NSW aged care residents will be able to see face-to-face two fully vaccinated visitors per day from 11 October for the first time since 26 June.
NSW Health officials met with their Federal Government counterparts on Tuesday to negotiate allowing visitors back into aged care homes in a bid to form a national approach for aged care operators.
The national move, which would exclude anyone under the age of 12, has been hit by the Queensland Government on Wednesday shutting down all aged care homes in Brisbane City and Moreton Bay Region after two people from the Gold Coast were infectious in the community. In Victoria, all of metropolitan Melbourne, Mitchell Shire and the City of Latrobe are locked down with COVID-19 cases growing.
“I am looking forward to seeing my parents in that week,” said NSW Premier Glady Berejiklian on Wednesday morning.
“This is welcome news and we ask people to exercise a degree of caution. If you have symptoms or you are not well, don’t do it. We don’t want to compromise the safety of your loved ones and those around you.”
Data from operation COVID Shield shows 99.4% of NSW residential aged care workers have received a first dose of a vaccine and 85.9% are fully vaccinated.
More than 90% of aged care residents have had their first dose, and more than 86% are fully vaccinated, the head of the COVID-19 vaccine taskforce said on Tuesday.
Paul Sadler, Aged and Community Services Australia CEO, which has been consulting with NSW Health, said the sector supported a staged return to visits for residents, ideally incorporating a rapid antigen testing protocol.
“We need public health experts at the highest level to set a policy that balances all the pandemic risks against the absolutely critical need for social and personal support from family and friends,” he said.
“These are extremely difficult choices, because an outbreak in a residential home can be deadly and very hard on all residents and staff. This is the case even now that we are almost fully vaccinated in residential aged care.
“All governments must have a clear policy and plan for our visitation in aged care that will work when the virus is in the community but we have high vaccination rates.”