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.
Melbourne remains in Second Step with eased restrictions
Necessary travel for work and caregiving remain as exemptions under the Second-Step reopening restrictions in force for residents of greater Melbourne.
AQA has provided all staff with Permitted Worker permits, based on the Victorian Government template, that identify staff as employees performing essential work for AQA clients. These remain valid when produced with your relevant timesheet.
Should you be stopped and asked for evidence in support of your permit and timesheet, please phone AQA on 9489 0777. You have access to 24-hour support through this number.
AQA is an essential service provider, and AQA staff, when delivering care to AQA clients, are considered exempt from the extended 25km travel limit in force from Monday 19 October. Staff may need to show that their journey is for the purpose of delivering care. (The 9pm-5am curfew enforced under the First Step does not apply under the Second Step.)
AQA staff are also permitted to enter client homes so as to provide care.
Here is a general guide to the Second-Step restrictions. Note that these restrictions apply only to Greater Melbourne and not to people living in Mitchell Shire. Here is a summary of changes made to Second-Step restrictions from Monday 19 October.
Here is a guide to Victoria’s Roadmap for Reopening.
Third-Step restrictions eased for rest of Victoria
Residents of Victoria who live outside Melbourne moved on 16 September to the Third Step of the Roadmap for Reopening. From Monday 19 October some restrictions have been eased.
Third-Step restrictions (and not Second-Step restrictions) also apply to people living in Mitchell Shire.
As with the Second-Step restrictions imposed on residents of Melbourne, Third-Step restrictions allow exemptions for work and necessary caregiving.
Here is a summary of the Third-Step restrictions that apply to Victorians living outside Greater Melbourne. Here is a summary of changes to those restrictions from 19 October (look under the changes for Melbourne).
What counts as a face mask and when do I need to wear one?
Use of face masks when outside your home is required and enforcible across the whole of Victoria.
Here is an official summary of who needs to wear a face mask and when statewide. 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 since Sunday 11 October this requirement has been enforcible.
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.
The government says effective masks can be commercially produced surgical masks or masks home-made from cloth, and can be single-use or washable multi-use.
Common-sense exemptions to the mask requirement have been allowed. For example, you are not required to wear a mask when driving a car on your own to your workplace or to deliver care (although you must don a mask before leaving your car).
AQA has been responding to emerging advice from health authorities on the use of face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) when delivering care. Official guidance mandates the wearing of single-use surgical masks and eye protection, such as the equipment AQA has supplied. AQA continues to encourage 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.
Poster on delivering in-home care
AQA has produced a poster that offers suggestions to disability support workers and their clients on controlling their exposure to COVID-19 while working together. You can view and download the poster here. Clients are encouraged to display the A4 poster prominently.
PPE stores for NDIS participants
Two industrial safety suppliers have created online stores for NDIS participants that offer personal protective equipment (PPE) such as disposable gloves. The facilities were set up in collaboration with disability advocate the Summer Foundation.
Note that you may need to pay up front for your order, and that your participation in the NDIS may not guarantee reimbursement.
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.
Automatic extension for NDIS plans
NDIS participants will have plans extended for a year on the day they are due to expire, the National Disability Insurance Agency has announced.
In addition, participants will be able to fund Support Coordination from their Core budgets if they wish to.
You can read the full announcement at the NDIS website.
The World Health Organisation Q&A
A helpful resource from the World Health Organisation is its Coronavirus Q&A page (questions and answers).
Among the questions answered clearly here are:
- What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- How does COVID-19 spread?
The second answer includes information on the likelihood of virus transmission through contact with faeces.
Detailed information for Victorians
Detailed information about the coronavirus and the response to it in Victoria can be found at the DHHS Victoria About Coronavirus (COVID-19) page.
This page carries a series of headings, each taking you to detail on a particular topic.
Headings of particular interest may be:
- Who is most at risk of getting very sick from coronavirus?
- How can I protect myself and others?
- Where can I get tested for coronavirus?
Protect yourself from the flu
This year there are even more good reasons than usual for protecting yourself from influenza with a vaccination. Learn how to get your flu shot, and why it could be so helpful, from this blog post by AQA Spire peer support coordinator Peter Van Benthem.
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 recent 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 recent 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 19 October.