The Prime Minister has given aged care operators an ultimatum to adhere to the restrictions on visitors recommended by the national cabinet and not go further, saying they could face a mandatory system.
Aged care providers have been ordered by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee to restrict the number of visitors to aged care facilities, but some operators have moved further, with complete lockdowns and bans on visitors.
Earlier in the week, Scott Morrison called aged care operators to ensure the elderly were able to have the visitors provided for under the national restrictions, but some have refused to loosen their own rules.
"I am flagging very clearly at a federal level - that should we not see an improvement in this area, under the voluntary arrangements that we currently have in place, that the Commonwealth would be moving to require aged care facilities that wish to have an exemption to those national principles, those national arrangements, then they would need to seek authority to do that from the Commonwealth," he said.
There will be a webinar on Friday night with providers and Mr Morrison said national cabinet continued to be concerned about the restrictions.
Decisions about exemptions would be made in consultation with state and territory governments, Mr Morrison said, acknowledging that outbreaks at aged care facilities in Sydney and Tasmania showed why further restrictions were sometimes needed.
"But more broadly, having people stuck in their rooms, not being able to be visited by their loved ones and carers and other support people, that's not OK," Mr Morrison said.
"We would very much like to keep these things on a basis where aged care facilities are exercising their proper discretion. But we are not going to have these as secret places, where people can't access them."
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in recent weeks the territory government had intervened after reports of aged care facilities with severe restrictions.
"Several weeks ago we did have a few people contact us in relation to some particular over the top restrictions that were put in place, happily we were able to resolve those matters," he said.
"My message is people should be able to visit their elderly relatives in residential aged care facilities with appropriate precautions but there should be no lockdowns in the ACT where visitors aren't allowed into residential aged care."
"The only circumstances in which you would restrict visitors completely would be if there was an outbreak in a residential aged care facility and we do not have any outbreaks in the ACT because of how well we as a community have managed this issue and that does stand in marked contrast to NSW and to some other parts of Australia."
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