Important update on COVID-19 Restrictions affecting residential aged care, disability aged care and health care

This briefing discusses two issues relevant to residential aged care, disability care and health care facilities that are raised by requirements set out in the Emergency Management (Cross Border Travel No 9) (COVID-19) Direction 2020 (Cross Border Travel Direction).[1]

As aged care providers would be aware, the South Australian government is regulating entry into residential aged care facilities through the Emergency Management (Residential Aged Care Facilities No 6) (COVID-19) Direction 2020 (Aged Care Facilities Direction).[2] However, the requirements we discuss in this briefing (which are set out in the Cross Border Travel Direction) have not been reflected in the Aged Care Facilities Direction.

Entry into South Australia on compassionate grounds – face masks

In the Cross Border Travel Direction it is a requirement that persons entering South Australia on compassionate grounds wear a surgical face mask at all times when coming into contact with the public. For example, a person who has travelled from interstate* to visit a dying relative in an aged care facility, in accordance with the end of life support visit exemption under the Aged Care Facilities Direction, must comply with this requirement. In our view, attending an aged care facility is coming into contact with the public and the person should wear the mask at all times while at the facility.

The requirement to wear a face mask only applies to persons entering South Australia from New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory or Victoria (or persons who have been in those States or Territory in the 14 days prior to their entry into South Australia).

The face mask is required to be worn only for the period of 14 days commencing upon entry into South Australia. After the 14 day period has expired the person is no longer required to wear a mask when coming into contact with the public. However, providers may consider the wearing of a mask to still be appropriate in order to mitigate the risk of residents or staff contracting the coronavirus.

Commercial transport and freight workers* prohibited from entering residential aged care facilities, disability care facilities and health care facilities

A prohibition on commercial transport and freight workers* from entering residential aged care, disability care and health care facilities was recently introduced in the Cross Border Travel Direction by the South Australian State Co-ordinator, Police Commissioner Grantley Stevens (effective as of 9 July 2020).

The following discussion applies to transport or freight workers who have travelled to South Australia from New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory or Victoria or have been in those States or Territory in the 14 days prior to entering South Australia.

A transport or freight worker is a person who:

  • in the conduct of his or her duties, provides transport or freight services (including any crew on such transport or freight services) on a commercial basis;
  • provides these services into, within and out of South Australia; and
  • is required to be physically present in South Australia to provide these services.

Non-Victorian residents

A transport or freight worker, who is not ordinarily a resident of Victoria, is prohibited from entering (while in South Australia):

  • residential aged care facilities;
  • disability care facilities; or
  • health care facilities (Note: transport or freight workers are permitted to enter health care facilities for the purpose of seeking personal medical care).

For clarity, this also applies to transport or freight workers who are residents of South Australia.

A transport or freight worker is permitted to enter a facility listed above if he or she has approval from the Chief Executive of the Department for Health and Wellbeing, the South Australia Chief Public Health Officer or a deputy Chief Public Health Officer.

Victorian residents

A transport or freight worker, who ordinarily resides in Victoria, is required to self-quarantine at all times during which the person is not performing his or her duties, functions or activities as a transport or freight worker (including associated travel) while in South Australia. The only exceptions to this self-quarantine requirement are:

  • for obtaining medical care or medical supplies;
  • if there is an emergency situation; or
  • if he or she leaves self-quarantine for any reason approved in advance by the State Co-ordinator or his delegate or any authorised officer.

There is a nuance in the drafting of those requirements, in that there is no express prohibition from entering residential aged care, disability care and health care facilities (as there is with non-Victorian transport or freight workers). This leaves the possibility that a Victorian transport or freight worker might not be prohibited from entering such a facility if entry is in the course of performing his or her duties, functions or activities as a transport or freight worker (for example, if carrying deliveries from his or her vehicle to a location within the facility is a requirement of the relevant delivery).

..Commercial transport and freight workers* are prohibited from entering residential aged care, disability care and health care facilities...

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Alf Macolino

Alf Macolino

Partner
Rebecca Barr

Rebecca Barr

Partner
Helena Errey-White

Helena Errey-White

Solicitor