Current health advice suggests that there may be an increase in COVID-19 transmission due to the new BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron strains.
Carers NSW is closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the ongoing government response and the wide-ranging impacts it has on carers. Below is our latest COVID-19 information for carers, as well as information about new COVID-19 resources for carers.
*Last updated 29 July 2022
COVID-19 Vaccine Winter booster dose now available
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has updated its recommendations for a winter dose of COVID-19 vaccine to help reduce severe disease from the emerging surge of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariant infections.
From 11 July 2022, some groups will be eligible for an additional winter COVID-19 vaccine (second booster), including:
- People aged 50 to 65 years
- People aged 30 to 49 years can also receive a winter booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, however the benefit for people in this age group is less certain.
ATAGI urges people previously eligible for a winter booster dose and who remain at higher risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19 (such as the elderly, people living a disability or who are severely immunocompromised, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people living in aged care or disability residential care) to ensure they are up to date with their vaccinations.
For further information on the winter COVID-19 vaccine (second booster) including checking your eligibility and booking your vaccination, please visit: http://ow.ly/zFC450JReaP.
Free NSW Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) program extended
The NSW Government has announced that it will provide free Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) to vulnerable communities and expand its existing program to include those accessing tests through the Federal Government’s Concessional Access Program, which is due to finish at the end of the month.
Eligible Commonwealth Concession Card holders in NSW will be able to access 10 Rapid Antigen Tests over three months up until 31 October 2022.
Tests will be available through 210 neighbourhood and community centres located across the state. For more information, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and to find neighbourhood and community centres providing Rapid Antigen Tests, visit www.dcj.nsw.gov.au/rapid-tests.
NSW Health has also published rapid antigen test (RAT) guidance for carers and workers supporting people with vision impairment which is now available at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/.../rat-visually-impaired.aspx.
Eligibility for COVID-19 antiviral treatments expanded
The Australian Government has expanded access to COVID-19 antiviral treatments. Antiviral treatments, taken as a tablet or capsule, help to stop COVID-19 symptoms from becoming severe.
From Monday 11 July 2022, eligibility for antivirals under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) will be extended to:
- All Australians aged over 70 who test positive to COVID, this includes persons who test positive to COVID on a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT),
- People aged over 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease,
- Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged over 30 with two or more risk factors for severe disease,
- Immunocompromised people over 18 may also be eligible, this includes people living with disability with multiple conditions and/or frailty.
For those eligible, this will reduce the cost of the two antivirals available on the PBS to $6.80 for a concession card holders, and around $40 for those who do not have a concession card.
Antivirals can be accessed at local pharmacies with a prescription provided by a GP. People who test positive for COVID-19 that may benefit from antiviral treatment should contact their GP to discuss if antiviral treatments are right for them.
Furthermore, the Australian Government has agreed to create a new, temporary telehealth item so GPs can spend longer with their patients to assess their suitably for oral COVID-19 antivirals.
Carers can find out more about antivirals including when and how they should be used from the Department of Health and Aged Care.
Paid pandemic leave reinstated
In recognition of the risks associated with more infectious new variants through the winter period, the Federal Government has announced that in partnership with state and territory Governments the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment will be reinstated until 30 September 2022.
Eligibility for the payment will be backdated to 1 July 2022, to ensure that anyone unable to work owing to isolation requirements in this period, without access to paid sick leave, is supported.
Access to these payments will commence from Wednesday 20 July, with existing eligibility requirements to continue. Carers can find out more about eligibility and applying for this Payment through Services Australia.
Visiting residential care facilities
This advice provides guidance in relation to visitors in the areas of:
- Pre-screening or testing for COVID-19 before entry
- Limits on visitor numbers
- Encouragement of vaccination, and
- Additional best practice infection control measures.
The NSW Public Health Order continues to outline circumstances where visitors must not enter a residential aged care facility (RACF) at all. This includes if they:
- Have COVID-19 symptoms.
- Are a household or close contact. These people must comply with the directions in the NSW Health Household and Close Contact Guidelines and must not visit a RACF for at least 7 days after the last person in their house had a positive COVID-19 test. They should continue to avoid RACFs for an additional 7 days where possible. If there are extenuating compassionate reasons for visiting a RACF and the visitor does not have symptoms of COVID-19, the facility may risk assess to determine whether a visit can safely occur.
- Are waiting for a COVID-19 test result.
- Have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 10 days.
Staying safe as restrictions ease
Carers NSW understands that some carers may be concerned about increasing COVID-19 transmission in the community. The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC):
- Staying up to date with your vaccinations
- Wearing a mask outside your home when in crowded, indoor environments including on public transport. This is important to protect yourself and others.
Ensuring indoor spaces are well ventilated
- Staying home if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, and get tested
- If you have any symptoms, are at higher risk of severe illness and have a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) result, seek a PCR test to confirm whether or not you have COVID-19 so you can access oral treatments for COVID-19 if eligible.
- Not attending high-risk settings such as health care (unless seeking treatment), aged care and disability settings or correctional facilities if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild
- Employers should review their occupational health and safety risks and mitigations, and their business continuity plans. They should consider the feasibility of some employees working from home and support employees to take leave when sick.
- Practising good respiratory and hand hygiene
- Staying up to date with jurisdictional public health requirements and information
Carers NSW new COVID-19 resources
Fact sheet: Caring for older people in COVID-19
Carers NSW has developed a fact sheet for carers of people who are ageing, Fact sheet: Caring for an older person in COVID-19, which provides useful information and suggestions for continuing care through the winter months in the context of the ongoing pandemic.
Consultation briefing: Experiences of caring for a person who is ageing during COVID-19
Carers NSW has also developed a consultation briefing, Experiences of caring for a person who is ageing during COVID-19.
This briefing builds on Carers NSW previous consultation report The COVID-19 Pandemic: Challenges and opportunities for carers in NSW, and draws on findings from consultations held with carers during Seniors Week 2022, as well as case studies collected from carers from January 2022 – June 2022.
Tailored information for carers
Resources developed by Carers NSW to support carers to manage the practical and emotional challenges of caring through COVID-19, are available on our Carer Resources page, using the search term 'COVID'.