End of COVID-19 isolation means end of freedom for people with disability, advocates say

Posted 1 year ago by Liz Alderslade
The removal of COVID-19 isolation periods on Friday has not been received well by the disability community. [Source: iStock]
The removal of COVID-19 isolation periods on Friday has not been received well by the disability community. [Source: iStock]

On Friday, COVID-19 measures were rolled back for the general public – specifically isolation periods for positive cases – much to the disappointment of the disability sector.

The Federal Government has changed isolation period requirements, which means you no longer need to isolate if you have COVID-19. However, people who work in high-risk settings, like health care, disability care or aged care, are an exemption to this rule.

Prior to the removal of COVID isolation requirements, disability advocates expressed their belief that people with disability were left as an “afterthought” in Government health decisions.

With these safeguards now gone, disability advocates are dismayed, with Disability Voices Tasmania (DVT) providing comment to the State Government about the removal of these COVID-19 isolation requirements.

DVT is “extremely disappointed” and concerned that people with disability were not consulted about the change in the isolation period by the Federal Government.

Vaughn Bennison, Executive Officer of DVT, says, “The removal of the mandatory isolation requirement severely inhibits the freedom of people with disability, many of whom are immune-compromised, and infringes our basic rights as established in the United Nations Convention on the Human Rights of Persons with Disability, (UNCRPD) – a convention to which Australia is a signatory.

“DVT has grave concerns regarding the removal of the mandatory isolation requirement. We assert that this decision puts the Tasmanian disability community at great risk, not only of infection with COVID-19, but for many, of long-term, and potentially fatal, health consequences.”

Mr Bennison adds that the removal of mandatory isolation periods for the public has also left many people with disability with feelings of exclusion, isolation and alienation from their own communities.

Other COVID-19 measures that have been rolled back, causing further concern in the disability community, include less prioritisation on COVID-19 vaccination campaigns and removal of mask mandates.

While most States and Territories suggest to avoid high-risk settings if you are COVID-19 positive, like disability care facilities, DVT is concerned about the high risk of danger it puts people with disability in, whether they are supported in the community or in group housing facilities.

“We maintain that the risk to people in group housing or who require direct support has not been sufficiently understood and that the decision taken to remove of the requirement for infected individuals to isolate is premature and potentially dangerous,” says Mr Bennison.

Additionally, he explains that people with disability who are immuno-compromised will have significant disadvantages to living their everyday life, including impacts on education and employment.

Many people with disability may be forced to withdraw from educational opportunities due to face-to-face classroom requirements, or to lose employment due to being required to work in the office again, for example.

Mr Bennison believes that the removal of the isolation requirement will result in further postponement and a decline in the number of people undertaking higher education.

“Allowing COVID-19 infected individuals to encounter immune-compromised people will necessitate further postponement of these valuable opportunities and lead to more significant long-term damage to mental and physical health,” he says.

“Disability Voices Tasmania strongly holds that whilst infection numbers are decreasing, it is premature and dangerous to remove the mandatory isolation requirement.”

DVT hopes to work with the State Government on the development of an effective plan to more gradually roll back COVID-19 measures that protect the health, safety and wellbeing of all members of the community, including people with disability.