It has been two weeks since my last Covid-19 Update and the strong positive trend in reducing new infections continues to gain momentum. Here in SA we have gone for five days with no new cases. It is a remarkable result brought about by a remarkable effort from everyone. We will continue to stay the course and hopefully elevate SA to a virus free status.
The response to the launch of the COVIDSafe virus tracker has been exceptional with more than 2 million people signing up in just over 24 hours. Teresa and I have both downloaded the app. It takes less than a minute.
We are just moving a few tentative steps to normalisation. Elective surgery will re-commence and kids are going back to school. These are promising signs.
This email update will cover:
- New voluntary coronavirus app, COVIDSafe
- Elective surgery update
- First GP led Respiratory Clinic opens in Grey
- Aged Care visitation
- JobKeeper update and bank assistance hotlines
- Current COVID figures
- More phone towers for Grey
- Key resources
- Anzac Day 2020
- COVIDSAFE: NEW APP TO SLOW THE SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS
On Sunday the Australian Government launched the new voluntary coronavirus app, COVIDSafe. The app is an important public health initiative that will help keep you, your family, and your community safe from further spread of coronavirus through early notification of possible exposure.
COVIDSafe, has been launched to help health authorities know who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The App is voluntary to download and no Commonwealth department or agency will have access to the data.
The app has received strong support from states and territories and the health sector, which recognise it is a valuable tool that will enhance the ability to respond rapidly to local outbreaks, and the confidence to know the virus is not silently spreading throughout communities.
How will the contact app work?
A user voluntarily downloads the app from the app store. The user registers to use the app by entering a name, phone number and postcode, and selecting their age range. They will receive a confirmation SMS text message to complete the installation of the app. On the basis of this information, an encrypted reference code is generated for the app on that phone. That code is changed every 2 hours to make it even more secure.
The app uses Bluetooth to look for other devices that have the app installed. It takes a note when that occurs, securely logging the other users’ encrypted reference code. The date and time, distance and duration of the contact are generated on the user’s phone and also recorded. The location is not recorded.
This information is securely encrypted and stored on the phone.
The app uses a rolling 21 day window to allow for the maximum 14 day incubation period, and the time taken to confirm a positive test result. The rolling 21 day window allows the app to continuously note only those user contacts that occur during the coronavirus incubation window. Contacts that occurred outside of the 21 day window are automatically deleted from the user’s phone.
The contact information on the phone is not accessible by anyone (including the user of the phone), until the user is diagnosed with coronavirus and they upload the contact information to a highly secure information storage system.
The uploaded information enables state or territory health officials to contact the user and close contacts to provide advice on actions they should take to manage their health.
This cycle continues if a user of the app who was a close contact subsequently tests positive.
The Chief Medical Officer’s advice is we need the COVIDSafe app as part of the plan to save lives and save livelihoods. The more people who download this important public health app, the safer they and their family will be, the safer their community will be and the sooner we can safely lift restrictions and get back to business and do the things we love.
For more information visit: www.covidsafe.gov.au
- ELECTIVE SURGERY UPDATE
Last week the National Cabinet agreed to ease restrictions on category two and certain category three surgeries, as well as certain dental surgeries.
The Australian Government in partnership with states and territories, peak surgical bodies, the AMA and the private hospital sector will be increasing the availability of elective surgery in a safe and carefully considered way which ensures the wellbeing of both patients and healthcare workers. This is possible due to the strong collaboration across governments to build capacity and strengthen the health system to reduce the threat of COVID-19. Through our containment measures we have successfully suppressed the virus: closing our borders, testing, tracing, and in particular, the social distancing and the isolation. These continue to be our strongest weapons against the coronavirus. We have been boosting the capacity of the hospitals and in addition secured over 3000 new ventilators and we have now received 60 million masks into the national stockpile. From that, perhaps most importantly, we have secured an extra 100 million masks over the next six weeks to protect our vital health care workers in what has been an intensely competitive global environment. The first phase of the reintroduction is due to occur this week. Reintroduction of elective surgery will be done using a staged and controlled process which balances the ongoing need for the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, while allowing our hospitals to treat elective surgery patients. The selection of patients to undergo elective surgery will ultimately be a clinical one, guided by the following principles, recommended by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and endorsed by National Cabinet: · Procedures representing low risk, high value care as determined by specialist societies · Selection of patients who are at low risk of post-operative deterioration· Children whose procedures have exceeded clinical wait times· Assisted reproduction (IVF) · Endoscopic procedures· Screening programs· Critical dental procedures.This first stage of reinstating elective surgeries will require health administrators to monitor supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), ICU and bed capacity, while preparing for the next phase. On the advice of AHPPC, in addition to Category 1 elective surgeries, hospitals will initially recommence one in four closed operating lists, with a focus on Category 2 and some important Category 3. An overall review for additional support will be undertaken at two weeks and at four weeks based on: · The number of positive cases, in both healthcare workers and patients, linked to increased activity· PPE use and availability· The volume of procedures and hospital/system capacity.3. FIRST RURAL SA COVID-19 GP RESPIRATORY CLINIC OPENS IN CLAREThe first GP-led respiratory clinic in country South Australia established as part of the Australian Government’s $2.4 billion health package to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak has opened in Clare at Clare Medical Centre on 41 Old North Road. The Government has committed to establishing up to 100 GP-led respiratory clinics around the country to assess patients with mild to moderate COVID-19-like symptoms. While the coronavirus is not widespread in rural areas, it’s important we have local doctors in our communities leading the local response and preparing in readiness should the virus continue to spread. These respiratory clinics will be best placed to support people with fever, cough, sore throat, and other respiratory symptoms and avoiding the risk of infection in the communities. They will also help to reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments and other general practices. To access a clinic, people can visit www.health.gov.au and use the online booking system. 4. AGED CARE VISITATIONMany people have contacted my offices over the past few weeks disappointed that they couldn’t visit their loved ones in aged care homes around the electorate. The Australian Government is determined to ensure a safe environment exists in aged care facilities as we work together to contain the spread of COVID-19. While providers shared a responsibility to protect the wellbeing of Senior Australians in care, total lock downs of facilities were not supported by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) or the National Cabinet. The Prime Minister emphasised last week that we are calling on aged care providers to voluntarily implement the AHPPC guidelines. If this does not occur we will consider further measures to ensure families can access suitable visiting rights. Contact with family and friends during this difficult time can be a vital link to ensure the health and wellbeing of Senior Australians in care. The AHPPC is concerned that in some cases this level of contact is not being maintained. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has issued guidance to providers reminding them to be conscious of their responsibility to ensure the health of residents and required quality of care levels. The AHPPC has advised that all residential aged care staff and visitors should be vaccinated by 1 May 2020. State and Territories have issued directions to give effect to these requirements. These directions will be enforced and persons who fail to comply could face penalties including fines for individuals and for bodies corporate. The Commission’s Chief Clinical Advisor has also offered advice around strategies to minimise the risk of transmission through staff and visitor screening. Entry screening advice is available here. (https://agedcarequality.govcms.gov.au/sites/default/files/media/Entry%20screening%20advice%20RACF%20-%2022%20April%202020.pdf) Free COVID-19 support line for Senior Australians Senior Australians, their families and carers can now call a dedicated free call support line aimed at supporting the mental health of those impacted by the spread of COVID-19. People can call this support line if they are feeling lonely or distressed, troubled or confused, or need to talk to someone about their concerns caring for a vulnerable person during the COVID-19 outbreak The support line will operate Monday to Friday, except public holidays, from 8.30am to 6pm. Call the COVID-19 support line on 1800 171 866. 5. JOBKEEPER UPDATE + BANK HOTLINE INFORMATION Extension of time to enrol for the JobKeeper scheme – please note the Commissioner has extended the time to enrol for the initial JobKeeper periods, from 30 April 2020 until 31 May 2020. If you enrol by 31 May you will still be able to claim for the fortnights in April and May, provided you meet all the eligibility requirements for each of those fortnights. This includes having paid your employees by the appropriate date for each fortnight. For the first two fortnights (30 March – 12 April, 13 April – 26 April), we will accept the minimum $1,500 payment for each fortnight has been paid by you even if it has been paid late, provided it is paid by you by the end of April. You can enrol and claim for JobKeeper earlier if you choose. For example, you can enrol by the end of April to claim JobKeeper payments for the two fortnights in April. For more information please visit: https://www.ato.gov.au/general/JobKeeper-Payment The Morrison Government is working closely with financial institutions to ensure that businesses affected by the coronavirus can access important bridging finance to pay their employees ahead of receiving their JobKeeper payments. Key actions and principles which the banks have agreed to implementing as a priority are· Setting up dedicated hotlines for customers to call for assistance in securing bridging finance · Expediting the processing of bridging finance applications from affected businessesFor your reference, the banks have set up hotlines as follows: · ANZ: 1800 571 123· Bank of Melbourne: 1300 784 873· Bank SA: 1300 669 472· CommBank: 13 26 07· NAB: 1800 JOBKEEPER (1800 562 533)· St George: 1300 730 196· Westpac: 1300 731 0736. AUSTRALIA’S CORONAVIRUS DAILY FIGURESWe are managing the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia as a health emergency. This page (https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-current-situation-and-case-numbers) is updated every day with the current situation, latest case numbers and related information.7. IMPROVED MOBILE COVERAGE FOR GREYLast week 10 new sites in Grey were announced under Round 5 of the Mobile Black Spots program – funding the delivery of 10 sites valued at $2.6 million, including a Commonwealth contribution of $1.2 million.Successful sites under Round 5 include Farina, Fowlers Bay, Koonibba, Leigh Creek Copley, Leigh Creek township, Lyndhurst, Mudamuckla, Nundroo and Yongala.Improved mobile coverage will help family and friends connect, access quality education and health services, do business globally and very importantly mobile coverage in these areas will be a huge bonus to the tourist industry. Increasingly tourists are not prepared to venture into areas without phone coverage and this will provide cover in some of the most remote parts of Grey.To date the Australian Government has committed $9.4 million under the program in the electorate of Grey to deliver new and improved mobile coverage with a national investment of $300m over the five rounds and a further $80m commitment for Round 6.In Grey the Commonwealth’s funding has leveraged a total investment of $27.7 million, including co-contributions from the mobile carriers, state and local governments, and community organisations funding 49 mobile stations across Grey. Thus far 25 are operational.The Government has announced it is commencing the design process for the next round of the program, Round 5A. The Government has released a discussion paper to consult on options for the design of this round. This round will use the remaining Round 5 funds to continue to expand and improve mobile coverage for regional and remote Australia.The discussion paper is available on the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications’ website at www.communications.gov.au/mbspSubmissions are due to the Department by 5pm 12 June 2020.The $80 million Round 6 of the program will commence after Round 5A. Round 6 will build on lessons learnt from Round 5A and earlier rounds of the program.Round 5 base stations are scheduled to roll out in the coming months with the first new base stations expected to be activated by the end of the year.8. KEY RESOURCESCoronavirus Australia app – Visit the App store to download it for free.Federal Government updates – www.australia.gov.au – This site is regularly updated to give you the latest Coronavirus news, updates and advice from government agencies across Australia.Economic assistance – www.Treasury.gov.au – all the fact sheets on economic measures are hereBusiness support – www.business.gov.au or call 13 28 46
Anzac Day looked a little different this year around Grey – Teresa and I had a Dawn Service at home, it’s not what we are used to, but still proud to be able to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of all who have served our country. Thank you to all those around Grey who also took time out on Anzac Day to pay your respects.
If you have any feedback or questions please don’t hesitate to reply to this email or give one of my offices a call on the phone numbers listed below. I always welcome residents’ feedback.
Rowan Ramsey MP
Federal Member for Grey