Australian governments continue to work together to slow the spread of coronavirus to save lives.
Every extra bit of time allows us to better prepare our health system and put measures in place to protect Australian lives.
The Prime Minister, state and territory Premiers and Chief Ministers continued their meeting on 25 March as the National Cabinet to discuss enhanced health measures to support our efforts to quickly test and contact trace coronavirus in our community.
Expansion of coronavirus testing criteria
Australian has one of the most rigorous coronavirus testing systems in the world. To further protect Australia, National Cabinet agreed to an Australian Health Principal Protection Committee (AHPPC) recommendation to expand the current coronavirus testing criteria to include testing people with fever or acute respiratory infection in:
- all health workers
- all aged/residential care workers
- geographically localised areas where there is elevated risk of community transmission as defined by the local public health unit
- where no community transmission is occurring, high risk settings where there are two or more plausibly-linked cases, for example:
- aged and residential care
- rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- detention centres/correctional facilities
- boarding schools
- military bases (including Navy ships) that have live-in accommodation.
National Cabinet also agreed that testing will be expanded to include hospitalised patients with fever and acute respiratory symptoms of unknown cause, at the discretion of the treating clinician.
This is the minimum testing criteria. States and territories have the discretion to expand their own criteria for testing if they have capacity.
Temporary suspension of all semi-urgent elective surgery
National Cabinet endorsed the recommendation for states and territories to suspend all non-urgent elective surgery.
By cancelling certain elective surgeries, the National Cabinet is acting to preserve resources including protective equipment to help prepare public and private health services to prepare for their role in the COVID-19 outbreak.
Every patient waiting for elective surgery is assessed by their treating medical professional as Category 1, 2 or 3 per the following definitions:
- Category 1 – Needing treatment within 30 days. Has the potential to deteriorate quickly to the point where the patient’s situation may become an emergency
- Category 2 – Needing treatment within 90 days. Their condition causes pain, dysfunction or disability. Unlikely to deteriorate quickly and unlikely to become an emergency
- Category 3 – Needing treatment at some point in the next year. Their condition causes pain, dysfunction or disability. Unlikely to deteriorate quickly.
National Cabinet agreed to extend the deadline for the suspension of semi urgent Category 2 and 3 elective surgeries at private hospitals to 11.59pm on 1 April 2020.
National Cabinet agreed that states and territories will continue to work with private hospital groups to ensure they can support efforts to protect Australians against coronavirus.
The changes will allow greater transition for the community to the new arrangements and ensure the national supply of essential PPE – such as masks, gowns, gloves and goggles for the healthcare workforce.
Nationally consistent public directions on self-isolation for individuals
National Cabinet agreed to implement nationally consistent public health directions, at the state and territory level, on self-quarantine for individuals diagnosed with coronavirus.
Updated measures for hairdressers, barbers and funerals from National Cabinet
Following the receipt of feedback on the practical implementation of measures announced regarding barbers and hairdressers it was agreed by Premiers and Chief Ministers at National Cabinet last night that the instruction regarding 30 minutes per patron will be lifted (effective immediately), but that the 4sqm rule per person must be strictly observed within the premises and that personal contact during the patron’s visit should be minimised wherever possible.
Also it was noted that in hardship cases, States and Territories can provide exemptions in relation to attendance at funerals, but only at the margin.
National Cabinet will meet again on Friday, March 27.