As Melbourne records nearly 200 new cases of COVID-19 and faces a further six weeks lockdowns, a staff member at Assisi Aged Care facility has tested positive to the deadly virus.
The staff member had not worked at Assisi for over a week at the time of the test result and did not show any symptoms until five days after the last shift worked, according to a statement issued by the aged care provider.
Assisi immediately informed both state and federal health authorities, and was advised to take “immediate stringent action to reduce risks”, according to the statement.
The actions taken include widespread testing of all staff and residents, and lock down of the affected unit. Any visitors to the unit will be tested and PPE will be mandatory for all staff caring for residents in isolation. Strict infection control measures remain in place and even the mildest symptoms are being picked up due to increased vigilance. “Deep cleaning” is being conducted frequently.
“Some residents and staff have been placed in precautionary isolation pending further assessment and advice from authorities,” Assisi said.
Seven staff have also tested positive to COVID-19 at Melbourne’s busiest emergency department, Northern Hospital. All staff in the department are being tested.
As the scale of Melbourne’s second wave ramps up, the Aged Care Minister, Richard Colbeck, has urged older Australians to remain vigilant against COVID-19.
“Senior Victorians should closely follow advice as authorities work to contain emerging clusters,” Mr Colbeck said.
But elsewhere in Australia, the stable low number of cases of COVID-19 has permitted progressive relaxation of travel and other distancing restrictions.
Mr Colbeck said the risk of becoming infected with the virus depends on the chance of being close to someone with COVID-19 or coming into contact with surfaces contaminated by the virus.
“If there are no cases or a low number of cases and no evidence of community transmission, then the risk of exposure is low – regardless of age or health conditions,” he said.
Minister Colbeck said in areas outside Victoria, residents previously categorized as at higher risk of becoming ill could return to work and take part in recreational activities, so long as they “followed precautions”.
Social distancing, practising good hygiene, and downloading the COVIDSafe app are all good ways to prevent the spread of infection, Mr Colbeck said.
Where case numbers have increased, residents should consider the risk to the individual, the risk to others, the level of transmission of COVID-19 where they live and travel, and whether interactions and activities can happen safely.
“Each person has a personal responsibility to protect themselves, to protect loved ones and the wider community,” Minister Colbeck said.
“People will have different things that are important to them and will be comfortable with different levels of risk.”
“We are facing an extraordinary health challenge and we need to work together to protect the people we loved most,” the minister said.
The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line for older Australians is available Monday to Friday, except public holidays, from 8.30am to 6.00pm on 1800 171 866.