Prime Minister Scott Morrison has fired a warning shot to aged care homes banning residents from seeing visitors or carers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Federal and state leaders have restricted residents to receiving two visitors a day for short catch-ups with close relatives and support workers.
But there are concerns some facilities have gone further, not letting people out of their rooms even when they are not seeing visitors.
“There needs to be a strong reminder that the national cabinet decision was to not shut people off or to lock them away in their rooms,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
The prime minister said preventing older people from seeing loved ones and carers was harmful to mental health.
“We are very concerned about the impact of restrictions that had been put in place in aged care facilities over and above what was recommended by the national cabinet,” he said.
Older Australians isolating at home should also maintain some interactions on compassionate grounds.
“That may be a relative or a carer or a friendly neighbour who regularly looks in on someone,” Mr Morrison said.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the best protection for aged care was no one entering a facility if they felt unwell.
“But it’s not reasonable or fair to people who may have been used to getting their family coming every day, who may even have dementia in some cases, to be denied access to their families,” he said.
Professor Murphy said without widespread community transmission of the virus, the government’s recommendations remained safe.