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COVID-19 Northern Rivers News

Lack of organisation as MP smells a RAT

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Lack of organisation as MP smells a RAT
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Alumy Creek Angus - Stud Angus Sires Tenterfield - Top of the Range Angus Genetics

Lack of organisation as MP smells a RAT

By Samantha Elley

As people of the Northern Rivers scramble to find and buy Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits, Lismore MP, Janelle Saffin has posted on social media that they should be free for everyone.
RATs are a faster way to test for Covid-19 than the traditional PCR test and while less accurate, can give the tester an idea if there is an antigen present in the comfort of their home, within 20 minutes.
If a positive result is received, the tester should then get a PCR test and isolate until results are received.
Workplaces, aged-care facilities and border crossings increasingly require people to take a RAT to prove they are not carrying the antigen.
As communities have opened up to the public, the rate of Covid-19 present in the community has increased, along with the demand for the RATs.
At a cost of $50+ for a kit of five tests and accusations of price gouging by some outlets, many of them are out of reach of those who need to be tested.
“It’s insane. This should have been planned for,” said Ms Saffin.
“We opened up on December 15 and Brad Hazzard said we’d go up to 25,000 cases.
“It’s not like this wasn’t expected.”
Ms Saffin has called out the government asking why reactions to the pandemic weren’t better planned when the state opened up.
“Where are the contractual arrangements for private provides to stay open?” she asked in relation to the many Covid testing places that have closed over the Christmas and New Year break.
“I don’t deny people having holidays but these are things that could have been planned.
“Pandemics require planning.”
The call for the RATS to be made free would alleviate some of financial pain people are experiencing just to see a loved one or go to work, according to Ms Saffin.
“PCR tests are free,” she said.
“(Free RAT kits) would be funded the same way PCR tests are funded.
“Governments find ways to fund things. This is a pandemic and a medical product.
“I am not asking for special treatment.”
Ms Saffin said one local small business owner has suggested the Dine and Discover vouchers could have a ‘Test and Discover if you are positive’ option where they could be used at chemists.
Others have commented on social media that they are happy to pay for the RATs but would just like them to be available.
“If people want to pay they can pay,” said Ms Saffin.
“The problem was, they weren’t ordered when we opened up.
“There should have been a transition plan.”

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2022 Floods

Housing demand creates planning challenges

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Housing demand creates planning challenges

The current lack of affordable and diverse housing for buyers and renters is a crisis which is confronting all levels of government.

A move to regional areas, limited government investment in social housing, a boom in short terms rentals, COVID-19, the recent floods and inflation have put great pressures on the property market.

While housing is primarily the responsibility of federal and state governments, Tweed Shire Council plays a key role as a determining authority/regulator for housing and planning law.

 

Council acts on unauthorised dwellings. Over the last 2 years, Council has contributed to an increased supply of affordable housing by encouraging diverse and affordable housing through the approval of more than 130 DAs involving secondary dwelling (granny flats) development controls, in addition to established dual occupancy controls.

In recognising the housing crisis, Council has worked collectively through the Northern Rivers Joint Organisation (NRJO) and Local Government NSW, to be an advocate for action on new social housing supply and affordability policies.

Over the last 2 years, Council has contributed to an increased supply of affordable housing by encouraging diverse and affordable housing through the approval of more than 130 DAs involving secondary dwelling (granny flats) development controls, in addition to established dual occupancy controls.

Attached dual occupancy dwellings are also possible in many rural areas, in addition to established urban areas.

More information can be found at tweed.nsw.gov.au/granny-flats-secondary dwellings

Additional dual occupancy information can also be found at tweed.nsw.gov.au/dual-occupancy

While Council provides a supportive approach to people affected by the housing crisis, it also has an important statutory responsibility to ensure that any land uses or building works provide a safe and secure housing.

Council recently resolved at its 7 July 2022 meeting to reinforce its role in undertaking compliance action on unauthorised dwellings.

General Manager Troy Green said Council had rescinded the resolution at Item 21.1 of the 2 June 2022 Confidential Council Meeting. The resolution sought to extend an initial moratorium from its 4 November 2021 meeting on taking compliance action on unauthorised dwellings up until 30 September 2022.

“After attending a workshop and gaining additional advice from staff, Councillors acknowledged there may be significant risks for Council to extend the earlier moratorium,” Mr Green said.

“In response to the potential risk and liability identified, it was agreed that a late report be submitted to the Extraordinary Council Meeting of 7 July 2022, seeking to rescind Council’s resolution from the 2 June 2022 meeting.

“Council also resolved that any new compliance matters would be subject to the current requirements of Council’s adopted Compliance Policy.”

Unauthorised building works carried out without required formal approval and certification can pose significant risk to life and property.

In other scenarios, unauthorised building works could also be poorly located on sites which are flood prone, bushfire prone, contaminated or landslip areas and thereby present similar life-threatening, public health and environmental hazards.

Council encourages people to undertake their land use activities with proper consent and approvals to avoid causing a nuisance or acting in breach of legislation.

Council has a compliance policy which guides the approach and response to a range of compliance issues.

However we also rely on the community to report unauthorised work and provide evidence to assist Council in taking action.

Compliance officers use their discretion when dealing with such matters, taking into account the evidence, cost to the community of any action, details of the case, public policy and legal precedent.

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COVID-19 Northern Rivers News

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY URGED TO GET BOOSTER

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PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY URGED TO GET BOOSTER
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PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY URGED TO GET BOOSTER

With a new wave of COVID-19 cases continuing to increase across the state, people with disability are encouraged to get the latest COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.
Minister for Families and Communities and Minister for Disability Services Natasha Maclaren-Jones said people with disability can be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of COVID-19.
“Protecting people with disability is vital as they can be at greater risk of developing serious illness if they become infected,” Mrs Maclaren-Jones said.
“Vaccination is readily available at GPs and pharmacies and we are urging everyone to book in without delay.”
COVID-19 booster doses are recommended for anyone 16 years and older who had their last dose of a primary course at least three months ago.
The COVID-19 vaccine can be taken at the same time as the influenza vaccine, which people with disability are also being urged to take.
While the free flu vaccination program in NSW ends on 17 July 2022, those considered to be at higher risk of severe illness from influenza remain eligible for a FREE flu vaccine beyond this date, under the National Immunisation program. This includes:
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from six months of age
• Children from six months to under five years of age
• People with serious health conditions (including severe asthma, diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, obesity, kidney, heart, lung or liver disease)
• Pregnant women
• People aged 65 and over.
The NSW Government is also providing up to 7.9 million rapid antigen tests (RATs) to people with disability and other vulnerable community members with the program recently expanded to 31 October 2022.
To find your nearest vaccination clinic, visit nsw.gov.au.

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COVID-19 Northern Rivers News

Royal Australian College of GPs COVID-19 antiviral treatment

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Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the expansion of COVID-19 antiviral treatment access.

It follows federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler announcing that eligibility for lifesaving COVID-19 antiviral treatments will be widened. From today, access will be expanded under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to the following patients who test positive to COVID-19:

  • all those aged over 70
  • people aged over 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged over 30 with two or more risk factors for severe disease
  • immunocompromised people over 18 may also be eligible.

RACGP Vice President Dr Bruce Willett welcomed the expansion.

“This is a sound and timely decision that will make a real difference for many patients across Australia,” he said.

“In communities everywhere, we have high rates of community transmission of COVID-19, and we know that some patients are particularly vulnerable to severe effects. By expanding access to the antivirals, we can help keep people out of hospital, relieve pressure on the entire health system and save lives.”

Dr Willett said that once again GPs and general practice teams will be front and centre.

“General practice is the backbone of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and we play an essential role getting people timely access to these potentially lifesaving antivirals,” he said.

“GPs are the key to safely prescribing these treatments. We have a strong and, in many cases, long-standing connection with our patients and understand their life circumstances including existing health conditions or other factors such as plans to become pregnant. We also have a comprehensive understanding of how these antivirals interact with other drugs and established systems such as telehealth, so GPs can speak with COVID-19-positive patients safely and prescribe the right antiviral without delay.”

The RACGP Vice President said that that more must be done to fight complacency and contain the harm caused by COVID-19.

“Expanding eligibility is vital; however, we must also enhance community awareness around antivirals and ensure that those patient groups most vulnerable to severe effects from the virus access these drugs. They can save your life if taken early enough,” he said.

“People who believe they are eligible for an antiviral should make an appointment with their GP now to plan how they can receive the drugs if they test positive. Because the drugs are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a GP will not be able to prescribe an antiviral until the patient actually has COVID-19. So, for those eligible – as soon as you get a positive rapid antigen test or a positive PCR test, call your GP and, if you can’t talk to them, leave a phone message to say you have tested positive and you need a prescription.

“The reason this is so important is that with these treatments we must act quickly. The antivirals have to be given within five days, and they become less effective as you get closer to day five. So, getting that message out there is essential, and I encourage everyone to have conversations with people in their life about these treatments.”

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