The federal government's initial COVID-19 emergency health plan failed to mention people with a disability, a royal commission has heard.
Simon Cotterell, secretary at the Department of Health, said those with a disability weren't explicitly included in February's national plan.
"(The plan) was prepared very quickly and under great pressure by staff conscientiously doing their best," he told the commission.
"I think it is an omission that disability is not mentioned but ... the word vulnerable groups is used and via that mechanism, people with disability would be covered.
"(But) in a number of places it would be useful for people with a disability to have been mentioned."
A four-day hearing examining the Commonwealth's pandemic preparedness and response for people with a disability concluded on Friday.
The commission heard the World Health Organisation in March advised governments that people with a disability and their carers should be prioritised for equipment and testing.
The federal government approved a specific disability virus plan in April, after considerable lobbying from the sector.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told the commission aged care had been the highest priority for the Commonwealth in the early stages.
It was the most significant risk factor for virus mortality, he said.
Mr Cotterell conceded the full picture of COVID-19's impact on people with disability wasn't known.
"We do not have perfect data on that issue," he said when asked how many people with a disability had caught the virus.
Data released for the first time this week revealed there are 129 active cases among NDIS participants - 41 participants and 88 workers - with most in Victoria.
There are about 4.4 million people with disability in Australia, 365,000 of those are participants in the NDIS.
Eight NDIS participants, one of those a worker, had died from COVID-19, the commission heard.
A woman with an intellectual disability living in northwest Tasmania outlined her confusion during the region's outbreak and subsequent tough lockdown in April.
Kalena Bos, 30, said she was fearful of being arrested or copping a $16,800 fine if she left her house and wasn't sure if permits were needed to visit her parents.
The commission previously heard evidence from people with a disability and advocates that information about coronavirus was not accessible or was conflicting.
Others spoke of struggles obtaining care, with one woman saying her friend had spent nine days bed ridden eating only muesli bars while awaiting test results.
"The pandemic has exacted another terrible toll that has largely been hidden from the general Australian community," commission Chair Ronald Sackville AO QC said in closing.
"That toll is no less real."
Australian Associated Press
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