What is Coronavirus and COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new strain of Coronavirus, SARs-CoV-2. It was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, where it has caused a large and ongoing outbreak. It has since spread widely around the world. On 11 March 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
For updates about COVID-19 outbreak in NSW please visit the NSW Health website here.
Member Services Support
Together with the Department of Health and NSW Health, the AH&MRC is providing ongoing support and resources to help our Member Services during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and minimise the impact of COVID-19 on Aboriginal communities across NSW.
The COVID-19 outbreak has spread globally. On the 11 March 2020 the WHO made the assessment that COVID-19 can be categorised as a pandemic, and is calling everyone to take urgent action. The Johns Hopkins interactive map allows tracking of reported cases internationally.
Member Services should review their plans for both the upcoming seasonal influenza and for COVID-19 pandemic. In Australia, COVID-19 may overlap with seasonal influenza, with knock on effects for Community, health care workers, and health services. Unlike COVID-19, influenza has both a vaccine and treatment with antivirals that can help to control the disease. Preventing and managing influenza will be extremely important this year.
Resources for healthcare professionals
- AH&MRC Pandemic Toolkit: for healthcare professionals, community leaders, and decision makers to enhance preparedness and lessen the impact of a severe pandemic in your community.
- AH&MRC Influenza Toolkit: for healthcare professionals, community leaders and decision makers to promote Influenza (flu) prevention and vaccinations in your community.
- NSW Health: find useful resources for healthcare professionals including testing sites.
- Australian Government Department of Health COVID-19 SoNG as developed by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia.
- Infection Prevention & Control as developed by the NSW Government, Clinical Excellence Commission.
- COVID-19 Infection Control Training: Healthcare workers can register now for a 30 minute online training module on the Australia Government’s Department of Health website.
- Australian Indigenous HealthInfo Net: for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to stay up to date with the latest information available on COVID-19.
- Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Download the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response plan for novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources: a collection of posters and other marketing resources are available on the Australian Government’s Department of Health website.
- Therapeutic Goods Administration: Read about hand hygiene products that require evaluation from the TGA and inclusion in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ATGR) to be sure you use a sufficient grade product in your clinic.
- Ministry of Health: download a two-page factsheet for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and Aboriginal Medical Services on what happens when someone in your clinic tests positive for COVID-19.
- COVID-19 Primary Healthcare Guidance: Provides recommendations to questions from healthcare professionals to help support the prevention and management of COVID-19 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Please check this page regularly for the latest recommendations.
Telehealth information for healthcare practices
On 13-March 2020, Covid-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services were introduced and enable patient access to a variety of healthcare providers including GPs, Nurse Practitioners, Aboriginal Health Practitioners, Mental Health professionals, Allied Health professionals and some medical specialists, through the use of video or telephone calls. For more information read our Telehealth Services for Healthcare Professionals Factsheet or visit the MBS Online website.
COVID-19 Community Information
Prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in Aboriginal communities
We know the Coronavirus spreads from person to person. This means everyone can help to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 and other flu-like viruses through practising good hygiene habits such as:
- Frequent hand washing. Remember, washing your hands with soap and water, and drying them well, is just as good as washing with hand sanitisers.
- Staying home as much as possible, especially if you feel sick with flu-like symptoms and call your local AMS.
- Covering coughs and sneezes.
- Social distancing. This means keeping a safe distance between you and others. E.g. cancel family gatherings for now and keep in touch with phone and video calls.
- Be Winter-ready. This year the flu vaccine is more important than ever. Make a plan to receive the flu vaccine from your doctor or healthcare professional as soon as possible.
As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, anyone with respiratory symptoms or unexplained fever (temperature greater than 37.5°C) should get tested for COVID-19.
To get tested, you can call your local AMS or visit your nearest Respiratory clinic. Testing is free for everyone.
- Sore or scratchy throat
- Shortness of breath
- Other reported symptoms include: loss of smell or taste, runny nose, muscle and joint pain, diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting and loss of appetite.
Remember, if you are feeling unwell and think you may have symptoms of Coronavirus call your local GP or the free Health Direct Hotline on 1800 022 222 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Travel to rural and remote Aboriginal communities
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, NSW Health recommends restricting travel in and out of remote Aboriginal Communities. All non-essential travel to regional and remote Aboriginal (MM6 and MM7) communities in NSW should be cancelled. Limiting movement into and between Aboriginal communities will help delay, minimise and prevent an outbreak of COVID-19. For more information about travel restrictions to remote Aboriginal Communities visit the NSW Health website.
Telehealth information for you and your family
Telehealth is a way of providing health services to people using video-calls or telephone-calls. Telehealth can be done almost anywhere, without having to go into your Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS), but your health care team may decide that you need to be seen in person or be referred. You will still need to make an appointment and Telehealth may be a significant change to how you usually access health services, but it can also help reduce the spread of Covid-19 to you, your family and community. Read our Telehealth Services for Community Factsheet and call your AMS for more information.
Sorry business & important family gatherings
To slow the spread of COVID-19, new rules were introduced by the Government that limit the number of people who can attend funerals. For the latest information about funerals as COVID-19 restrictions ease please visit the NSW Health website.
It is important to talk with your mob about other ways to hold Sorry Business that will keep the community safe and help families to stay connected. Large gatherings, and even small gatherings inside, can spread COVID-19.
There are other ways to stay connected and grieve together safely:
- People can record messages on their phones for families to play at funerals.
- Talk to your church and funeral director about setting up a live stream for the funeral, e.g. set up a private Facebook event and live stream to this group. This allows friends and family to watch the funeral and be part of the ceremony from their homes.
- You can record the funeral to share and watch again later with others.
- Make plans to hold another ceremony later when the restrictions on gatherings are lifted.
It is hard having to change the way we do Sorry Business. You can always reach out to your local AMS for support and a yarn. You can also call the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 or free-call Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14.
For more information download the Centre for Aboriginal Health’s Sorry Business & Coronavirus Factsheet and read more information about the new laws impacting public gatherings including funerals and Sorry Business here.
What is social distancing?
Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19. Preventing the spread of this new virus is the best way to keep your communities safe, strong and healthy.
Social distancing describes activities everyone in the community can do to help slow the spread of COVID-19. By having less face to face contact with people, even when you are well, you can slow the spread of COVID-19 for yourself, your family and your community.
- Social distancing (or physical distancing) means less close contact with people, including your friends, family and community. This means less chances for you to catch or spread COVID-19.
- You can still go to work, school or day care and use public transport while maintaining a healthy, physical distance of 2 big steps (approx. 2m) between you and others.
For more information read our COVID-19 Social Distancing for the Community Factsheet.
What is self-isolation or home-isolation?
Certain people have been advised by public health professionals that they must self-isolate or home-isolate, also referred to as quarantine.
You must self isolate in your home or hotel if you:
- Have COVID-19 or are being tested for it
- Have travelled overseas
- Have been in close contact with a person with a COVID-19 infection
This means staying at home and not going to work, school, university, day care, any public areas or using public transport. You can leave home-isolation to see a doctor, but you should call ahead.
Your self-isolation period at home or in a hotel ends after:
- You receive a negative test result and have fully recovered from your flu-like illness
- You receive a positive test result and have fully recovered from COVID-19 (i.e. 72 hrs symptom free + at least 10 days since onset)
- 14 days from when you returned from overseas
- 14 days after you were last in contact with the person with a COVID-19 infection