The past few weeks have been tough in Victoria, with unacceptably high levels of community transmission of COVID-19 prompting Premier Daniel Andrews to introduce Stage 4 restrictions to limit the movement of people.
There will be many more difficult days ahead as we continue to live with COVID-19.
While community transmission remains high, we will continue to have significant risk of COVID-19 infecting senior Australians receiving care – both in residential facilities and at home.
Even the best run aged care facilities are susceptible to outbreaks of COVID-19. This is because infected staff and visitors who are showing no symptoms can introduce the virus into aged care settings, and spread can start to occur before anyone knows this has happened.
If an infected staff member has no symptoms, even the screening introduced at the front door of every aged care facility may not prevent the coronavirus from getting inside.
The only absolute way to prevent possible outbreaks of COVID-19 in our aged care facilities is to control community transmission.
None of this is to downplay the devastating effects COVID-19 has already had in several aged care facilities.
The people affected are much loved family members – including parents, grandparents and great-grandparents – and the dedicated staff who support their needs every day.
The Australian and Victorian governments are working in close partnership to combat the spread of the coronavirus in Victoria’s aged care facilities.
The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, which opened last week, is ensuring every aged care resident who needs care, receives it. This includes working with public and private hospitals to support aged care facilities by providing expert advice and staff.
The Australian Government has also provided Australian Defence Force personnel, Australian Medical Assistance Team clinicians, and personal protective equipment, including 10 million face masks, and more than one million face shields, for use by aged care workers.
South Australian and Defence Force nurses have also travelled to Melbourne to support their colleagues.
Everyone has a role to play in getting and keeping community transmission levels down.
This means adhering to all COVID-19 restrictions in your state – and continuing to physically distance, practise good hygiene, wear a mask whenever directed, and stay at home and get tested if you develop symptoms, no matter how mild.
We all have to maintain our vigilance and make our individual contributions to preventing community transmission of COVID-19.
If we all do this, we will protect the health and wellbeing of all Australians, including the most senior members of our nation.