KEEPING SAFE IN U3A WHEN LOCKDOWN ENDS ON MONDAY 18 OCTOBER
13 October 2021
Message from the President
As lockdown ends and we move into a graduated reopening phase from Monday 18 October, we all want U3A members to continue to be as safe as possible in COVID times. The Committee is pleased to announce the arrangements for U3A to keep safe during the reopening.
In deciding on these arrangements, the Committee has taken into account:
- the ACT Government's pathway forward and proposed COVID safe restrictions over the coming months, and government policy and legal directions under the Public Health Act;
- members' shared responsibility under U3A's Safety and Wellbeing Policy to take reasonable steps to protect ourselves and fellow members from risks to our health and safety; and
- striking an appropriate balance between the individual rights of members to make decisions about their health while conforming to the Public Health requirements.
In addition to the arrangements set out below members are encouraged to continue to observe other COVID safe practices, for example staying at home if feeling unwell or in isolation and getting tested having been to an exposure site.
The Committee will continue to monitor ACT government requirements and advice and issue further ebulletins as needed.
The following COVID safety requirements apply to those courses held in U3A premises and elsewhere, for example in clubs and community facilities.
Face masks now mandatory
Public Health directions require face masks to be worn indoors outside the home. This requirement will be in place for some months to come. However, a person is not required to wear a face mask if they have a physical or mental health illness or condition, or disability, which makes wearing a face mask detrimental to their condition. Failure to follow Health Directions and wear a face mask indoors may have serious consequences, including the risk of being fined.
- Members who meet the exemption requirement cannot be excluded from a course, but arrangements may be made for them to sit in as safe a position as possible within the room.
- While there is no requirement for documentation, members who meet the exemption requirement may choose to show documentation that they meet this requirement to their course leader.
- Members may take masks off when speaking as part of the business of the course, when speaking to someone who cannot hear them if they speak with a mask on, or when consuming refreshments.
- Members who do not meet the exemption requirement and refuse to wear masks must not attend U3A face-to-face activities, including courses. To do so would be a breach of the public health directions.
- Where a member who does not meet the exemption requirement refuses to wear a mask and attends a course in breach of the public health directions, the course leader will ask the member to leave. If the member does not leave, the course leader will close down the session.
Courses held in NSW, for example in Yass or Queanbeyan, will need to follow NSW legal requirements on masks which may be different from the above
COVID vaccination strongly supported by U3A
The Committee strongly supports COVID vaccination as a way to protect individuals, other U3A members and our community. We encourage all members where possible to be vaccinated. We would prefer that members who are not double vaccinated do not attend face-to-face classes. If you have had only one vaccination, we would prefer you to wait for your second dose before you attend.
The Committee notes that there are very high vaccination rates in the ACT in U3A age groups, providing a good level of protection for U3A activities. As at 12 October, the figures were:
- 70 years and over: >95% fully vaccinated; >95% partly vaccinated
- 60-69: 87% fully vaccinated; >95% partly vaccinated
- 50-59: 91% fully vaccinated; 95% partly vaccinated
Course leaders and course members attending U3A activities in non-U3A venues must comply with any COVID related conditions such venues require, in addition to the advice and requirements of the ACT Government (or the NSW government for courses running in NSW).
COVID safety arrangements in U3A premises
The requirements to apply from 18 October 2021 in U3A premises are set out in our updated COVID Safety plan. The updated plan includes the U3A-wide requirement on mandatory face masks.
All the current hygiene and cleaning requirements remain. A key requirement is that members must not attend courses if they are feeling ill or have any COVID symptoms. Members must use hand sanitiser at the beginning and end of activities and must wipe down hard surfaces on chairs and tables with the wipes provided before and after each class. Members are encouraged to use the Check in CBR app if they are able, and course leaders will arrange for the COVID Safety Plan attendance sheets to be left on the premises at the end of each class so that they are available for contact tracing.
Members are encouraged to open windows and doors wherever possible to increase ventilation in our rooms. The fresher the air, the safer we will be. You may want to bring an extra jacket!
The committee discussed the question of the ban on communal refreshments and the use of kitchens. In line with ACT Health advice, these arrangements will continue. Members can still bring water and food if needed for their own consumption to classes but there can be no sharing of refreshments.
There will still be COVID in the community when we re-open. While U3A provides as safe as possible an environment for our activities, ultimately individual members will still make their own decisions about when they want to attend face-to-face activities
I wish all members a safe few months in the run up to Christmas. We all look forward to a brighter year for U3A in 2022.
13 October 2021