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Health Minister confirms eyecare providers can remain open for business  

Optometry practices in all states and territories will be able to continue operating, Optometry Australia (OA) has advised, following confusion about whether eyecare providers could remain open during a shut-down of non-essential services.

On Sunday, the Victorian, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory governments announced plans to shut down non-essential services, sparking concern over whether optometrists could remain open.

In its statement, the Victorian Government said people would only be able to visit the supermarket, bank, pharmacy and other essential stores such as petrol stations and convenience stores. Freight, logistics and home delivery businesses could also remain open.

OA subsequently posted to its website that while it was not clear what services were considered essential, it expected optometry practices would not be able to operate. It advised practices in Victoria, NSW and ACT to prepare to shut-down from Tuesday.

Today, however, OA provided more clarity on the matter and said all state governments have now agreed to align with Federal Government’s advice on the range of businesses to be included in this week’s shutdown.

“There has been significant, conflicting advice from the Australian and state governments in the last 24 hours about what constitutes ‘non-essential services’, but we have now had confirmation from the Federal Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt, that optometry practices can currently remain open (if they wish),” OA said in an alert to members.

“We expect there may be further announcements that may impact optometry in coming days and weeks and hope to have positive news in the near future about telehealth and Medicare opportunities for optometry.

“We believe we have a duty to support you to protect the health of your colleagues, patients and communities. To this end we are seeking to advise governments on how time-sensitive and emergency optometric care can continue to be provided, should more extensive service shut-downs be mandated by governments in order to limit the further spread of COVID-19.”

OA stated that it recognised some practices, and some optometrists, may choose not to continue to provide care at this time. Its website contains details on employer and employee rights and responsibilities in these contexts.

“We urge all of you to continue your efforts to support your colleagues and patients by practising best practice infection control and monitoring regular updates on our website.”

As it stands, the Federal Government’s more widespread restrictions on social gatherings affect the following facilities:

  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation).
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues.
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs.
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery.

This afternoon, New Zealand Prime Minister Ms Jacinda Ardern announced all non-essential businesses will close in 48 hours. It will see schools and almost every business shut their door for a month, not travelling to their neighbours, their friends and families, or to the next town over.