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Government suggests further protective measures for older Australians

The Federal Government announced further measures to protect older Australians from contracting the coronavirus, COVID-19, including strong advice for people over the age of 70 to self-isolate at home for as long as practicable. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recommended that older Australians should reduce their contact with others when they go outside. [Source: Scott Morrison Facebook]
Prime Minister Scott Morrison recommended that older Australians should reduce their contact with others when they go outside. [Source: Scott Morrison Facebook]

Other people who are recommended to self-isolate include people over 60 years of age and Indigenous Australians over the age of 50 with health conditions or comorbidities. 

Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison also recommended that these older groups should reduce their contact with others when they go outside.

"This is not a compulsion, this is strong advice, that people aged 70 and over should stay at home and self-isolate for their own protection to the maximum extent practicable," said PM Morrison on Sunday night.

"...This is for their own protection to limit their interaction with others in the community. This does not mean that they cannot go outside. They can go outside and be accompanied by a support person for the purposes of getting some fresh air, some recreation. But they should limit contact with others as much as possible."

Aged care peak bodies, Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia and Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) have both welcomed the extra recommendations announced by the Government.

Chief Executive at COTA, Ian Yates AM, says, "The Government has most strongly advised everyone over the age of 70 to stay home for their own protection.

“We know that older people, and people with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of serious illness because of COVID-19, which means they must limit interactions which could bring them into contact with the virus. It’s not worth the risk to ignore this advice.

"However, this does not mean that older Australians should shut themselves in their homes and not go outside at all. Exercise and fresh air are critical to keeping people healthy, and to mental health and wellbeing.

"With precautions, older people should still walk the dog, or go for a walk by themselves, or undertake other regular activities that will help to maintain their muscles and fitness, and enjoy the outdoors in a safe way. 

"They should also continue to shop for essentials where it is not possible for someone else to do this for them, but they should also consider trying out online ordering and home delivery if they have access to the internet."

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LASA, Sean Rooney, is supportive of the new Government direction, as well as the latest $1.1 billion health package which is boosting the telehealth services with $669 million.

Additionally, extra funding for mental health services for older Australians has received $10 million and support for health workers has received $3 million.

Mr Rooney says, "Our cherished elders are the most vulnerable to this deadly pandemic, especially those with underlying health challenges.

"So far, Australians who have succumbed to the virus have been 69 or older and LASA welcomes the new recommendations for self-isolation by those 70 or over.

“Saving the lives of our seniors from the COVID-19 pandemic is a community responsibility. The obligation is on all of us to do everything we can to support and stay connected with our elders but avoid any physical contact or risk of virus transmission.

“LASA is working closely with the Government and the Department of Health, to ensure adequate support for older Australians, especially those who are receiving care in residential facilities and in their own homes."

LASA has also welcomed the hold Government has put on three aged care sector proposals:

  • Home care payment arrears postponed and will recommence at a later date

  • The Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) trial will not be rolled out to any new aged care facilities indefinitely

  • Aged Care Approval Round (ACAR) will be on hold for at least six months

Over the weekend, the Government announced further limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, which can incur fines if not followed.

There should be no more than two people in an indoor or outdoor gathering. The only exceptions are people of the same household, funerals with a maximum of 10 people, weddings with a maximum of 5 people, and family units.

Each State and Territory are taking their own measures to enforce the above requirements.

Other guidelines from the Government involve only leaving home for essential reasons, including food and supplies shopping, medical or health care needs, exercise that sticks to the compliance of public gathering requirements, and work or study if unable to work or learn remotely.

Short-term housing tenancy intervention has also been announced by the Government, which will involve a suspension on evictions for the next six months if the tenants are not able to pay their rent commitments due to financial distress. 

For more information about coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide's COVID-19 update page. 

Do you have any questions about the coronavirus that you want answered? Tell us in the comments below or email [email protected].

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