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.
Mask requirements eased under CovidSafe Summer restrictions
Melbourne and the rest of Victoria moved together on 7 December to CovidSafe Summer restrictions, under which controls have been eased further on a broad range of social and business activities.
From 11:59pm on 17 January, mask requirements have been relaxed. Masks are still mandatory on public transport, in taxis, in large indoor spaces such as shopping malls and big supermarkets, and in a range of other public settings.
Here is a summary of restrictions that apply under CovidSafe Summer, which explains the changes in force from 11:59pm on 17 January.
Staff are no longer required to show the Permitted Worker permits that identify them as employees performing essential work for AQA clients. Restrictions on travel between Greater Melbourne and regional Victoria no longer apply.
AQA is an essential service provider, and AQA staff are permitted to enter client homes so as to provide care.
Should you require office support in connection with COVID-19 restrictions, please phone AQA on 9489 0777. You have access to 24-hour support through this number.
Here is a guide to Victoria’s Roadmap for Reopening.
What counts as a face mask and when do I need to wear one?
It remains compulsory to carry a face mask at all times when outside your home, and it is recommended that you wear a mask whenever you can’t maintain a 1.5 meter distance from other people (except for people you live with).
Requirements to wear a mask when in public indoor spaces were relaxed at 11:59pm on 17 January. Masks remain compulsory in a range of public indoor settings, which include public transport, taxis and ride-share vehicles, shopping centres, indoor markets, and big retail stores.
Here is an official summary of CovidSafe Summer restrictions that includes direction on face masks. 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 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.
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. Official guidance mandates the wearing of single-use surgical masks such as those AQA has supplied. However 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.
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.
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 18 January 2021