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New SA aged care restrictions to protect "most vulnerable" from COVID-19

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Aged care workers will only be able to work at one site and must wear masks when they come within 1.5 metres of residents under new restrictions imposed by the SA Government today.

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It comes as South Australia today recorded no new COVID-19 cases for the sixth consecutive day.

Premier Steven Marshall today praised the state’s “unblemished” record of no coronavirus cases among people living in aged care facilities, but he said the state could not be “complacent”.

The new aged care restrictions, which will be phased-in over the next two weeks, apply to workers in public and private residential aged care facilities and are modelled off similar regulations already in place in Victoria and Queensland.

All aged care providers will be asked to restrict their workers to one site to stop the spread of the disease across facilities.

Health Minister Stephen Wade acknowledged the restriction would pose “difficulties” for the sector, but the Government would do “everything we can” to minimise disruption.

“We are urging the aged care sector to work with different facilities to try to make sure that a person who’s working at one facility and can’t work at another can be matched with another worker who can provide the coverage of the shifts,” he said.

“We’re very keen to keep our workforce employed.”

Meanwhile, all nurses, medical, allied health and personal care staff will be required to wear a face mask whenever they come within 1.5 metres of an aged care resident.

“That would include things such as feeding a resident and providing that high-level of personal care such as bathing a resident for example,” SA chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said.

“They will need to be using appropriate PPE but particularly masks being the prime importance in that setting.

“These are the very, very vulnerable – most vulnerable people – in our community and so we are taking this time whilst we do not have community transmission in our state to make sure that those facilities are as safe as absolutely possible for those vulnerable residents.”

Marshall said South Australia was the only state in Australia that required people who live in aged care facilities to be removed from the premises if they test positive for COVID-19.

It comes after the State Government yesterday announced communities living close to South Australia’s border with Victoria would be prevented from travelling between the states unless they have successfully applied for approval.

The restriction will be enforced from next week, with students who are studying years 11 or 12 or farmers whose properties span the border able to apply for exemptions.

A previous cap of 10 people in private homes will be lifted to up to 10 visitors, in addition to those who live in the home, to a maximum of 20. Other non-licensed gatherings will be capped at 100.

State emergency coordinator Grant Stevens also confirmed that a range of venues – including gyms, shopping centres, cafes, food courts, places of worship and licensed premises – will be required to have a clearly identified “COVID marshal” on premises from August 21. This will be a “visual reminder” to patrons to comply with social distancing and other hygiene measures.

Marshall today said the State Government was increasing restrictions in line with the risk of COVID-19 spreading from the eastern states into SA.

He said the Government was attempting to “balance” the health need with economic impacts to ensure people could continue to go about their normal lives as much as possible.

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