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‘Hugs are in’: The plan to get visitors back into aged care

“You still need to do what you can to minimise the possibility of the virus getting in,” he said.
“You’ve got vaccination, but you also still have screening and then you have physical measures to prevent the virus being spread – PPE, testing, those sorts of things that can help to mitigate it as well.”

While he believes the country will see “really high levels of vaccination”, Senator Colbeck noted there will be a large group of potential visitors under the age of 12 who will not be vaccinated and the aged care advisory group was looking at that particular issue.

“People in aged care will want to see their young rellies, so how do we appropriately deal with that?” he said.

The minister has also been in discussion with the sector on the plan. Chief executive of peak body Aged Care Services Australia, Paul Sadler, said ACSA was working with other provider and consumer peak bodies on revising the visitation code which was created last year in response to the pandemic.

“We now need to sit down with the consumer groups and discuss how can we get lift restrictions in a sensible way, that doesn’t put people at additional risk, but that actually gets back to the human rights of older people to see their families, engage with friends, go out into the community,” he said.

Mr Sadler said rapid antigen testing has a large role as a “supplementary protection” and should be made available more broadly throughout the sector.

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“That can be part of the solution for the next steps of freeing up safely,” he said.

Senator Colbeck said even though jurisdictions had their own public health orders the federal government also needed to provide “broad advice” to the aged care sector.

He has asked the aged care advisory group in the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee to examine what living with COVID-19 will look like, including visitation. Once completed, that work will be taken to national cabinet.

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