COVID-19 Friday, March 20, 2020

Information and Resources for Local Governments

Western Australia is working closely with the Commonwealth, State and Territory jurisdictional governments to respond to the outbreak of a novel coronavirus that has recently been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

The pandemic is managed in WA under the State Emergency Management Act 2005 (EM Act), and WALGA has been participating in State Emergency Coordination Group meetings as the Association is legislated under the EM Act to represent the sector.

Whilst the Department of Health has been appointed lead agency for distribution of information on the disease and responses, a specific Pandemic Coordination Unit has also been established to liaise across agencies, businesses and Local Governments in enacting the State Pandemic Plan.
 
The State Government has agreed to include all Local Government CEOs in information updates being sent to State Agencies on a twice-weekly basis.  The updates are shared on the WA Health website and can be accessed  here
 
Local Governments and members of the public are encouraged to go to online resources for up to date information, as outlined below:

  • HealthyWA website - this should be the main page to refer people to as it has information on COVID clinics and current advice. 
  • Commonwealth Department of Health – contains a number of fact sheets to answer the many questions that are currently being asked by the broader community and different industries including advice for employers,
  • State Government Coronavirus Page – includes the WA Government Pandemic Plan

Local Government Communications Officers are encouraged to monitor and share any  HealthyWA Facebook posts about Coronavirus to their communities rather than writing their own, as HealthyWA information is updated daily.

Mass Gatherings
 Further to the Prime Minister's announcement on Wednesday 18/03/2020 on mass gatherings and in accordance with the Public Health Act 2016, Dr Paul Armstrong, emergency officer authorised by the Chief Health Officer under section 174(2) of the Act has issued a formal direction for Western Australian mass gatherings.
 
This information is available on the WA Government website https://www.wa.gov.au/government/publications/mass-gatherings-directions
 

 
This is the most current information as of the 19 March 2020 that you can provide to event organisers, along with the information on the Australian Department of Health website .
 
Further guidelines are currently being prepared by the Australian Department of Health to assist with implementation and interpretation across Australia. Once these guidelines are available we shall endeavour to provide further updates to local government environmental health officers.


Considerations for Local Governments

Managing the emergency at the Local Level
 
Establish an incident management team
Now is the time to establish an internal management structure that is dedicated to COVID 19.  This is an escalating incident and you require dedicated staff dealing with the ever-changing situation so that you are able to respond effectively. 
 
Model structures – insert PDF attached
 
Revise and refresh your Business Continuity Plan.  
It is important to continue to refresh these plans as the situation continues to change.  Having a Business Continuity Plan is not a legislative requirement under the Local Government Act 1995, and your Local Government may not yet have one.  
 
Key legislative considerations
The State Government has declared a State of Emergency which provides additional and extraordinary powers to the State Emergency Coordinator, the Commissioner of Police to assist in the coordination of the emergency.  An extension has been declared for the State of Emergency.  Three directions have been issued under the Emergency Management Act 2005, to date:

  1. Mass Gatherings
  2. Remote Aboriginal Communities Directions
  3. Self-Quarantine Following Overseas Travel Directions

 
Public Health Act
The Chief Health Officer has written to Local Governments requesting details of local government authorised officers / environmental health officers appointed under the Public Health Act 2016. This is a requirement under section 27 of the Public Health Act.
Local Governments should consider the utilisation of these officers whilst you have them embedded in your teams and plan for a situation where they may also be required for state level response.  
 
Emergency Management Act
The Emergency Management Act requires Local Governments to appoint a Local Recovery Coordinator.  You may have done this via your Local Emergency Management Committees (LEMC) and may have this documented in your Local Emergency Management Arrangements (LEMA).  
Check in with your emergency management staff who are a valuable resource as the State is moving towards an emergency management structure to manage this event.  The State Emergency Management Coordination Group are now meeting frequently and the operational tempo will continue to increase.   
 
Premier's Correspondence
WA Premier's Correspondence to WALGA President re: Council Rates Tuesday, 17 March

Planning Minister's Correspondence
Planning Minister Rita Saffioti's Correspondence to WALGA President re: planning applications Wednesday, 25 March

WALGA Support to Members
As mentioned above, WALGA CEO, Executive Managers and Emergency Management senior staff are representing the sector at the State Emergency Coordination Group and advocating for Local Government to be considered in ongoing communications and scenario planning.

In addition, WALGA is able to offer advice relating to staff and leave entitlements to those members subscribing to its Employee Relations service. The Employee Relations team can be contacted on 1300 366 956 or email employeerelations@walga.asn.au.

Procurement Network Buyer's Alert - Wednesday, 18 March
COVID-19 Preferred Supplier Update


LGIS Support to Members
LGIS is able to offer members advice on the following:

  • Flu vaccinations
  • Travel cancellations
  • Counselling services
  • Business Resilience and continuity planning
For more information on these topics, please go to the LGIS website.


Local Governments with specific enquiries about management responses can contact their local Population Health Unit, Communicable Disease Control Unit (see below contact details for each region) or alternatively contact the Coronavirus hotline who will provide a contact to the most appropriate support officer. Coronavirus Health Information Helpline (Healthdirect) 1800 020 080 (24/7 queries) 

For more information, please contact the Emergency Management Team on em@walga.asn.au.