AQA and coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
AQA has established a COVID-19 Task Group that is responsible for monitoring official responses to the coronavirus crisis as it unfolds, and for taking appropriate action.
Lockdown extended to Geelong, Surf Coast and Mitchell Shire
The extended lockdown was announced on Sunday 19 September by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, and came into force at 11:59pm the same day.
The lockdown in these regions follows the imposition last week of stay-at-home restrictions in Ballarat, after Covid-19 was detected in the city’s wastewater. (The Ballarat lockdown has been scheduled to end at 11:59pm on Wednesday 22 September.)
The lockdown conditions in these areas match those in force in Melbourne, except that no curfew has been imposed.
Shepparton has been released from lockdown, joining the rest of regional Victoria with relaxed restrictions.
All residents of Victoria must continue to wear masks, both outdoors and indoors.
AQA staff in Melbourne and other locked-down areas are required to carry an authorised worker permit when leaving home for work reasons.
Authorised worker permits
AQA has provided all eligible staff with permits via email. In locked-down areas, authorised workers can travel beyond the recently extended 10km limit for work purposes, and may do so at any hour necessary despite the curfew applying in Melbourne.
AQA recommends that staff carry current timesheets when travelling for work. Should you require support in demonstrating that you are an essential worker, please phone AQA on 9489 0777. You have access to 24-hour support through this number.
If you did not receive your authorised worker permit or have mislaid it, please contact AQA.
Restrictions for Melbourne and other locked-down areas
There are only five reasons for leaving home: getting the food and supplies you need; exercising; care or caregiving; authorised work or education if you can’t do it from home; or to get vaccinated at the nearest possible location.
Full details of current COVIDSafe settings can be found at this page maintained by the State Government.
Shopping and exercise need to be done within 10km from home, or the nearest location. (Travel for needed caregiving is considered essential.)
Exercising is permitted for up to four hours daily in a single session. No guests in homes.
Masks must be worn indoors and outdoors at all times, with common-sense exceptions such as inside one’s own home or when driving solo.
Residents of Melbourne are still under a 9pm-5am curfew (travel for authorised work excluded). The curfew does not apply in other locked-down areas.
The AQA office in Fairfield was a Tier 1 exposure site on 3 September
AQA is pleased to advise that the delivery of essential services has continued uninterrupted after an incident that led to our office at 416 Heidelberg Road, Fairfield, being considered a Tier 1 Covid-19 exposure site over the working day of Friday 3 September.
The Tier 1 exposure affected only the few office staff who attended the office to perform essential and permitted work on that day. For more details, you can read our announcement. A pointer to the announcement has been posted on the home page of the AQA website.
Please stay up to date on exposure sites
With the announcement of new exposure sites continuing in Victoria, it is absolutely critical you check them regularly.
Sites are distinguished as Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3. Anyone who attended a Tier 1 site about the same time as an infectious person is required to self-isolate for 14 days and get tested for COVID-19.
Anyone who attended a Tier 2 site must get tested immediately and isolate pending the result, while anyone exposed to a Tier 3 site must monitor themselves for symptoms.
Here is the official list of exposure sites and times, updated as new information comes to hand. This page now includes a helpful map, with the locations of Tier 1 sites marked in red.
Here is an updated list of COVID-19 testing sites. It is recommended you contact the test site before presenting for a test.
AQA staff who believe they may have been exposed to infection must contact AQA, stay home from work, and follow the recommendations to isolate and get tested. If you’re an AQA client and believe you may have been exposed, please inform AQA immediately.
AQA encourages everyone in our community to keep up to date with information on new cases.
Can I get a vaccination now? Very likely you can
The Government has urged everyone eligible to seek vaccination against Covid-19, and AQA strongly supports that encouragement. Here is where you can find out whether you are eligible for a vaccine now. Here is where you can find out how to book.
Everyone living with a disability that requires frequent assistance with daily living, and every NDIS participant aged 16 or older, is now eligible to receive vaccination.
As well, every disability support worker is now eligible for vaccination, including those working in home and community settings.
The Victorian Government is maintaining an online vaccine information page for people with disabilities, carers and support workers. Follow the link for more detail.
In order to show that they are eligible for a vaccine, a support worker may need to provide either a letter from their employer or an eligibility declaration that they have signed themselves. Support workers can download the eligibility declaration form here, or use email correspondence received from AQA on 10 June.
What counts as a face mask and when do I need to wear one?
Masks are required whenever you leave the house, throughout Victoria.
Note that your face covering needs to be a fitted face mask rather than a loose scarf, bandana, neck gaiter, or unsealed face shield, and that this requirement is enforcible.
People with medical conditions that affect their breathing, or with a range of other relevant difficulties, may have lawful excuses for not wearing a face mask.
Official guidance notes that the point of wearing a mask is chiefly to protect other people from the possibility you have COVID-19. A mask helps contain your coughs or sneezes, which can transmit the disease. A mask also presents a barrier to your inhaling infectious material released by others.
AQA continues to respond to advice from health authorities on the use of face masks and other PPE when delivering care at a client’s home. That advice currently requires that staff wear face masks indoors at all times when delivering care, in line with broader community guidance, and outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Clients are encouraged to wear masks also.
It is no longer mandatory to wear face-shields or other eye protection when working with healthy clients.
AQA encourages support staff and clients to discuss how they shall use PPE when delivering and receiving care.
AQA requires any support worker who is developing symptoms consistent with their having a cold, or the flu, or COVID-19, to stay home from work, seek medical advice, and contact AQA as soon as possible.
AQA requires any client who is developing symptoms consistent with a cold, the flu, or COVID-19, to wear a face mask when receiving support workers. The Victorian Government strongly recommends that anyone developing such symptoms get tested as soon as possible for COVID-19. Anyone returning a positive test must contact AQA immediately.
Surviving COVID-19 with quadriplegia: One man’s story
A Melbourne man who has a C2-4 spinal cord injury has described his experience of contracting COVID-19 from a household member, and how his support workers responded, for a story hosted on AQA’s Spire website. Mild early symptoms led to a torrid 18 days in hospital.
Income support for test isolation
The Victorian Government has made available a payment of $450 to support people who must stay home from work and lose income while awaiting a COVID-19 test result.
The Government has also made available a payment of $1500 to people who must stay home from work and lose income because they have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been ordered by health authorities to self-isolate. This payment is also available to people who have been ordered to self-isolate because they are a close contact of a person with COVID-19.
A range of conditions apply. For details, follow the links above.
Find out whether you need a test
If you or a person you are working with is feeling sick, you can use this Coronavirus Self-assessment Tool to find out whether you should report your symptoms to the Coronavirus Hotline, your doctor, or a hospital emergency service, and follow advice on getting tested for COVID-19.
The self-assessment tool is maintained and updated by the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria.
Some people can be tested at home
Health authorities have introduced in-home testing for people who are showing early symptoms of COVID-19 and, for a range of reasons that include injury, have difficulty leaving home and travelling to a test site.
Referral to the service is through your GP.
Thank-you carers, you’re amazing
Clients, staff and directors of AQA have come together to compile a video that expresses their appreciation and gratitude for the resilience of disability support workers and carers.
Infection control training
The Australian Government has released a Training Module on Infection Control for Coronavirus. The module offers general information and takes about 30 minutes to complete. AQA strongly encourages disability support workers and clients to refresh their understanding of infection control by completing this training.
Social distancing, and posters
The Australian Government has posted a fact sheet on social distancing. It explains why, when and how you should put some distance between you and other people, to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
AQA has produced a poster for support workers and clients on how they can control their exposure to COVID-19 while working together.
You can also download posters that explain how you can Reduce your risk of infection with coronavirus, Wash your hands properly, and Cover your coughs and sneezes to avoid spreading infection. (Some of these links may download a PDF of the poster to the downloads folder on your computer, rather than opening a new page on your web browser.)
Two views on going out, where you can
Two AQA staff members with spinal cord injuries have posted divergent blogs on how best to respond to the easing of lockdown. At the time they posted, restrictions had been eased in Melbourne and most of Victoria.
John Theodoropoulos said he would still stay at home, to protect an elderly parent and himself from the renewed outbreak of COVID-19 that he believed was likely. In contrast, Josh Hose had joined friends for a distant birthday gathering, and was looking forward to the reopening of his favourite restaurant.
The latest updates on coronavirus
As AQA operates in the State of Victoria, the most relevant information resource for us is the page on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Victoria.
The department also offers helpful information for people with a disability.
The key supplementary resource for AQA is the Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert page.
Authoritative information on how the new coronavirus is affecting nations around the world can be found at the World Health Organisation Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic page.
The World Health Organisation Q&A
A helpful resource from the World Health Organisation is its Coronavirus Q&A page (questions and answers).
Disability Information Helpline
A telephone helpline promoted by the Australian Government Department of Social Services offers information about coronavirus, and referrals, to people with disability.
The department says the Disability Information Helpline is free, private and fact-checked, and can also help families, carers, support workers and services.
AQA encourages discussion among clients, support workers and office staff
AQA encourages support workers and their clients to talk about what measures they will take when working together to minimise the likelihood of transmitting coronavirus or an influenza virus.
A blog post authored by Wayne Bradshaw, an AQA information officer who has paraplegia, explains why conversations of this kind can be so helpful for AQA clients.
A blog post authored by Peter Van Benthem, who lives with a C4 spinal cord injury, and who receives in-home personal care from a team of support workers, shares some steps he and his carers have taken to reduce their risk of cross-infection.
AQA also encourages support workers and their clients to consult AQA office staff if they need to raise specific concerns they have about coronavirus or flu infection when working together. The best person to raise concerns with is the client’s Service Partnership Coordinator, who can be contacted through AQA reception (which is also AQA Qualcare reception).
Naming the coronavirus
Finally, if you feel confused by the different terms associated with the new coronavirus you may find some relief in the World Health Organisation’s official coronavirus naming page.
Here the WHO tells us that the official name for this coronavirus is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or (SARS-CoV-2).
The official name for the disease associated with the virus is COVID-19. However, in communicating with the general public, the WHO has decided to call the virus the COVID-19 virus. On that page it explains its decision.
This post was updated on 20 September 2021.