Hope for the elderly as PM hits out at care homes


SCOTT Morrison has sounded the alarm over isolating grandparents and urged Australians to visit vulnerable seniors as National Cabinet wargames the types of restrictions to be lifted in three weeks.

In a thinly veiled swipe at aged care facilities - and in a message also targeting overzealous police - the Prime Minister warned older Australians were at serious risk because they were being unnecessarily locked away.

However, young children visiting grandparents remains discouraged.

After National Cabinet yesterday, Mr Morison also revealed elective surgery and IVF would begin again next week, a further sign the health system is transitioning out of the coronavirus.

The magic number for the road out - a transmission rate consistently under 1 - has continued for more than a week, raising hopes Australia could start lifting social and economic restrictions in just three weeks.

Australia recorded just 26 new cases yesterday.

Mr Morrison praised the good work of Australians but signalled that there had been overzealous enforcement of social distancing.

"On aged care, we reviewed recent events in a number of aged care facilities and took the lessons from those cases and an important one is the finding that we are very concerned about the impact of restrictions that had been put in place in aged care facilities over and above what was recommended by the National Cabinet on the residents in those facilities," Mr Morrison said.



"There is great concern that the isolation of elderly people in residential care facilities where they have been prevented from having any visitors from loved ones and support people is not good for their well-being, is not good for their health.

"So the National Cabinet agreed that there needs to be a strong reminder that the National Cabinet decision was to not shut people off or to lock them away in their rooms.

"That was never the recommendation nor the advice of the National Cabinet. I think the advice was very clear about ensuring that there could be visits of two per day, close relatives and support people, and this would be undertaken in the resident's rooms but otherwise residents would be able to be in other parts of the facility, sit in common rooms or outdoor areas and we would like as many freedoms to be extended to residents in aged care facilities as is possible."

He said it "should not be done from convenience of isolation in terms of how the facilities are run, it should always be done only in the interest of the care of those living in such facilities".

He stressed that older people who were self-isolating should not be forgotten.



"That does not mean that for care and compassionate reasons that they cannot receive visits from those who would normally provide that care.

"That may be a relative or a carer or a friendly neighbour who regularly looks in on someone. (Wife) Jen (Morrison) just visited someone the other day for that purpose and the visit was well received.

"This is important I think for the mental health and well-being of elderly residents in our community."

Chief Health Officer Brendan Murphy said there were good measures in place in nursing homes and to respond to outbreaks.

"But as the Prime Minister has said, it is not reasonable in a situation as we are now across pretty much the whole country, where community outbreaks are not in existence to lock poor residents away from their family."


Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe said it was possible for restrictions to "begin to be progressively lessened by around the middle of the year and are mostly removed by late in the year, perhaps with restrictions on international travel".

Heath Minister Greg Hunt said there were progress on all three fronts - containment, capacity and recovery. "And it is the progress on those first two fronts of containment and capacity which allow us to take these steps on the road to recovery through greater freedoms and opportunities for elective surgery, which will mean such an enormous amount to Australians in need of health assistance," Mr Hunt said.

"We now have a sustained and consolidated flattening of the curve. Less than 1 per cent growth in cases
for nine consecutive days and over the last three days we have had averaged less than half a percent of both in new cases. -- half a percent of growth.

"This is a collective national achievement but every Australian has been contributing."

He said National Cabinet agreed the Australia was in a position to reintroduce some elective procedures, with the first phase starting April 27.

We particularly acknowledge those patients who have had their elective surgery deferred and recognise the effect this has had on their lives and wellbeing.

"Reintroduction of elective surgery will be done using a staged and controlled process which balances the ongoing need for the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, while allowing our hospitals to treat elective surgery patients,'' Mr Hunt said.


Originally published as Hope for the elderly as PM hits out at care homes

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