IMPORTANT CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) INFORMATION

 ONLY OBTAIN YOUR INFORMATION FROM RELIABLE SOURCES.

 

australia.gov.au


 

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Dear Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury residents,

We are facing an incredibly difficult time with the spread of COVID-19. This virus does not discriminate. It is serious. It is here. And we need to take action to stop its spread, to save lives.

The financial consequences will be temporary, hopefully, but severe. We are already seeing many in our community lose their jobs and their customers. People risk feeling isolated. But the greatest danger is to our health, and we all have a role to play to reduce the risk to ourselves and others.

In this time, you need to know that my team and I will be available to help you. My Windsor office is closed to visitors due to the virus, so please email or phone. For many years, we have quietly helped hundreds of members of our community through awful challenges and great hardship. We will continue to do that.

This website is one of the initatives my office has taken to help keep you informed. If you've got questions about anything on this site, or need further information, please don't hesitate to get in contact.

As we all work to contain this pandemic, I urge you to stay home, stop the spread and save lives. 

Do not leave your home unless it is essential. If you have to leave your home, ensure that you are socially distancing and keeping 1.5m away from others. If you can work from home, please do. Fines apply for leaving your home for a non essential reason.

By limiting your exposure to others in the community, you are doing your bit to be a good neighbour.

Our community knows what crisis looks like. Through fire, flood and drought we know how to come together. Please, check in with your neighbours, family and friends. A video call or text could be a moment of light in their dark day. Take care of each other and yourselves. To stop the spread of misinformation, only access and share information from reliable, trusted sources. You can find links to those here.

We owe a huge debt to all the people working to keep our community safe and healthy. We will get through this, together.

In the mean time, stay safe, stay home and save lives.

 

 

How to get in contact with my office


While my office is currently not open to visitors, my staff and I are we are still available on the phone and email so please - if you can’t find the answers you’re looking for, email us at: [email protected] or phone on 02 4573 8222 and we’ll do whatever we can to help.

Government websites


To keep up-to-date with the most current information please visit the websites detailed in this email including these Government sources:

  • The Australian Government - here
  • The Department of Health - here
  • The NSW Government - here
  • NSW Health - here
  • Nepean Blue Mountains Health District - here
  • Blue Mountains City Council - here
  • Hawkesbury City Council - here

 

Shopping for essentials


Importantly, you can still go to the supermarket and shop for food locally at delis, fruit shops and butchers, if it's essential. There’s absolutely no need to panic buy at the shops, but it would be unwise to make a trip to the shops every day. 

Supermarkets and pharmacies are now able to 
trade 24 hours a day, but that does not mean they have to.

Most have made changes to trading hours; product limits; and new online services and home delivery. We’ve provided links to their websites below.


WoolworthsColesAldi and IGA are also providing updates on measures to ensure everyone can still purchase essentials.

Woolworths has set up priority assistance home deliveries for the elderly, people with a disability and people with compromised immunity.   You  can register here.

Please don’t forget your local independent grocery and fresh food stores. Many of them are now offering home delivery services. It's worth giving them a call!

Should I send my child to school or childcare?

This coming week (11 May 2020), all NSW public schools will begin transitioning children back to in-class learning one day a week. 

It has been an extraordinary feat of organisation for each of our local schools to come up with timetables that work for the students, their families as well as teachers and support staff. 

Your child's school is your best source of local information. For updates from the NSW Department of Education click here.

 

What if I think I've got symptoms?


If you think you may be showing symptoms of the virus, the Department of Health has provided advice about what to look for and what you need to do here as well as an online symptom checking tool  – including further details about testing, when it is appropriate and how it will be done.

You can also phone your own doctor or the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080. As you can imagine, there are many people trying to phone the helpline so please be patient.

There are COVID-19 clinics in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury (as well as Penrith and Lithgow) 

If you have any symptoms of flu, you can get tested for COVID-19.

Coronavirus clinics are accessed from outside the hospitals. NSW Health asks that you do not  not walk through the hospital. There are signs to guide you to the clinic. 

There are four places in and around the electorate that are currently providing testing. These are:
  • Blue Mountains Hospital (Education Unit) - 9am to 5pm, 7 days.
  • Lithgow Hospital (via main entrance) - 10am to 3pm, 7 days. 
  • Nepean Hospital (via West Block entrance) - 9am to 4:30pm, 7 days.
  • Hawkesbury Hospital (a mobile clinic van) - 10am to 12:30pm and 1pm to 3pm, Monday to Friday. 
You can be tested at these clinics if you have any symptoms of Covid-19. Symptoms include: 
  • Fever 
  • Cough
  • Fatigue 
  • Sore throat 
  • Shortness of breath
Test results will usually be sent to your mobile within 72 hours.

A new GP-led COVID-19 Respiratory Clinic is due to open in Hazelbrook next Wednesday, May 13. The Clinic will be located at Hazelbrook General Practice, 9 Rosedale Avenue, Hazelbrook and is open Monday to Friday 8.30am - 12.30pm and 1.30pm - 5.30pm. Like the GP Respiratory Clinic in Penrith, this service will assess people with mild to moderate respiratory symptoms such as a sore throat, cough and shortness of breath and offer testing for COVID-19.
 
It’s good news for people finding it difficult to travel to Katoomba or Penrith for testing, and we want as many people as possible who are suffering any of these symptoms to get tested. It’s been a huge amount of work for Hazelbrook General Practice to establish the clinic in their grounds, and I thank them for taking on this important service.
 
Attendance is by appointment only. There is no need for a referral and the service is free, but patients should have an initial telehealth appointment with their usual GP before booking. Book via www.nbmphn.com.au/GPCOVIDClinics, or by calling 0492 818 575 (Mon-Friday only).
 
More information about local clinics and testing can be found here

 

In the event of an emergency, please phone 000.
 

Changes to how we access health services

 

Telehealth: On Monday 23, March, The Government responded to calls from Labor to extend the Medicare Benefits Schedule for telehealth mental health services delivered by GPs, psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health providers including those who are working remotely, for all patients during the COVID-19 health emergency.  For more details see here

Visiting hospitals: NSW Health is  limiting visitors into hospitals.  For more details see here:

Mental health: In this prolonged period of uncertainty, it is important that we look after our mental health. Make sure to stay in touch with loved ones and monitor the amount of news and social media you're consuming. If you're feeling distressed, please reach out.

Beyond Blue Support Services - 1300 22 4643 
Lifeline - 13 11 14
For younger people, 
Reachout provides online support.

If you're experiencing financial hardship


The Australian Government has announced a number of social security measures: 

One-off $750 payment - Australians receiving an eligible payment  between 12 March 2020 and 13 April 2020 will automatically receive a $750  payment between 31 March and 17 April. See here

Coronavirus Supplement: Australians on various income support payments will be able to access the Coronavirus Supplement which will be available for the next six months at a rate of $550 per fortnight from 27 April 2020.  see here. Labor has called for an earlier start date.

The JobSeeker payment will be available to sole traders and workers who have lost shifts or their jobs, with the assets test and waiting period waived. An income test  still applies, and while the Government had committed to changes, nothing has been forthcoming so far.

The Coronavirus Supplement will be paid to both existing and new recipients of the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit. Thanks to Labor’s efforts, students are also eligible. 

Second one-off payment:  The Australian Government has also announced a second stimulus payment of $750 which will be payable to various social security recipients in July.

Labor is concerned that this is too long a wait and we have written to the Government asking them to bring forward this payment.

For more information on the Coronavirus supplement and the second one-off payment, including eligibility see here, 

Other changes have been announced including to Superannuation. You can find details on the ATO website here

JobKeeper
The ATO Commissioner has extended the time to enrol for the initial JobKeeper periods from 30 April 2020 until 31 May 2020. Those who enrol by 31 May will still be able to claim for the fortnights ending in April and May provided they meet all the eligibility requirements for each of those fortnights. For a summary of JobKeeper key dates including details of the extension of time to enrol for the JobKeeper scheme to 31 May 2020, see JobKeeper key dates.

If you are self-employed – a sole trader, partnership, PTY or trust – and whether you have employees or not and you are eligible for JobKeeper, you need to:
  • Make sure you have enrolled online;
  • Complete employee details and/or identify who will receive the payment;
  • Complete a monthly turnover declaration.
The ATO has released a new video for the self-employed that might be helpful.

The Government has also announced that employees that are 16 and 17 years old may no longer be eligible for JobKeeper payments. From 1 March 2020, these employees must also be independent or not enrolled in full time studies. For more information about these requirements, please click here. 


 

Registering for Jobseeker Allowance: 

 

The government announced significant changes to registering for the JobSeeker payment. See here.

Users with myGov accounts will now be able to register their intent to claim online without a pre-existing CRN or having Centrelink accounts already linked to their myGov account.

All claims will be back paid to Monday 23 March 2020, if that is when they were initially stood down, terminated or first experienced loss of income (such as sole traders).

Centrelink may still call anyone who has lodged an intent to claim online to ask for further details (such as identity checks) but the onus is no longer on the user once they have lodged online, and all payments will be back paid.

Separation certificates are no longer required as evidence, but instead new JobSeekers will have to sign a declaration that they are currently stood down or experiencing loss of income

Other changes have been announced including to Superannuation, and you can find further details on all of these at Services Australia.

If you need to create a mygov account - see here for how.

The number to call for JobSeekers payment is: 132 850.  For multilingual services, phone 131 202.

We are aware that the MyGov website is struggling with the increased demand and that phone wait times are lengthy.

We are seeking further information from the Minister’s office about how he’s going to address these disruptions. In the meantime, we ask for your patience. Please know that we are aware of the situation and delays are not the fault of Centrelink staff. I also understand that some Australians will miss out, and we are doing all that we can to push the government to ensure that no one is left out.

Banks: If you’re experiencing financial difficulties, there is a factsheet available here.

Renting : There is an urgent need for assistance for individuals and businesses, and we are expecting an announcement from the NSW and Federal Governments on this shortly. 
 

Australian and NSW Government jobs


Both the Australian Government and NSW Government are looking to fill temporary positions to meet the increased demand for services as a result of the coronavirus.

See here for for more information about Australian Government jobs.
See here for more information about NSW Government jobs.
 

Support for Small Business and Sole Traders


With the new restrictions on movement, we know that many businesses are doing it tough.

The Australian Government has announced a number of measures to support small businesses.

If you own a small business – whether you’re a sole-trader or run a company – find out what financial assistance is available to you here. 

For information about what your bank can do to assist, see here.
 

Blue Mountains business owners are being urged to complete a new survey to assist Blue Mountains City Council determine the impact of COVID-19.
 
Hawkesbury City Council has launched a new business hub to help support local businesses. For assistance setting up a business in its directory, call 4560 4444.

Phone and Internet


Check with your internet and phone providers about extra data allowances and other measures they may be implementing. 

A Telecommunications Industry round table was held earlier this month - for details see here.

If your provider is not attempting to resolve any service issues you have log a complaint here and let my office know.

Anyone using standard nbn Sky Muster satellite services will have their data download limits increased in response to COVID-19 from March 31.

Those on nbn Sky Muster Plus services will have an increased range of applications that won’t count towards monthly data quotes.

For more information, see the announcement here.

International travel and Australians overseas


The Australian Government announced on Friday 27, March  that as soon as possible, but no later than 11:59pm Saturday 28 March 2020, all travellers arriving in Australia will be required to undertake their mandatory 14 day self-isolation at designated facilities. See here for details.

Last week, the Australian Government closed the borders to non-citizens and non-residents – as have nations around the world.

As of 25 March there is a travel ban for all Australians - see here for details.

We have been in contact with many Mountains and Hawkesbury locals who are either stuck overseas or who have family members stranded.

DFAT has provided an update here..

24 Hour Consulate contacts:
Within Australia: 1300 555 135 
Outside Australia: +61 2 6261 3305 | SMS +61 421 269 080

Embassies and consulates overseas - more information here.

Domestic travel

Note that some states, including Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia have closed their borders. Check with each particular state government regarding arrangements for visiting those states.

The Northern Territory has introduced strict rules forcing visitors to go into compulsory quarantine at the visitor's own expense. The Government of the Northern Territory has asked in the strongest possible terms that people do not visit the Territory. Remote Indigenous Australians are particularly at risk of infection, so please do not visit these communities.

The NSW Government has banned isolation in holiday homes and non-essential travel to regional areas within NSW. The health systems in regional NSW are stretched enough as it is and need to be able to support the permanent population in these communities. Please isolate where you live. Fines apply.

Changes to getting around

You are no longer permitted to leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse for doing so. You may be fined $11,000 or jailed for doing so.

The NSW Government has introduced strict lockdown measures with the clear advice being: stay at home and only with the individuals you live with.

The only reasons you are allowed to leave your home is for exercise, medical care/medicine, food/essentials, and to attend school or work where you cannot do so remotely. 

Effective Friday 15 May, the NSW Government has announced the first stage of a gradual easing of restrictions. The following will be permitted from that date:

  • outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people
  • cafes and restaurants can seat 10 patrons at any one time
  • up to 5 visitors to a household at any one time
  • weddings up to 10 guests
  • indoor funerals up to 20 mourners, outdoor funerals up to 30
  • religious gatherings/places of worship up to 10 worshippers
  • use of outdoor equipment with caution
  • outdoor pools open with restrictions.

Note that the physical distancing rules still apply notwithstanding the easing of restrictions. That means keeping 1.5m between persons, and abiding by the 4sqm rule.

The following businesses and spaces have been closed by the NSW Government: community halls, galleries, museums, libraries, National Trust properties, betting agencies, casinos, gaming lounges, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, dance halls, nightclubs, amusement centres/arcades, massage parlours, nail salons, beauty salons, tanning salons, spas, tattoo parlours, strip clubs and sex-on-premises venues, auction houses, indoor sporting events and outdoor local sporting competitions, public swimming pools, gyms and indoor recreation facilities (e.g. bowling allies, ice rinks, health studios), outdoor gym equipment and playgrounds (including childrens' playgrounds) and skateparks.

Restrictions on the above will be eased graually if the numbers of new and active cases continue to decline. If you want to get back to life as normal, the best thing to do is to stick to the rules.

Aged care facilities are largely closed to visitors. Please check with the facility directly. 

For more information on the content of the orders, visit the NSW Government page.

Tips for working from home

I ran a small business that operated from home for many years, so I've put together a couple of tips that might help your transition to working from home:

  • Set an alarm and get up as if you were going to the office. Keeping to a regular routine helps prepare you for the day ahead.
  • Get dressed.
  • Designate a work area in the house and ensure any equipment is adjusted for the most ergonomic use (e.g. having your monitor at eye height)
  • Schedule breaks as you would wt work
  • If you are lonely, reach out. Have a virtual lunch with colleagues or check in with them regularly.

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