New COVID-19 leave grants to support aged care workers

Aged care

New Aged Care Worker COVID-19 leave grants will be available from 1 April to support permanent or casual aged care workers caring for older Australians most at risk of severe illness, the federal government has announced.

Workers will be able to receive a payment of up to $750 directly from their employer when they are required to take leave related to COVID-19 and have no leave entitlements available.

The grants will help to further protect people living in residential aged care, or those receiving home care packages, by allowing staff who test positive to COVID-19 to stay home while unwell, the Government says.

Providers of Australian Government-funded residential aged care homes and approved home care packages can apply for reimbursement for payments made from 1 April 2023, every three months through the Department of Health and Aged Care.

Meanwhile, the Government has also announced expanded access to subsidised oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), with more than 160,000 people aged 60 to 69 set to gain access.

The change was recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) and means Australians in this age group with only one risk factor for severe illness – instead of two – will get access to PBS-subsidised Paxlovid.

The Government is encouraging people to have early discussions with their doctor or nurse practitioner about whether an oral antiviral treatment suits their health needs, and to develop a plan should they test positive.

According to figures, around seven in 10 Australians who’ve taken up the 2023 COVID-19 booster are aged 60 and over.

With the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 increasing with age, particularly for those over 70, the Government says this will provide important protection as Australia moves into the cooler months, when other viruses circulate.

In February this year, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advised that all adults who have not had a COVID-19 infection or vaccine in the past six months can top up their protection with the latest vaccine, irrespective of how many other doses they have had.

“More than one million Australians have already received their 2023 COVID-19 booster dose and around seven in 10 of those boosters have gone to people aged 60 and over,” Health Minister Mark Butler said.

“If it has been six months since your last COVID vaccine or infection, you can now top up your protection with the latest vaccine.

“If you’re newly-eligible for the oral antiviral Paxlovid, I encourage you to talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner and develop a plan for if you test positive.”

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