• AQA and COVID-19

    This page offers helpful information on COVID-19 and related guidelines for the community associated with AQA. Updated on 10 January 2022.

Worker deadlines set for third vaccine dose 

Workers in disability support and other key occupations will be required to receive a third vaccination against COVID-19 under new rules announced by the Victorian Government on 10 January 2022.

Deadlines for receiving the third vaccination allow for how recently a worker received their second dose. In general, people become eligible to receive a third vaccine dose four months after their second dose.

The new rules come into force at 11:59pm on Wednesday 12 January. Any worker eligible for a third dose before then must receive that third dose within a calendar month of 12 January - that is, by 12 February.

AQA staff and other disability workers who are not eligible for a third dose by 12 January must receive that third dose by 12 March. (That date is three and a half months from the deadline imposed last year for workers to get their second dose, which was 26 November.)

The new requirements apply to staff working on-site - for example, support workers serving clients in their homes or in the community. Workers who cannot show evidence of a third vaccination by the deadline relevant for them may not continue to work on-site until they do supply that evidence. Valid medical exemptions may be accepted.   

"This is a sensible extension of our existing vaccination requirements – ensuring our critical workers and the vulnerable community members they look after are protected," Health Minister Martin Foley said in announcing the new vaccine requirements.

AQA will contact staff directly with further information.

Rapid tests now reportable, and close contacts defined

The rapid spread recently of COVID-19 from the Omicron variant has led authorities to increase reliance on self-administered Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT), require reporting of a positive RAT result, define who is a close contact of an infected person, and adjust isolation requirements.

The rise in new cases to tens of thousands a day in Victoria shows that even fully vaccinated people can become sick with COVID-19, and even if you don't become sick you can pass an infection to others.

To report a positive result from an RAT, either call the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 or follow the official instructions for reporting online, which you'll find at this page. You do not need to confirm a positive RAT result by also attending an authorised testing centre, which would administer a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test.

You must also report a positive RAT or PCR test immediately to your employer.

If you have tested positive, or if you are a household-like contact of someone who has tested positive, you are required to quarantine at home, in most cases for seven days. A household-like contact is anyone who has spent more than four hours in a house or other accommodation with an infected person. 

If you test positive for COVID-19, you can find out how long you need to self-isolate for and what else you need to do at this official COVID Checklist page for Cases.

If you are a household contact or have otherwise been in face-to-face contact with someone who has COVID-19, you can find out whether you need to self-isolate, and what else you need to do, at this official COVID Checklist page for Contacts

Reporting symptoms

AQA requires any support worker who is developing symptoms consistent with their having a cold, or the flu, or COVID-19, to stay home from work, seek medical advice, and contact AQA as soon as possible.

AQA requires any client who is developing symptoms consistent with a cold, the flu, or COVID-19, to wear a face mask when receiving support workers. 

The Victorian Government strongly recommends that anyone developing such symptoms get tested as soon as possible for COVID-19. Anyone returning a positive test must contact AQA immediately.

Safety tips for gatherings

Keep groups small, open windows, and go home early are among suggestions from the Victorian Government on how you can minimse your risk from COVID-19 at gatherings over the festive season.

The Government has published the advice at a dedicated web page, titled COVIDSafe Gatherings, at its Coronavirus information site.

The advice also makes the obvious point that you should cancel your attendance - or should you be hosting, cancel your hosting - if you are feeling sick with a typical symptom of COVID-19 on the day, and get tested instead.

It recommends that time with others indoors be kept under four hours. That is in part to limit the opportunity for transmitting disease, and in part to avoid facing a mandatory quarantine period if one of the other attendees later tests positive.

If you have spent more than four hours indoors with a confirmed case of COVID-19, you are considered a household contact and must quarantine whether or not you test positive, the page advises.

Gatherings hosted outdoors bypass this possibility and also reduce the risk of disease transmission.

It is recommended you refrain from using other guests' plates, drinking glasses or cutlery, among other advice and a checklist for hosts at the COVIDSafe Gatherings page

What are the latest COVIDSafe restrictions?

While the high take-up of full vaccination among Victorian residents underpinned a dramatic easing last year of COVIDSafe restrictions, a high risk of infection with COVID-19 remains - with the State recording tens of thousands of new cases a day by mid January 2022.

The more relaxed restrictions distinguish people fully vaccinated from those unvaccinated, with respect to what venues or community activities can accept you.

From 24 December face masks have been required indoors at all settings outside the home, including retail and other facilities, in taxis, and on public transport. Masks are encouraged even outdoors where you can't maintain a 1.5 metre distance from other people. 

Victorians are urged to check in when entering shops and other public spaces. 

COVIDSafe settings currently in force are detailed at this page maintained and updated by the State Government.

Updated official data on the number and location of active cases and new infections can be found at this page.

Is it time for your booster? Here's how to book

The Government has urged everyone who is eligible to seek a third vaccination against Covid-19, also known as a booster vaccination, and AQA strongly supports that encouragement. Here is where you can find out how to book a vaccination appointment

Everyone aged five years or older is now eligible to receive free vaccination. If you don't have a Medicare card, you can still get free vaccination at any government clinic or vaccination hub.

The Victorian Government is maintaining an online vaccine information page for people with disabilities, carers and support workers. Follow the link for more detail.

From Friday 26 November 2021, evidence of double vaccination has been required for all support workers and other authorised workers in Victoria who are working on-site (unless they can show that they have a valid medical exemption). AQA staff have complied with this mandate.

What counts as a face mask, and when do I need to wear one?

Face masks are required when outside the home in any indoor setting throughout Victoria, when not seated. 

It is also recommended that each of us uses a mask even outdoors when we can't distance physically from other people.

You’ll find further guidance on face masks at this page. It explains when you are required to wear a mask in community settings, and what exceptions apply.

Note that your face covering needs to be a fitted face mask rather than a loose scarf, bandana, neck gaiter, or unsealed face shield, and that this requirement is enforcible.

Official guidance notes that the point of wearing a mask is chiefly to protect other people from the possibility you have COVID-19. A mask helps contain your coughs or sneezes, which can transmit the disease. A mask also presents a barrier to your inhaling infectious material released by others.

AQA continues to respond to advice from health authorities on the use of face masks and other PPE when delivering care at a client’s home. As of 24 December 2021, that advice requires that staff wear face masks at all times indoors, and outdoors whenever physical distancing of 1.5 metres or more cannot be maintained, in line with broader community guidance. Clients are encouraged to wear masks also.

It is no longer mandatory to wear face-shields or other eye protection when working with healthy clients.

AQA encourages support staff and clients to discuss how they shall use PPE when delivering and receiving care.

Surviving COVID-19 with quadriplegia: One man's story

A Melbourne man who has a C2-4 spinal cord injury has described his experience of contracting COVID-19 from a household member, and how his support workers responded, for a story hosted on AQA’s Spire website. Mild early symptoms led to a torrid 18 days in hospital.

Income support for test isolation

The Victorian Government has made available a payment of $450 to support people who must stay home from work and lose income while awaiting a COVID-19 test result.

The Government has also made available a payment of up to $1500 to people who must stay home from work and lose income because they have tested positive for COVID-19, and have been ordered by health authorities to self-isolate for seven days or more. This payment is also available to people who have been ordered to self-isolate because they are a close contact of a person with COVID-19.

The Victorian Government's COVID-19 financial and other support page outlines other payments available to people for reasons related to restricting transmission of the disease.

Find out whether you need a test

If you or a person you are working with is feeling sick, you can find out on the Victorian Government's Coronavirus Getting Tested page whether you should report your symptoms to the Coronavirus Hotline, your doctor, or a hospital emergency service, or just follow advice on getting tested for COVID-19.

Some people can be tested at home

Health authorities have introduced in-home testing for people who are showing early symptoms of COVID-19 and, for a range of reasons that include injury, have difficulty leaving home and travelling to a test site.

Referral to the service is through your GP.

Thank you to our amazing support workers

Clients, staff and directors of AQA came together in 2020 to compile a video that expresses their appreciation and gratitude for the resilience of disability support workers and carers.

The latest updates on coronavirus

As AQA operates in the State of Victoria, the most relevant information resource for us is the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) page maintained by the State Government.

The page offers helpful information on vaccination, mental health, where to get tested, and current restrictions (which it lists under the menu item COVIDSafe Settings).

The key supplementary resource for AQA is the Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert page.

Authoritative information on how the new coronavirus is affecting nations around the world can be found at the World Health Organisation Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic page.

AQA encourages discussion among clients, support workers and office staff

AQA encourages support workers and their clients to talk about what measures they will take when working together to minimise the likelihood of transmitting coronavirus or an influenza virus. 

A blog post authored by Wayne Bradshaw, an AQA information officer who has paraplegia, explains why conversations of this kind can be so helpful for AQA clients.

A blog post authored by Peter Van Benthem, who lives with a C4 spinal cord injury, and who receives in-home personal care from a team of support workers, shares some steps he and his carers have taken to reduce their risk of cross-infection.

AQA also encourages support workers and their clients to consult AQA office staff if they need to raise specific concerns they have about coronavirus or flu infection when working together. The best person to raise concerns with is the client’s Service Partnership Coordinator, who can be contacted through AQA reception.

Naming the coronavirus

Finally, if you feel confused by the different terms associated with the new coronavirus you may find some relief in the World Health Organisation’s official coronavirus naming page.

Here the WHO tells us that the official name for this coronavirus is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or (SARS-CoV-2). 

The official name for the disease associated with the virus is COVID-19. However, in communicating with the general public, the WHO has decided to call the virus the COVID-19 virus. On that page it explains its decision.