Evelyn Zaragoza

Evelyn Zaragoza

Wednesday, 06 May 2020 12:31

UPDATE ON CORONAVIRUS MEASURES

The National Cabinet met today to further discuss options for easing restrictions over the coming months, helping prepare Australians to go back to work in a COVID-19 safe environment and getting the economy back to a more sustainable level.

The Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy provided an update on the measures underway, the latest data and medical advice in relation to COVID-19. 

There have been 6,849 confirmed cases in Australia and sadly 96 people have died. There are now only around 1,000 active cases in Australia, and over the past week, daily infection rates have remained low. 

We need to continue to have the right controls in place to test more people, trace those who test positive and respond to local outbreaks when they occur. These are precedent conditions to enable Australia to relax baseline restrictions and enable Australians to live and work in a COVID-19 safe economy. 

National Cabinet encouraged Australians to download the COVIDSafe app to ensure that we can protect Australians and reset baseline restrictions. Nearly 5 million Australians have already downloaded the COVIDSafe app. This is an enormous achievement, but more is needed. 

National Cabinet welcomed New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for a part of today’s meeting to discuss our countries’ approaches to combating the virus. We agreed to start work on a trans-Tasman COVID-19 safe travel zone, easing travel restrictions between Australia and New Zealand. This arrangement would be put in place once it is safe to do so, with necessary health, transport and other protocols to protect public health. Any arrangement would need to factor in state and territory movement restrictions. A travel zone would assist both countries’ economic recovery, help kick-start our tourism and transport sectors, enhance existing sporting links, and reunite families and friends.

National Cabinet agreed to meet again on Friday 8 May 2020.

 

Establishing a COVID-19 Safe Australia - returning to work safely and confidently

The Chair of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, Mr Neville Power, briefed National Cabinet on the importance of a proactive and consistent approach to supporting businesses and workers to safely return to work - drawing on the National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles that had been agreed by National Cabinet on 24 April 2020.

National Cabinet agreed that Safework Australia would be the single source of information, which will allow businesses to plan with confidence and consistency. A toolkit is being developed for businesses to use, to help them be work ready in a COVID-19 safe environment. National Cabinet encouraged businesses to be prepared for reopening, to protect their workers and protect their business.

 

Establishing a COVID-19 Safe Australia - removing baseline restrictions

National Cabinet agreed to establish a three step framework to gradually remove baseline restrictions to enable Australians to live in a COVID-19 safe economy. Details will be determined by National Cabinet on Friday 8 May 2020.

Individual states and territories will determine the timeframe for graduating between steps and individual restrictions to remove. This reflects the fact that states and territories are at different stages of the pandemic response, with 6 of 8 states and territories now recording multiple zero case days.

National Cabinet noted that the Northern Territory has announced that by 5 June 2020, it will be able to remove many restrictions, while maintaining social distancing, hygiene and travel restrictions.

It is National Cabinet’s aim to have a sustainable COVID-19 safe economy in July 2020. This will be subject to strong epidemiology results, testing, tracing and local surge health response capacity. National Cabinet noted that some health measures will need to be in place for a considerable period of time including social distancing, strong hygiene and international travel restrictions. Some jurisdictions may choose to maintain interstate travel restrictions.

 

Justice sector Preparedness

National Cabinet discussed the importance of making sure there is access to legal support for those Australians who need it during this time.

That’s why the Australian Government will provide an additional $63.3 million for the legal assistance sector:

·      $49.8 million for additional frontline legal services, such as legal advice or representation, and with 40 per cent to be used for matters involving domestic violence; and

·      $13.5 million for IT costs to support the sector’s transition to delivering assistance virtually and online

National Cabinet agreed that it is important to quickly finalise agreement of the National Legal Assistance Partnership to ensure continuity for services, such as Community Legal Centres. Under that Partnership agreement, the Australian Government will provide more than $2 billion over the next five years to help Australians with legal issues.

Given the importance of protecting victims of domestic violence, there was also a commitment from all Premiers and Chief Ministers that domestic violence orders will continue to be available and enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 
Managing COVID-19 in corrections facilities 

National Cabinet agreed that jurisdictions will plan for and manage COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons in accordance with the Communicable Diseases Network Australia National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Correctional and Detention Facilities in Australia.

National Cabinet agreed that supply of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to corrections facilities should be considered a priority in the context of the national supply of PPE, as additional supplies become available and if COVID-19 cases are confirmed in the sector.  

The Australian Government will, in partnership with jurisdictions, develop ‘Safe Travel Plans’ for newly released Indigenous prisoners including access to self-isolation accommodation and secure transport to designated communities.

More than 18,000 people have wanted to know how WA’s new rent relief scheme works, with hundreds having started their application, hoping for a grant covering four weeks’ rent up to $2,000.

The State Government’s $30 million Residential Rent Relief Grant Scheme will assist renters who are out of work and struggling to pay their rent after losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the conditions to qualify for the grant is that applicants must have an agreement in writing to pay a reduced rent to the landlord, or have engaged in Consumer Protection’s conciliation service in order to reach an agreement.

Grants equivalent to four weeks’ rent to a maximum of $2,000 will be paid directly to landlords, even though renters submit the application. However, the renter must receive the benefit of the grant through paying a reduced rent.

The scheme complements the introduction of new COVID-19 emergency tenancy laws which placed a six-month moratorium on evictions and rent increases.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping said renters wishing to apply who do not have a revised rent agreement in place can reach out for assistance.

“Don’t feel pressured to sign paperwork provided by your landlord if you are not comfortable. Consumer Protection is here to help and we can assist to negotiate an arrangement that both you and your landlord are happy with and advise you on eligibility for the grant,” Ms Chopping said.

“The online application form is open until 29 September 2020, however the total grant funding of $30 million, depending on demand, may be claimed prior to this date.”

Renters can get further details and apply for the grant online atwww.dmirs.wa.gov.au/covidrentgrant.  It is recommended that applications be made using a PC or laptop as supporting documents need to be uploaded as part of the application.

 


Real-time tracking and faster processing of local development applications is a step closer, thanks to nearly $10 million in funding from the NSW Government.

Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said the NSW Government is investing $9.7 million to enhance its ePlanning platform and ensure all councils can get online from 1 July 2020 onwards.

“ePlanning is an online platform that allows homeowners and businesses to lodge their development applications online and track them in real-time,” Mr Dominello said.

“We already have 37 councils successfully using the platform to process development applications (DAs) and this funding will deliver important upgrades to enhance and ensure the system can keep up with the increase in demand once all 128 councils are on board by July next year.”

The funding will deliver essential upgrades to the platform, including:
· expanding the digital services to improve integration between councils, state agencies and the Department;
· developing and implementing a service to allow applicants to lodge planning proposals in addition to DAs and process payments online;
· allowing the Land and Environment Court access to the system to assess and determine applications before the court;
· providing guidance, training and technical support to councils to get them on the system;
· developing comprehensive reporting and analytics to track progress; and
· upgrading the system to support increased demand.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said ePlanning will play an important role in helping councils keep the economy moving and construction workers in jobs during COVID-19.

“ePlanning is already helping councils slash processing times by up to 50 per cent and its roll out will help new projects get through the system faster,” Mr Stokes said.

“This investment shows the Government is serious about encouraging investment in NSW.”

Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock said ePlanning is a great tool for councils and the community.

“Homeowners can lodge applications safely from home, neighbours can see in real-time what development is proposed in their areas and councils will have up-to-date data to plan, track and improve their assessment processes,” Mrs Hancock said.

On 1 July 2020 all Councils across Sydney, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Illawarra will be required to start accepting and processing DAs, complying development certificates and post-consent certificates via the NSW Planning Portal.

It will be mandatory for all greater metropolitan councils to process all applications via ePlanning by the end of 2020.

The remaining councils must process all applications through the NSW Planning Portal by 1 July 2021.

 

Covid-19 has sparked a rush to establish home gardens and a desire for self-sufficiency, but how successful are these ‘grow your own’ attempts and is there a risk that people will find themselves out of pocket?

The results have just come in from a state-wide citizen science project called Edible Gardens led by the University of South Australia, undertaken prior to the pandemic, and the news is encouraging.

Researchers investigated the productivity, efficiency and potential financial savings of almost 100 home food garden areas established by 34 people in South Australia.

Overlooking garden setup costs, 79 per cent of people who established vegetable gardens were estimated to save more than $250 on their annual grocery bills, according to Dr Georgia Csortan.

Dr Csortan, a UniSA expert in urban food production, says considering the median setup costs of a food garden ($500), 65 per cent of the study gardens were also calculated to break even within five years.

Applying a wage-rate to time spent growing a food garden, the researchers found that just over 1 in 6 of the study gardeners produced enough food to cover their ongoing garden costs and effectively pay themselves the Australian minimum wage of $18.93 per hour.

“This is the first time that the economic value of sustainable home vegetable gardens has been quantified to this level of detail in Australia,” Dr Csortan says.

The results are even more significant in the era of Covid-19 as people self-isolate, quarantine, look for ways to save on food budgets and find new ways to occupy themselves during the lockdown.

“The swell of new food gardeners is a wonderful outcome from the restrictions of the Covid-19 crisis, but we need to ensure their efforts are not in vain,” Dr Csortan says. “How good would it be to come out of this pandemic with households and communities that are more resilient, more productive and more inter-connected than ever?”

“If done well, home gardens are an excellent way for people to remain productive, get in touch with nature, connect with the community and educate children in tangible, fun ways about where our food comes from.

“While social distancing means we cannot reach out physically to our neighbours and friends, home gardens give people the opportunity to share or swap their produce and exchange tips, maintaining that human connection.”

Dr Csortan says urgent, coordinated education programs are needed in productive gardening to help new home gardeners ramp up their food production and avoid common mistakes.

She says growing food is not as time consuming as most people think, requiring on average just over an hour’s attention each week.

Installing the right irrigation system is crucial, to save time and money, and growing food in different ways (a mixture of inground beds, raised beds, wicking beds, fruit trees or keeping chickens) helps to provide more consistent and diverse year-round harvests.


Small businesses doing it tough due to the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to sign up for free-of-charge webinars funded by the NSW Government.
The webinars are being run by small business advisory program Business Connect, and address key subjects to help deal with COVID-19, including how to create a ghost kitchen and how to maximise cashflow.
Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said there were more than 60 Business Connect webinars and they will provide invaluable information for businesses that are facing unprecedented conditions.
“We know small businesses are struggling at the moment and the impacts of drought, bushfires and now coronavirus have been significant,” he said.
“These webinars are run by small business expert presenters and they will give business owners insights into how they can make it through the current situation.
“A number of businesses have successfully managed to pivot their operation and some of these webinars will provide advice on how to do that.”
The webinar topics include:

·        Turn your restaurant into a profitable ghost kitchen

·        Maximising cashflow

·        Business disruption - innovation

·        Diversify your creative income

·        Reinvent your business in troubled times

·        Marketing to pivot your business

Some of the webinars are targeted at businesses in regional areas and some are in foreign languages to cater for multicultural businesses.
Business Connect advisors have assisted more than 28,000 businesses over the past three years, providing advice and skills training for small businesses.
As a result, business owners have reported increased confidence and stronger finances. Those businesses have also created and supported more than 15,000 new jobs since 2017.
The NSW Government announced on April 19 it was injecting more than $14 million into Business Connect to help small and medium businesses navigate this challenging time.
As part of the funding boost, $4.6 million was allocated to engage an additional 30 advisors to support businesses on top of $9.8 million to ensure the program continues for another 12 months.

 


The Australian Government today launches the new voluntary coronavirus app, COVIDSafe.

The app is an important public health initiative that will help keep you, your family, and your community safe from further spread of coronavirus through early notification of possible exposure.

“Australians are doing an extraordinary job to flatten the curve and contain the spread of the coronavirus, but we cannot be complacent,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“The Chief Medical Officer’s advice is we need the COVIDSafe app as part of the plan to save lives and save livelihoods. The more people who download this important public health app, the safer they and their family will be, the safer their community will be and the sooner we can safely lift restrictions and get back to business and do the things we love.”

The health initiative uses technology to automate and improve what state and territory health officials already do manually. COVIDSafe will speed up the process of identifying people who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus, quickly stopping further spread of the virus in the community.

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt thanked Australians for their actions during the pandemic, and said the app is part of the three key requirements for easing restrictions: Test, Trace and Respond.

“We thank Australians for their help in adhering to the difficult but life-saving social distancing measures,” Minister Hunt said.

“We are now calling on all Australians to download the COVIDSafe app to help protect you, your family and your community from further spread of COVID-19. This will be necessary if we are to start easing some of the difficult social distancing restrictions we have had to put in place” Minister Hunt said.

“It will be one of the critical tools we will use to help protect the health of the community by quickly alerting people who may be at risk of having contact with COVID-19. If you’d been exposed, you’d want to know, wouldn’t you?”

The app has received strong support from states and territories and the health sector, which recognise it is a valuable tool that will enhance the ability to respond rapidly to local outbreaks, and the confidence to know the virus is not silently spreading throughout communities.

A new determination issued by the Minister for Health under the Biosecurity Act will ensure information provided voluntarily through the App will only be accessible for use by authorised state and territory health officials. Any other access or use will be a criminal offence.

Minister for Government Services, Stuart Robert described the App as being developed with one purpose: to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“Once installed and running, the COVIDSafe app uses Bluetooth to look for other phones that also have the app installed,” Minister Robert said.

“To be effective, users should have the app running in the background when they are coming into contact with others. Your phone does not need to be unlocked for the app to work.”

“It then securely makes a ‘digital handshake’, which notes the date and time, distance and duration of the contact. All information collected by the app is securely encrypted and stored in the app on the user’s phone. No one, not even the user, can access it.”

“Unless and until a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, no contact information collected in the app is disclosed or able to be accessed. Then, once the person agrees and uploads the data, only the relevant state or territory public health officials will have access to information. The only information they are allowed to access is that of close contacts – when a person has come within approximately 1.5 metres of another app user for 15 minutes or more – in their jurisdiction,” Minister Robert said.

Welcoming the announcement, Australian Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy said COVIDSafe is set to be a major tool in streamlining the process of identifying contacts after a person tests positive for coronavirus.

“Finding out quickly means you can quarantine yourself or be treated much faster, protecting your family and friends from possible infection, and slowing the spread of the virus,” Professor Murphy said.

“Without this technology, health officials have to rely on people being able to remember who they have been around, and being able to provide contact details for those people.”

“It is important to note that only state and territory health officials will be able to use the information.”

“COVIDSafe only keeps contact information for 21 days. This covers the maximum incubation period for the virus and the time it takes for someone to be tested for COVID-19,” Professor Murphy said.

“Once the coronavirus pandemic is over, and Australia no longer needs the app, the app and the information on it will be deleted permanently. No virus, no app,” Minister Hunt said.

Coronavirus is a serious and contagious respiratory disease with symptoms including fever, a dry cough, a sore throat and shortness of breath that has infected more than 2.8 million people globally and led to 200,000 deaths. In Australia around 6,700 people have contracted coronavirus and sadly 82 people have died.

The App can be downloaded from the App stores.

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