection control plans as safeguards to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Minister of Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, said a forum today in Canberra offered reassurance and practical advice to providers nationwide.

It follows a steady increase in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and wider concerns for the wellbeing of vulnerable Australians 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.

Minister Colbeck said the aged care sector would continue to be provided with the best available evidence on the virus and how it should be managed.

“The health, safety and welfare of older Australians in aged care facilities is paramount,” Minister Colbeck said.

“Providers deal with infection control in aged care centres regularly.”

Today’s forum has 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.

“Activated last week by Prime Minister Morrison, the Plan puts Australia ahead of the curve in dealing with this virus – as we have been from day one,” Minister Colbeck said.

“State and territory governments have public health systems which promote the safety and security of people in aged care settings, and support outbreak investigation and management in residential aged care facilities.

“Good hygiene is critical in our aged care sector and an important defence against this virus,” Minister Colbeck said. 

“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.