You will have no doubt heard of the current situation concerning Covid19 or Coronavirus both around the world and here in Australia.
The following information is generated by the NSW Department of Health and follows the precautionary guidelines being advised to the general public, event organisers and specific community sectors.
Scouts NSW has brought together a ‘Task Force’ to conceptualize Scouting’s response to what has now been labelled a worldwide pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). What that means is that we should follow the precautionary advice from the Health Department and react accordingly to instances as advised. Information from Scouts NSW will be forwarded over the next few days and will also be found on the State website in the Health & Safety pages along with links to the Health Department information early next week.
In South Coast & Tablelands Region, a number of events due to be held over the next few weeks have been reviewed in the light of the precautions and our ability to meet the Health Department advice to limit the spread of the virus balanced against the Duty of Care for members and our capacity and capability to meet the requirements of that advice.
The annual Pigskin scheduled for Belanglo State Forest over the weekend of 28th & 29th March has been postponed to a future date. While this decision is regrettable, the Youth Program team and event staff have taken the view that the resources required to cover off on the Health Department advice/guidelines are beyond our reach in a State Forest environment and what would constitute suitable effective control measures against the spread of infection.
Also, our Region Commissioners Conference to be held at Mt Keira Scout Camp over the 21st & 22nd March along with the Region Youth Forum (22nd March) have also been postponed. I have taken this decision in consultation with the Acting Deputy Chief Commissioner responsible and concluded the risk is too high, predominately due to the close proximity of participants in a closed environment which would not allow sufficient personal space as per the guidelines. This not only extends to the actual room of the conference but also dining and sleeping accommodation. As with Pigskin, the participants are also from a wide range of communities across our Region which would increase the risk of spreading the virus following the event.
All three (3) postponed events will be rescheduled at a later date. As we move forward, Region events and activities will be assessed accordingly and decisions made on the basis of the advice and conditions at that time.
In relation to Scout Group and formation events and activities, I would ask that all formations consider seriously the Health Department advice in the context of the individual activity or event. At this stage, we are not suspending events, activities or section meetings but are requesting that all formations consider their circumstances in the light of the Health Department advice and act accordingly. The following advice is provided to all Formation Leaders:
1. Members MUST NOT attend Scouting if they have during the last 14 days travelled to Australia from a Higher Risk Country as identified by an official Health Authority (and have been asked by Government Health Authorities to self-isolate);
2. Members MUST NOT attend Scouting who have had a member of their close family excluded from school AND they have been asked by Government Health Authorities to self-isolate. You are not required to self-isolate merely because you or a member of your close family attended a school which was closed for cleaning.
3. Members MUST NOT attend Scouting if they have any symptoms of an illness such as cough, sore throat, rash, runny nose or fever even if they feel well.
4. Members should CONSIDER not attending Scouting if (because of age or pre-existing medical conditions) they are higher risk of developing infection.
5. Youth members especially should have emphasised to them the importance of proper handwashing using soap and water or hand sanitiser (which might be reinforced by incorporating the practice into a game)
6. Groups should consider whether the practice of hand-shaking should be suspended for a period and replaced with some alternative (such a wave, salute, nod or bow etc) as a method of reducing hand to hand contact – noting that the effectiveness of washing hands is lost as soon as that person touches their face or other object.
7. Youth members should have reinforced to them that they should not share food, drinks or utensils
8. Youth should be encouraged to have activities which do not involve close bodily contact and which gets them out of the hall.
9. Maintain good personal hygiene practices including washing your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and covering your mouth while coughing and sneezing.
10. Coughing etiquette involves tissue or crook of elbow and wash after a cough or sneeze.
Additional risks to be considered include:
- Where members may be pre-assembled (and what to do if they turn up showing signs of cold/flu etc);
- Length of any coach, train or plane travel;
- Camping arrangements – should we enforce light weight single/dual person accommodation;
- The type of activity space – is it in a hall/ rooms or outdoors;
- What is the practical level of hygiene which can be met;
- What welfare/medical support do we have in place (and what advice/consultations have we had with local health authorities).
- Consideration that while there may be limited health risk- whether reputational damage may extend from holding an event in view of current public sentiment.
At this stage it is our view that Group, District or Region level activities and events should have a final decision, made at the appropriate level, usually by the organiser/s of the activity and no higher than the Region Commissioner (or a single person appointed by the RC for that purpose):
a. Whether the activity should proceed; and
b. What conditions should apply to persons who might turn up in respect of whom they may have fitness concerns (including excluding from the event).
I have appointed Anthony Pritchard (Deputy Region Commissioner, Inclusion & Facilities) as lead contact for the Region and utilising others as needed. In the meantime, please forward enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or if urgent, contact Anthony directly at Anthony.email@example.com .
Phil Crutchley |
Region Commissioner South Coast & Tablelands Region
Scouts Australia NSW
P: (02) 42741099
M: 0417257839 E: firstname.lastname@example.org