National COVID Update: COVID-19 risk increases and emergency management plan reviews
What you need to know
- An eighth wave of COVID-19 is spreading across the country, made worse by low vaccination rates and COVID-19 communication fatigue.
- Providers should review their COVID-19 safe plans and share them with staff, stressing the importance of staying up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations.
- New posters and other workplace resources highlight the importance of mask wearing, social distancing, ventilation and hand hygiene.
- With summer risk conditions already affecting communities, governments are recommending providers review all their emergency and disaster management plans.
Latest COVID-19 wave
An eighth wave of COVID-19 is spreading across communities and not expected to peak until Christmas. Health authorities are concerned that the serious, long-term effects of infection are being dismissed through communication fatigue.
Authorities urge increased risk management, including:
- Social distancing indoors with 1.5 meters between individuals.
- Refreshing the messaging on correct hand hygiene and standard and transmission-based precautions with factsheets, posters and other resources.
- Stocking facilities with adequate supplies of soap, sanitiser, RATs and PPE.
- Reviewing risks to staff in close-contact environments for the adoption of N95 masks. (NDS has a video on the safest way to use an N95 or P2 mask.)
- Improving ventilation indoors or using air scrubbers. (Air scrubbers should be checked for correct positioning and monitored for servicing and cleaning.)
- Taking action on symptomatic staff or those testing positive for COVID-19, which involves:
- Checking that all staff are familiar with your organisation’s policy and procedure on COVID-19 testing and isolation from work when found positive or symptomatic.
- Checking the COVID-19 leave grant guidelines for staff who have exhausted all leave — submission Round Three opens on 18 December.
- Revisiting communications and agreements with participants about their involvement in activities when COVID-19 positive or symptomatic.
- Reviewing risk management recommendations for people visiting participants living with immune compromise or chronic health conditions.
Referring to NDS COVID-19 Risk Management resources that includes Australian Government outbreak management and guidance for disability settings.
Rates of COVID-19 vaccination across the country are very low, with health authorities strongly recommending that employers encourage all staff to receive their eligible COVID-19 vaccination. This is still an important risk management strategy to reduce risk of poor health from infection.
To prevent infections and hospitalisations, providers should share up-to-date information about COVID-19 vaccination doses and eligibility with people with a disability and their families or carers.
On 20 November, ATAGI identified additional vaccine options. However, dose and eligibility requirements have not changed. You can find full details on their COVID-19 booster vaccine advice webpage.
COVID-19 vaccination providers can be found on the Service Finder on healthdirect.
NDIS COVID-19 information for participants
Providers to be aware that the NDIS have sent a newsletter to remind people with a disability, their families and carers about the importance of staying COVID safe.
The newsletter highlights the existing options for as part of their plan to access additional funded assistance for COVID-19 vaccinations. This also includes the reminder that RATS can be purchased by people with a disability as part of core supports.
The Growing Space and other support coordination providers have developed a free online COVID-19 kit COVID-19 kit for support coordinators.
Management of COVID-19 risks is beneficial for all staff, people with a disability and the community. It also falls under provider responsibilities to address known workplace risks.
NDIS Commission Emergency Management and Disaster Management Standard
Given the current COVID-19 wave and extreme weather predicted across Australia this summer, your service should review its emergency and disaster plans and communications in line with NDIS Practice Standards and Quality Indicators.
With the next few weeks, NDS will hold another webinar on the implementation of the NDIS Commission standard for COVID-19 and natural disasters.
Resources for emergency and disaster management
- NDIS and Bushfire emergency support
- A recording of the NDS and NDIS Commission Emergency and Disaster Management Webinar held in November 2021
- NDS has produced a factsheet, a tip sheet and a checklist on Emergency and Disaster Management in NDIS Supports and Services.