Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made some remarks on the ongoing viability of state border closures, as he announces a “gas-led recovery” from the coronavirus recession.
“Our health plan is critical to our economic plan,” the Prime Minister told reporters on Tuesday. “During this pandemic, by Australia pursuing both, we continue to do better than almost every other developed country in the world when it comes to protecting lives and livelihoods.”
However, referring to state border closures, the Prime Minister asserted “as long as we are closed, we cannot claim success as a country”.
“If we are shut, we are not living alongside the virus, the virus is actually keeping us from living,” he said.
“So as we emerge from this second wave in Victoria, and I had a good message from the Victorian premier this morning, let’s now seize the opportunity ahead of us to safely and successfully reopen this country, reconnect this country, and stay open.”
Two of France’s biggest cities with COVID-19 infection rates exceeding the national surge in new cases are tightening limits on public activities as the French government seeks to ward off a new nationwide lockdown.
The stricter restrictions announced in Marseille and Bordeaux responded to a demand from France’s prime minister that both cities take additional steps to stem their growing numbers of infections.
In Bordeaux, the top government official for the region announced a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people in public parks, along the city’s picturesque river and on beaches. The new rules also limit the size of large public gatherings to no more than 1000 people.
To counter partying, Bordeaux cafes and restaurants will also no longer be able to serve clients who are standing up and will not be able to play music outdoors. Dancing is forbidden in public venues, including at weddings. Drinking alcohol in public is also banned in Bordeaux, a centre of the French wine industry.
In Marseille, France’s second-biggest city after Paris, the regional government also announced a series of similar restrictions and the cancellation of an 11-day international festival.
A man wearing a protective face mask walks at Trocadero plaza near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Source: AP
The Australian Government today releases the review findings into the spread of COVID-19 at Sydney aged care facility Newmarch House.
In offering further condolences to the families of the 19 residents who died as a result of the outbreak between April and June, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck said lessons learned are being implemented to offer greater protections as we continue to combat the pandemic.
“The outbreak at Anglicare’s Newmarch House was incredibly challenging and underlined the impact this infection can have within an aged care facility,” Minister Colbeck said.
“The Australian Government is committed to learning from the experience at Newmarch House and to doing all we can to ensure aged care providers are prepared to address future outbreaks so that residents receive safe and quality care.”
In June 2020, the Chief Medical Officer and now Secretary of the Department of Health, Professor Brendan Murphy, commissioned Professor Lyn Gilbert and Adjunct Professor Alan Lilly undertook the independent review.
They consulted with stakeholders, including family members of residents, to provide a comprehensive break down of what led to the outbreak and how authorities responded to it.
Minister Colbeck said the review is an important resource for all levels of government which would improve the management of potential future outbreaks and inform advice and guidance to support the aged care sector.
“We continue to integrate the learnings from Newmarch and infections in Victoria into the national response as outbreaks occur,” Minister Colbeck said.
Changes already implemented include:
Ensuring early identification of all COVID-19 cases via immediate and repeated testing of all residents and staff as soon as the first case is identified;
Actions to reinforce compromised management;
Immediate engagement of advocacy group Older People’s Advocacy Network (OPAN) to ensure services and information are available to providers, residents and their families;
The provision of support from the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre (in Victoria) to improve communication, staff and management support;
Expansion of surge workforce providers for facilities affected by outbreaks; and
Practical additional infection control training, including support from AUSMAT.
Additionally, the Australian Government is supporting the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in its monitoring efforts.
The Commission continues to take decisive steps related to the issuing of corrective action to ensure providers and management respond appropriately and levels of care are met.
Minister Colbeck said throughout the pandemic there has also been regular, ongoing communication to the aged care sector about managing outbreaks, including providing updated advice incorporating learnings from Australia and other countries.
The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) outbreak guidelines are supported by a ‘First 24 hours’ document, published by the Department, which also provides aged care facilities with practical steps they should take in order, following the identification of a positive COVID case.
“Each of these implemented actions, are another step toward reinforcing the sector and ultimately protecting senior and vulnerable Australians,” Minister Colbeck said.
“The Government’s measures to tackle COVID-19 in aged care now exceeds $1 billion.”
The independent review into the impact of COVID-19 at Newmarch House can be found on the website.
Key decisions at a Western Sydney aged care home where 17 residents died after contracting coronavirus were delayed because of “dysfunction” between state and Commonwealth governments, a royal commission has heard.
Private care workers “weren’t up to the task”, the royal commission heard
Dr James Branley was against moving residents to hospital
Newmarch House staff were given contradicting advice on wearing PPE
Grant Millard, the Chief Executive Officer of Anglicare, which runs Newmarch House, described the bureaucratic squabbling behind the scenes once the first case was diagnosed on April 11.
He said one of the areas of disagreement was whether residents who had tested positive to coronavirus should be transferred to hospital for care.
“The level of dysfunction or disagreement about issues was particularly intense over the first two weeks of the outbreak,” he said during his evidence at the Royal Commission into Aged Care.
At the time, Newmarch House was getting specialist advice from James Branley, the Head of Infectious Diseases at Nepean Hospital.
Mr Millard said Dr Branley was strongly opposed to transferring residents out of the home.
“He was concerned about spread of the virus to outside Newmarch House and I was greatly concerned that James Branley would walk away,” he said.
He told the inquiry that Dr Branley was frustrated over the lack of clarity over who was making decisions.
“He wasn’t threatening to walk but he was saying he couldn’t work in this environment.”
The situation became so serious that Mr Millard contacted the Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck seeking clarity about who was in charge.
He said within hours, the issue was resolved with instructions that Dr Branley was the person in charge of making clinical decisions.
The Anglicare CEO admitted that the operators had been “overwhelmed” by the challenge of dealing with the pandemic.
He told the royal commission the advice from Dr Branley was that all staff at Newmarch House should be wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) with all residents.
But the advice from the NSW Health was that PPE should only be used for positive residents and suspected cases.
“It was deeply distressing, based on the advice of the expert we had, you really need to treat all of your residents as COVID-positive until it’s proven otherwise,” he said.
He said a shortage of PPE in the early stages of the outbreak meant that many of the staff at Newmarch House became infected or had to go into self-isolation.
Senior Counsel Assisting Peter Rozen QC asked whether this was an example of a residential aged care home trying to implement hospital standards without having the necessary equipment.
“That is an example of it, yes,” Mr Millard replied.
The inquiry heard that this meant that within days of the outbreak starting, Newmarch House had lost 87 per cent of its workforce.
He told of the struggle to find replacement staff.
“People were scared, they were terrified of COVID, it was difficult to get people,” he said.
The Commonwealth Department of Health put them in touch with Mable, a private care worker agency that was receiving funding by the Federal Government to provide staff at short notice.
“There were very few people who had residential aged care experience, some had home care experience, none of them had any practical experience in the use of PPE,” Mr Millard said.
“Early on they just weren’t up to the task. It was dangerous for them.”
Virginia Clarke’s 94-year-old father Ron died after contracting COVID-19 at Newmarch House.
She told the commission that there was a lack of communication from Anglicare about her father’s condition and what treatment he was receiving.
“Communication needs to be better and our elderly need to be protected,” she said.
“It’s not fair what happened to my dad and other residents at Newmarch House.”
NSW’s COVID-19 death toll now stands at 36 after a sixth resident died at a western Sydney aged care home where almost 50 people have been infected.
The 83-year-old man, who resided at Newmarch House in Caddens, died on Saturday morning, operator Anglicare Sydney said.
This follows the death of a 96-year-old woman on Friday morning, a woman in her late 70s on Thursday and earlier fatalities of a woman and two men all aged in their 90s.
The facility is the state’s largest ongoing cluster, with some 31 of the almost 100 residents having been infected as well as 17 staff members.
An aged care worker at the healthcare facility in the Blue Mountains also tested positive for coronavirus, one of 12 new cases confirmed in NSW on Saturday.
The worker from Catholic Healthcare Bodington had not been at the aged care home within 48 hours of showing symptoms, Channel 7 reported.
NSW Health said no other positive cases had been confirmed at the facility. The total number of confirmed cases in NSW is 2994, more than 44 per cent of Australia’s total number of cases at 6695. Some 19 people are in intensive care in NSW.
The majority of NSW confirmed cases have been found in people aged 20 to 29, with 635 positive tests making up more than 21 per cent of the state’s total cases.
This comes as the controversial app to help trace people who come into contact with someone with COVID-19 will be launched on Sunday.
The Australian app is based on Singapore’s Tracetogether software, which records the Bluetooth connections a phone makes with others so the user can give that data to state health authorities if they catch the virus.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who has recovered from a bout of COVID-19, said it was a more effective approach than checking your diary or trying to remember where you had been.
“The beauty of the app is that it can have a handshake, if you like, with people that you’ve been in close proximity with, find the phone,” he told Sky Sunday Agenda.
He said the privacy issues had been dealt with, and said the app would help the authorities stop the spread of the virus.
“It’s an incredibly important next step.”
A broader testing regime and a government contact tracing app are seen as key stepping stones to a relaxation of the economic shutdown.
The government wants at least 40 per cent of the population to sign up so officials can do “industrial-scale” contact tracing.