The Federal Government has launched a three-tier pandemic escalation plan for how aged care providers can ramp up or down their responses based on the local threat level.

The plan, which is backed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, aims to better protect residents and staff as aged care and the country deals with the ongoing threat of COVID-19 in the community.

The plan comes as South Australian aged care provider AnglicareSA reports the outbreak at one of its facilities is so far contained to four staff members (see below).

Under Tier 1, which applies when there is no community transmission, there are fewer restrictions on visitors, excursions, small gatherings and outdoor exercise, but providers must prepare for an outbreak.

Where a defined hotspot has been identified (Tier 2), aged care providers must ramp-up their response to the outbreak including signage in shared areas, confirming contact with the local public hospital, GPs and geriatric in-reach services and a renewed focus on infection protection and control training.

Providers will also need to consider mask use, visitations, asymptomatic testing and single site worker arrangements depending on the local situation.

Richard Colbeck

When there is a COVID-19 outbreak in the community (Tier 3) providers must implement Tier 1 and 2 measures plus public health interventions, such as masks, visitor  restrictions, asymptomatic testing, single site worker arrangements and no non-essential travel.

Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck, who announced the plan on Friday,  said remaining restrictions were common sense.

“In all areas, even in those places where there isn’t any local transmission, the AHPPC recommends restricting people who have just returned from overseas or have been in contact with a confirmed case, people who are sick, those who require isolation or quarantine and people who haven’t had the flu jab,” Mr Colbeck said.

“Visitors will also need to maintain personal hygiene, and social distance. By taking these basic precautions, we keep senior Australians in aged care physically safe while they spend time with their family, friends and loved ones, or receive care from doctors or allied health workers,” he said.

No new cases at AnglicareSA

In South Australia, AnglicareSA says it has had no new cases of COVID-19 since Friday after confirming four staff members tested positive.

AnglicareSA’s Brompton facility, which has 40 residents and 30 employees, reported two active cases among staff on 15 November and another two on 18 and 20 November. There are 14 employees in quarantine after they were identified as close contacts.

AnglicareSA CEO Peter Sandeman said on Tuesday the health and welfare of those in quarantine is a key focus.

“We are very happy that the mechanisms we had in place to protect residents from COVID-19 so far seem to have worked,” Mr Sandeman said. “It is not over yet though. We will continue to be vigilant in our testing and safety regimes to ensure the ongoing protection of residents, employees and the community.”

All residents and employees are being tested every 48 hours.

Mr Sandeman said thanked residents, employees, government agencies and other services for their continued support.

“We are very grateful to our residents who have been supportive and cooperative during what has been a very difficult time for them. They’ve put up with regular, invasive testing and have had their freedoms and daily routines severely restricted, and they’ve taken it all in their stride,” he said.

“Our Brompton employees have continued to provide the very highest level of care and service throughout, and I thank them for their dedication, commitment and support. The site response team and the outbreak management team supporting them have been outstanding.”

AnglicareSA is in daily contact with resident families and guardians about the COVID-19 cases.

COVID update   

Elsewhere, Victoria has reported no new cases among aged care residents since 26 September, according to the latest update from the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre on 20 November.

There have been 4,634 COVID-19 cases linked to Victorian residential aged care including 1,962 residents, 2,037 staff members and 635 other close contacts, and 652 COVID-positive residents have died, according to the VACRC.

Nationally, 2049 aged care residents have tested positive COVID-19, of whom 1,364 have recovered and 685 have died, according to the Federal Department of Health data as at 22 November.

Access the COVID-19 Escalation Tiers And Aged Care Provider Responses here.

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