There have been several developments in the Government's response to Coronavirus (COVID-19).
First, we’ve upgraded the travel advice for Italy. Further advice that we receive from the Health Protection Principal Committee will go before the National Security Committee in the next 24 hours.
Second, the Federal Government has committed to a 50-50 shared health funding deal with the states and territories to address additional costs incurred as a result of the diagnosis and treatment of patients with, or suspected of having, COVID-19.
Last, the Australian Government has unveiled a comprehensive $2.4 billion health package to protect all Australians, including vulnerable groups such as the elderly, those with chronic conditions and Indigenous communities, from Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The package provides unprecedented support across primary care, aged care, hospitals, research and the national medical stockpile, including;
- $100 million for a new Medicare item so health services can be delivered by audio or video to people with Coronavirus symptoms at home
- $205 million for up to 100 ‘pop-up respiratory clinics’ for areas of need that will be a one-stop-shop for people to be tested and treated
- An initial $500 million worth of Commonwealth funding for the health costs from coronavirus (the 50-50 arrangement with states and territories)
As the Prime Minister said in a recent speech to the AFR Business Summit;
"Whatever you thought 2020 was going to be about, think again. We now have one goal, together, this year – to protect the health, the wellbeing and livelihoods of Australians through this global crisis, and to ensure that when the recovery comes, and it will, we are well-positioned to bounce back strongly on the other side."
What can you do to stay safe?
Good hygiene is the best way to avoid infection. This includes:
- Regularly washing your hands with soap and water;
- Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze;
- Avoiding close contact with those who have been infected; and
- Not attending the workplace if you are sick.
Surgical masks are only recommended to members of the community who are displaying symptoms. If you are not unwell, there is no need to wear a surgical mask.
If you do become unwell and have reason to believe you may have Coronavirus it is important that you seek medical attention early. Make sure you call ahead so that your doctor's surgery can be prepared.
Who is at higher risk?
In Australia, the people most at risk of getting the virus are those who have recently been in a high-risk country/region and people who have been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus.
If you have returned from a country or region that is at higher risk for COVID-19, you cannot attend work if you work in a setting with vulnerable people.
From previous experience with other coronaviruses, other categories of people at most risk of serious infection are:
- people with compromised immune systems (e.g. cancer)
- elderly people
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people^
- people with diagnosed chronic medical conditions
- very young children and babies*
- people in group residential settings
- people in detention facilities
^Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience a burden of disease 2.3 times the rate of other Australians. This may increase the risk of severe disease.
*At this stage, the risk to children and babies, and the role children play in the transmission of COVID-19, is not clear. However, there has so far been a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children relative to the broader population.
Do I need to stockpile anything?
I understand the anxiety people may be feeling in our community. However, we are acting on the best and most up-to-date advice which says stockpiling household essentials is not encouraged.
Australia was one of the first countries to declare a disease of pandemic potential. We've gotten ahead and are prepared.
The Federal government has a fully prepared National Medical Stockpile for medicinal supplies.
Funding of $1.1 billion will ensure patients and critical health care staff have face masks, and other protective equipment such as surgical gowns, goggles and hand sanitiser.
This funding will also be used to purchase antibiotics and antivirals for the National Medical Stockpile, so that patients who experience secondary infection as a result of COVID-19 can be treated quickly, and health effects minimised.
The Government will also invest $30 million in infection control training and programs for health and aged care workers.
Our priority is keeping Australians safe.
There are travel restrictions for travellers from mainland China, Iran and the Republic of Korea.
If you are returning from mainland China or Iran you should isolate yourself for 14 days after leaving mainland China or Iran. This evening a travel ban will be implemented for Italy.
If you are travelling from the Republic of Korea, on or after 5 March, you must isolate yourself for 14 days from the time you left the Republic of Korea.
If you are arriving in Australia from Italy, you must present for health screening at the border as directed. Unless you are instructed to, you do not need to isolate at home.
If you work as a healthcare worker or as a residential aged care worker, you cannot attend work for 14 days after leaving Italy.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has raised the level of advice for:
DFAT has advised Australians to reconsider taking an overseas cruise at this time due to COVID-19, particularly people with underlying health concerns.
Where to find more information?
The Australian Government's response to coronavirus is adapting to the situation. You can keep up to date with the resources below:
- National Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080
- Advice for parents, employers, travellers and more is available at the Department of Health website click here