IMPORTANT CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) INFORMATION

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Dear Shortland residents,

It’s been an incredibly difficult period due to the spread of COVID-19. I want to thank you for keeping your distance, for staying in and keeping in touch with your neighbours. This virus is serious and dangerous and we still have a way to go.

The financial consequences will be temporary, hopefully, but severe. This crisis has impacted everyone, we have millions out of work and they need our support. People, particularly the elderly, are 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.

The Central Coast and Hunter regions are currently in lockdown.  You can find out more about the rules and restrictions that are in place for people in this area by clicking here.

Restrictions are in place for the rest of NSW. You can find out more about that by clicking here.

The NSW Government has released its roadmap for easing COVID-19 restrictions:

  • Some restrictions will be eased for fully vaccinated residents on Monday 11th October given NSW has reached 70 per cent full vaccination. You can read about what restrictions will be eased by clicking here.
  • Restrictions will be eased further for fully vaccinated residents when NSW reaches 80 per cent full vaccination. You can read about that by clicking here.
  • Restrictions are expected to further ease in December including for those who aren't fully vaccinated. You can read more about that by clicking here.

In this time, my team and I are here for you. My office is currently closed to the public, however you can email us at [email protected] or phone 02 4947 9546. All constituent enquiries will continue to be acted upon. We are here to help you.

This webpage is one of the initiatives 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 remain vigilant. Please continue to maintain excellent hand hygiene and practice social distancing. 

I encourage you to continue to stay home as much as possible. If you do leave your home, ensure that you continue to practice social distancing and keep 1.5m away from others. If you can work from home, please do. Fines apply for ignoring the restrictions in place.

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

Our community knows what hard times look like and we know how to come together. Please, check in with your neighbours, family and friends. 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 our frontline workers keeping our community safe and healthy. We owe it to them to do what we can to stop the spread of COVID-19.

We will get through this.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay home when possible, and save lives.

How To Get In Touch With My Office

My electorate office in Belmont is currently closed to the public for face-to-face interactions, however we are still here to help you. We are acting on all constituent enquiries. Please don't hesitate to get in contact by emailing [email protected] or phone 02 4947 9546 weekdays from 9am-5pm 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
  • Hunter New England Health - here
  • Lake Macquarie City Council - here
  • Central Coast Council - here

COVIDSafe

The Government has developed an app called COVIDSafe which aims to be an important tool in tracking the spread of the coronavirus. The app allows State and Territory health officials to quickly get in touch with people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. Using Bluetooth technology, the app logs and encrypts when you've come within 1.5 metres of another user of the app. If a person with the app tests positive for COVID-19 and has given permission for their information to be shared, health officials can then contact other app users they've come into contact with.

For more information on the app and/or for a link to download it on your smartphone, click here.

Shopping for Essentials

Supermarkets and a number of other shops like delis and butchers have remained open during this time. 

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.

Coles has created ‘Coles Online Priority Service’ (COPS) for customers who can't get to its stores easily and are rolling it out as quickly as possible. This means that customers who can’t shop in-store can have groceries delivered to their home. You can register here.

Many of your local independent grocery and fresh food stores are also now offering home delivery services. It's worth giving them a call.

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 numerous COVID-19 clinics in the region. You can find the one closest to you here.

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

Local coronavirus (COVID-19) clinics include:

  • Belmont Hospital drive-thru clinic: 8am-4pm, seven days a week. Bookings required via 02 4923 2211.
  • John Hunter Hospital, adjacent to the emergency department: 10am-8pm, seven days a week.

The operating hours for the clinics may change to meet demand.

In the event of an emergency, please phone 000.

Changes to How We Access Health Services

Telehealth: On Monday 23 March, the Morrison 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 click here.

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

Experiencing Financial Hardship

Due to the financial impacts of the lockdown and restrictions implemented in NSW in July 2021, a support package was announced. 

  • A new business support payment will also be available to entities with an annual turnover between $75,000 and $50 million who can demonstrate a 30 per cent decline in turnover. To receive the payment, eligible entities will be required to maintain their full time, part time and long term casual staffing level as of 13 July 2021. Eligible entities, which includes not-for-profits, will receive payments of between $1500 and $10,000 per week based on the level of their payroll. For non-employing businesses, such as sole traders, the payment will be set at $1000 per week.
  • The COVID-19 Disaster Payment of $750 a person is available for people who have lost 20 or more hours of work a week, or $450 if a person has lost between 8 and less than 20 hours of work a week. People who receive other income support payments who have lost more than eight hours of work will receive an additional $200 per week.

However, now that NSW has reached 70 per cent full vaccination, the Morrison-Joyce Government has announced changes to the COVID-19 Disaster Payment. The automatic weekly renewal of the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will cease and people still affected by lockdowns and movement restrictions will need to reapply for the payment each week.

When NSW reaches 80 per cent full vaccination, the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will reduce over 2 weeks. Eligible people will continue to be required to reapply for the payment each week.

In the first week after a state or territory reaches 80% fully vaccinated, the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will be:

  • A flat $450 payment for people who have lost 8 hours or more of work, or a full day’s work and are not receiving an eligible Centrelink or DVA payment
  • $100 for people who have lost 8 hours or more of work, or a full day’s work, and are receiving an eligible Centrelink or DVA payment.

In the second week after NSW reaches 80% fully vaccinated, the COVID-19 Disaster Payment will:

  • Be a flat $320 payment (in line with the JobSeeker Payment) for people who have lost 8 hours or more of work, or a full day’s work, and are not receiving an eligible Centrelink or DVA payment
  • End for people who are receiving an eligible Centrelink or DVA payment.

For more information, click here.

The NSW Government also has a 'test and isolate payment' and 'pandemic leave disaster payment'. You can find out more about those by clicking here.

Registering for the JobSeeker Allowance

The government announced significant changes to registering for the JobSeeker payment. For more information, click 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.

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 the JobSeeker payment is 132 850. For multilingual services, phone 131 202.

Not-for-profit and Community Groups Support

It’s incredible to see what local community groups and residents are doing to support those struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Below is a list of groups and organisations providing food donations. My thanks to all of you for your kindness and generosity.

Please let me know if there are any other local groups or organisations doing the same thing so I can promote their efforts.

CARDIFF

On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-4pm, Macquarie Care's Manna House Food Centre Cardiff is supplying fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy and bread that’s been donated by OzHarvest.

Contact them on 0402 155 586 for any enquiries or requests for help. Alternatively contact them through their social media channels.

Survivor's R Us Incorporated has OzHarvest available on Thursday afternoons from 3.15pm. It's first in, first serve.

For more information contact them on 4953 7108 or via their Facebook page.

PELICAN

A group of community members are giving away free food to those in need every Wednesday from 2pm to 3pm at Gateway Care Pelican, the old bowling club.

For more information, head to this Facebook group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/east.lake.mac.nsw/

WINDALE

The Baptistcare Community Centre Shop is running a foodbank on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am-12pm where people can access free fruit, vegetables and bread. For more information, call them on 4032 4810.

BOOLAROO

On Thursdays and Fridays from 9am-2pm, Our Community Place is offering free fruit, vegetables and bread to those on a benefit.

Due to social distancing, they ask that you contact them to reserve a bag on 4958 7251.

NEWCASTLE HUNTERS

Newcastle Hunters is offering a 'grocery kit' consisting of basic groceries to help those in need at least once a week.

For more information, contact them on either 0469 674 549, 0403 839 836, or 0424 166 724.

SOUTHLAKE MARKETPLACE

Each Thursday, Southlake Marketplace is delivering a bag of essential food, two loaves of bread and fruit and vegetables for $10 to the below suburbs. Call or text them on 0432 580 059 on Monday or Tuesday to give them enough time to organise your delivery.

- Nords Wharf
- Catherine Hill Bay
- Summerland Point
- Gwandalan
- Chain Valley Bay
- Doyalson
- Mannering Park
- Lake Munmorah
- Halekulani
- Budgewoi
- Buff Point
- San Remo

Changes to Getting Around

For more information on the current restrictions, visit the NSW Government page.

Domestic Travel

Check with each particular State or Territory Government regarding their travel restrictions. See here for details.

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.

From Saturday 18 July, the NSW Government will charge international travellers for their hotel quarantine accommodation. Travellers who purchased their flights before 11.59pm 12 July will not be charged quarantine fees. Conditions apply and you will need to provide evidence. For more information, click here.

The Australian Government has closed the borders to non-citizens and non-residents – as have nations around the world.

Australian citizens and permanent residents are currently not permitted to leave Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions unless they have an exemption. For more information including a link to apply for an exemption, click here.

We have been in contact with many Shortland residents who are either stuck overseas or who have family members stranded.

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.

Elderly Australians

It’s been a challenging time for all of us, but in particular I feel for older Australians at the moment. The Shortland electorate is one of the oldest by age in the Commonwealth, therefore my constituents are massively exposed to both the health and social implications of this crisis. If and when restrictions are relaxed, it’s likely elderly residents will be encouraged to continue to self-isolate. This is undoubtedly an incredibly lonely time for them. I wrote about this issue for the Newcastle Herald and you can read it here.

Below is some advice directly for older Australians, as well as younger people wondering what they can do to help.

Advice for older Australians

- If you are concerned, call your GP or the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline for advice. 

- You can also call the Older Persons Advocacy Network on 1800 237 981 from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday to discuss your concerns about COVID-19.

- ABC News and ABC News Radio provides information, coverage and resources which you may find relevant. 

- If you have online access, up to date information and advice is available at the Department of Health. State health department websites also provide relevant information.  

- If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, please feel free to contact my electorate office on 4976 9546 or email me at [email protected]

Advice for those wanting to help older Australians

- Find ways to keep in regular contact with elderly Australians, particularly those living in aged care. Aged care residents are now only able to have one visit per day from a maximum of two visitors. This will be challenging and potentially lonely times for these residents. Please ensure you keep in regular contact with them over the phone for example. If they are tech-savvy, start up a family group chat or play some games with them online. This ABC article looks at ways of keeping in touch during this time. 

- A lot of elderly residents are still having trouble accessing essential supplies like toilet paper and medication. Offer to pick up some groceries or medication for them next time you’re going to these shops. Similarly, offer to run errands on elderly Australians’ behalf. With social distancing, why not print off a flyer offering your assistance and put in your elderly neighbour’s mailbox? Click here to print one off. 

- To help prevent loneliness and boredom for those self-isolating or spending as much time at home as possible, consider purchasing some books, magazines, puzzles etc. for them. Are you able to get access to some entertaining podcasts or tv shows for them? 

- Encourage older Australians to keep as active as possible and not to sit in front of the television all day. Depending on their circumstances, suggest that they go for small walks if possible or spend some time in their garden. If they are self-isolating and remaining indoors as much as possible, advise them to stand up regularly. Even standing up a few times an hour can help. 

- If you have an elderly relative who is not living in aged care, touch base with their neighbours and see if they are happy to help out in any way. 

Again, if you need any further information or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office. Support is simply a phone call away and we stand ready to assist if needed.

Tips for Working From Home

The transition to working from home has been difficult for some. Here’s some tips for you if you’re struggling to adjust:

  • 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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