Risks and challenges facing people with disability from COVID-19 have prompted a COVID-19 Management and Operational Plan for People with Disability, which was endorsed by the National Cabinet yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd said there were two reasons overall why people with disability were at higher risk from the COVID-19 virus.
“The first is that people with disability and particularly people with intellectual disabilities have higher rates of chronic disease, which is a significant risk factor for COVID-19”, Professor Kidd said.
“The second is that many people with a disability rely on support from family members, from carers and support workers, and they may require close physical contact with a number of people each day which puts people at greater potential risk of exposure to the virus.”
About 20% of people in Australia are living with a disability.
An advisory committee, comprising of experts from a range of backgrounds, including people with lived experience, carers, service providers, and government agencies have been meeting regularly to develop and revise the plan and oversee its implementation.
Professor Kidd said infection, prevention and control training for carers had been available online since 16 March and that the information was being supplemented with guidance on the appropriate use of personal protective equipment and advice on planning for outbreaks in disability settings.
“Over a million people have completed the online training in infection control provided by the Australian government, and this includes many disability support workers and carers.
“Health informed guidance material in a range of accessible formats has progressively been made available including an easy read in Auslan and in braille,” said Professor Kidd.
Meanwhile, the government has secured ample supplies of masks and other PPE for the national medical stockpile, to equip the nation for the pandemic.
It is expected substantial amounts of PPE, including additional masks, will continue to arrive over the coming weeks and months.
Disability providers and self-managed NDIS participants can request access to PPE from the NMS by contacting NDISCOVIDPPE@health.gov.au, where they cannot acquire the equipment they need through their usual channels.
More information for NDIS participants and their families is available on the NDIS website www.ndis.gov.au and more information for providers and workers about infection control, PPE and preparing for outbreaks in residential settings, is available on the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission website at www.ndiscommission.gov.au
The Australian Government Disability Information Helpline for people with disability, including their carers and supporters to provide COVID-19 related advice, is also available at 1800 643 78.