Nursing homes in Melbourne are returning to tight visitor restrictions as the number of COVID-19 cases being detected in the community keeps rising.
Estia Health has made the difficult decision to close its doors to visitors amid the fresh outbreak, as Victoria records 73 new cases in the last 24 hours.
A statement from Estia Health said its 19 Melbourne homes will be “temporarily closed to visitor access, apart from on compassionate grounds, for two weeks”.
The operators apologised to residents and families for the “pro-active and preventative measure”.
Bupa has limited visitors in its Melbourne homes to one visit per day of only 30 minutes between the hours of 11.30am to 2.30pm.
Bupa is asking anyone from Brimbank, Cardinia, Casey, Darebin, Hume, and Moreland local council areas to cease visiting the home where possible.
Aged care staff member a “close contact”
A staff member at Embracia Reservoir has been advised by the Department of Health that they are a close contact of a person who has tested positive to COVID-19.
‘Close contact’ means the person has had face-to-face contact of more than 15 minutes with someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, or they have shared a closed space with them for more than two hours.
The staff member has been tested and is waiting for their results. They will remain in isolation for 14 days and will undergo further testing before returning to work.
The Victorian Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Unit has said residents of Embracia Reservoir do not need to be tested.
“As a precautionary measure we are limiting movement around the home and encouraging residents to remain in their household,” Embracia’s statement said.
“It is imperative that all visitors adhere to the visitation directives and especially do not gather within or outside the home.
“Please make your way directly to your loved one’s room and when leaving, go directly to the exit. We will have signage and markings on the floor nominating the hallways to be used.”
Targeted testing blitz
The recent outbreak is believed to have stemmed from security staff at the Stamford Plaza hotel, where people flying in from overseas were being held in isolation, and a Coles Chilled Distribution Centre, among other locations. A number of cases have been associated with families and households.
The Victorian government has launched a “targeted testing blitz” in the suburbs of Keilor Downs, Broadmeadows, Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Hallam, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir and Pakenham.
Residents of these suburbs will receive free testing via a team of mobile testing units. So far, more than 110,000 tests have been conducted.
Hefty fines may apply for breaches
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, has restricted access to facilities where vulnerable Victorians live and receive care, including aged care facilities.
“This will help protect elderly people… (who are) especially vulnerable to the transmission of COVID-19 and may be critically at-risk if exposed,” he said.
The new restrictions allow two visitors per day across a maximum of two visits, either for a single visit or for two separate visits. The total visiting time must not be more than two hours, for example, each visit could last an hour.
Other visitor restrictions and infection controls measures are also in place for aged care facilities. More information is available on the Victorian Department of Health’s website. Fines of up to $20,000 for a person or $100,000 for a company ignoring these conditions may apply.