Preparing for next stage of COVID-19 response
May 14, 2020
Victoria has begun to ease restrictions, following the rest of Australia, as it has continued to test extensively and combat outbreaks.
Under the gradual easing of restrictions, Victorians can now:
- Meet with friends and family, with a maximum gathering of up to 10 outdoors and up to 5 visitors to a home.
- Have weddings with up to 10 guests; 20 people will be able to attend funerals held indoors – this goes up to 30 if the service is outdoors.
- Engage in outdoor recreational activities, including walking, fishing, and golf, but physical distancing requirements must be maintained.
These new conditions and a renewed State of Emergency will be in place until Sunday 31 May, when further announcements may be made.
To support the process of easing restrictions, the Victorian Government has focused on testing and tracing capabilities. The State Government exceeded its 100,000 testing blitz over two weeks, with over 161,000 people tested. Following that success, the Victorian Government announced $20 million to support Victorian testing, surveillance and outbreak response.
A further 50,000 tests will be conducted over the next week, and a further 150,000 tests conducted by the end of May. A new ‘outbreak unit’ will also be created within the Department of Health and Human Services’ public health team, which will respond to clusters as they develop as well as support proactive prevention. It is anticipated that the easing of restrictions will lead to further outbreaks and clusters of cases, which services should be prepared for.
The past week has also seen further support and guidance for services. This includes:
- Updated guidance on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in non-inpatient health care settings during the COVID-19 outbreak, available here from the Commonwealth Government.
- A factsheet on dispensing prescriptions via telehealth, available here.
- 40 million new masks which the Commonwealth Minister for Health announced this week. This includes 35 million masks to hospitals, 1.5 million additional masks for aged care workers, and 3.5 million masks for primary health care workers.
The National Cabinet, last Friday, agreed on a national framework for the removal of some COVID-19 restrictions. The goal is for all states to be at the same level by July 2020, with each state responsible for progress through three agreed steps, when larger gatherings of 100 people may be able to take place. Victoria has taken a more conservative approach than other states and territories, with Premier Daniel Andrews confirming at a Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing that Victoria is being purposefully cautious to reduce the risk of needing to bring back restrictions.
Between 6 and 13 May:
- Victoria, with ongoing intensive testing, continued to have a higher number of cases compared to the rest of Australia. There were more than 70 cases across the past week (1,440 cases – 1,514 cases), compared to a low of 18 cases two weeks before. While this is an increase it is, within the current global context, still a low figure.
- The number of deaths in the state from COVID-19 remained at 18 – no changes this week.
- Victoria continued to see evidence of limited community transmission, with identified untraced community transmissions increasing from 145 to 164 cases. This is positive considering the increase in COVID-19 testing.
- Over 110,000 tests have been processed in the past week (162,000< – 273,000<), more than doubling the number tested in the previous week. Victoria exceeded the aim of its testing blitz, with 161,000 people tested in two weeks; Victoria has, at points, tested more than the rest of Australia combined.
To help members stay up-to-date with key advice from State and Commonwealth governments in relation to COVID-19, the VHA has continued to share, each day, a COVID-19 wrap-up on its website, which is available here.
For the latest information, check the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Health websites.
If you have a query that you would like the VHA to follow up with government, please email email@example.com and we will work with relevant stakeholders to secure a response.