Where possible, we are updating this blog post to reflect the changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19. If you have any suggestions, please let us know. 

We’re living in a strange and admittedly scary time, with COVID-19 impacting our daily lives and the world evolving rapidly to keep pace. We feel uneasy like you.

But to help counter the uncertainty, we’ve compiled this fact sheet to allay some common concerns. We’ll debunk myths and offer practical advice to assist you throughout these unique times.

Before we delve into it, we first want to remind you of something infinitely important: be kind. At all times, no matter the circumstances, be kind. Follow guidance on social distancing, don’t hoard groceries, and double-check information before sharing it; again, be kind.

Please also note that we do not offer medical advice below. If you require urgent medical attention, contact 000. That being said, let’s continue…

Where can I find reliable information on COVID-19?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has rolling updates, including advice for health workers and a myth-busting fact sheet. You’ll also find a Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19).

For information specific to Australia, please visit the Australian Government Department of Health’s COVID-19 health alert. This health alert details measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 and when to get tested. (For more, see below.) They’ve also opened the Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice. Simply call 1800 020 080 if you are seeking advice.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has responded to the pandemic, with advice for participants and providers alike. The NDIS is working with Services Australia, the NDIS Quality and Safeguard Commission and the Department of Health to ensure essential services continue. Check their page for updates.

(Importantly, if you are due for a scheduled plan review, but have a current plan that meets your needs, the NDIS says you can be offered a renewal of your current plan for up to 24 months.)

Another great resource is a series run by Disability Services Consulting. Their resource for people with disability, guide to developing a continuity plan, and questions that providers should consider are all available online. They also refer to Gather My Crew if you’re looking for assistance to fill your support gaps during this difficult time.

Lastly, if you’re after information in a different medium, I highly recommend the ABC’s Coronacast,  a podcast that helps to answer your questions about coronavirus or COVID19. Dr Norman Swan talks about the latest research and often-asked questions. Each episode runs about 10 minutes in length.

What can you do to slow the spread of COVID-19?

The consensus is that we can all help slow the spread of COVID-19 in Australia by practising good hygiene, self-isolation and social distancing. The Australian Government Department of Health breaks it down for you.

Good hygiene includes covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or tissue, washing your hands regularly with soap and water, and avoiding contact with others and staying more than 1.5 metres away from people. This is obviously more difficult if, like me, you rely on support workers for personal care, so simply do as much as you can.

Self-isolate if you have COVID-19, have been in close contact with a confirmed case, or arrived in Australia after midnight on 15 March 2020. Self-isolation lasts 14 days and means you stay at home and do not go to public places.

Social distancing is an effective way to slow the spread of viruses. Practise good hygiene and stay home if you are feeling sick. Please note Australia has also banned non-essential gatherings of more than 100 people and is now limiting travel to Australia to Australians.

Are there any changes to the NDIS?

On March 25, the NDIS made a series of changes to the plan review process and price guide, to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find the updates here, but in a nutshell:

  • If you have an upcoming plan review, the NDIA will contact you to via phone or email. As part of this plan review process, a participant can discuss having a new plan in place for up to 24 months.
  • To ensure your plan doesn’t expire, your plan will be automatically extended by 365 days.
  • Pricing for some critical supports will increase by 10%, while cancellation policies have also now changed from 2 to 10 days’ notice.
  • Support coordination can now be claimed under Core Supports, meaning you can access it even if support coordination isn’t in your current plan.

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission also details your rights as a participant within this fact sheet.

Where and when can you buy your shopping?

Perhaps one of the most disappointing aspects to COVID-19 has been the hoarding of goods, leaving people with disability and the elderly unable to purchase essentials like toilet paper. Thankfully, both Coles and Woolworths have introduced new community hours.

Coles’s ‘Community Hour’ and Woolworths’s ‘Dedicated Shopping’, held 7am to 8am Monday to Friday, grants exclusive access to its stores to people with disabilities, elderly customers, or others in need of assistance. Reports are also suggesting Woolworths will soon offer care packages; they also have a ‘Priority Assistance Form’, which you can access here.

For medicine shortages, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is monitoring any issues that arise in response to COVID-19. At this stage, the TGA has received no notifications of medicine shortages in Australia as a result of COVID-19.

Where to next?

This is a scenario that is changing day by day, but by being kind and practising good hygiene and social distance, we can slow the spread. We’ll be editing this page if anything changes or new information is released.

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