Personal protective equipment (PPE) for the health workforce during COVID-19

PPE for coronavirus (COVID-19) includes surgical masks, particulate filter respirators (such as P2 or N95), gloves, goggles, glasses, face shields, gowns and aprons. Find out who in the health workforce should use PPE, how to use it, and how we are managing it in our National Medical Stockpile.

Why use PPE?

PPE protects the wearer from infection. Proper use helps keep health workers safe and stops the spread of COVID-19.  

Who should use PPE

Health care and other workers may be required to use PPE if they work around people who have been diagnosed with, or might have, COVID-19.

The choice of PPE appropriate for the circumstances should be determined by a risk assessment. See the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) guidance on PPE for health care workers and infection prevention and control for residential care facilities.

Give surgical masks to patients to wear straight away if they:

  • are in quarantine or being tested for COVID-19
  • are suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • have symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

If you do not have the appropriate PPE, refer the person to a collection centre, a GP respiratory clinic or emergency department.

For more information, see

You should also use PPE to protect yourself when cleaning or disinfecting.

For more detail, see:

Informing patients about PPE

When communicating with patients, explain:

  • PPE may not always be required in every circumstance
  • if you wear a mask or other PPE it is for their and your protection.

If people in your practice wear PPE, you may want to provide signage near the entrance advising this is to protect patients and staff.

If you are a health practitioner providing in-home care, let the patient know in advance that you may wear a mask or other PPE when visiting their home.

Accessing PPE

The Government has a limited supply of PPE that it can provide from the National Medical Stockpile for use in a national emergency. Our priority during COVID-19, is to ensure staff in frontline health services likely to come into contact with people with COVID-19 have PPE.

Eligibility for Living with COVID PPE bundle

On 29 October 2021, the Australian Government announced the $180 million Living with COVID-19 primary care package to strengthen and support primary care to manage mild and moderate COVID-19 patients in the community.

Under the Australian Government Living with COVID Primary Care package, PPE bundles are being made available for free under emergency conditions to general practitioners (GPs), Aboriginal and Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs), GP-led Respiratory Clinics (GPRCs) and immunising pharmacists. PPE bundles can be ordered through the local Primary Health Network (PHN) and are available to:

  • GPs, ACCHSs and GPRCs willing to manage COVID positive patients face-to-face, until 31 December 2022 (see ordering guide for more information)
  • ACCHS and rural and remote GPs willing to manage COVID-positive patients virtually and respiratory patients face-to-face, where workforce capacity is limited and the GP is serving the community for most or all health needs, until 31 December 2022
  • All GPs and GPRCs willing to manage COVID positive people virtually, and respiratory patients face-to-face, until 31 December 2022
  • Community pharmacists who are administering COVID-19 vaccinations and booster doses, until 31 December 2022 (see ordering guide for more information).

As part of the Living with COVID PPE bundle, GPs can access P2/N95 respirators, either goggles or face shields, full length gowns, gloves, surgical masks and hand sanitiser. Pharmacists can access P2/N95 respirators and either a goggle or face shield. General practitioners can also order pulse oximeters.

PPE bundles delivered to practitioners are intended to supply each practitioner with one (1) month supply of PPE with the opportunity to order top up bundles if required through their PHN.

For more information, please contact your PHN.

PPE distribution

Under the Australian Government Living with COVID Primary Care package, a more streamlined approach to PPE ordering, distribution and delivery will commence from Tuesday 15 February 2022. Through the appointment of a national distributor, the new arrangements will see PPE deliveries from the National Medical Stockpile arriving directly with GPs and other eligible groups, removing the requirement for PHNs to undertake pick and pack and dispatch of PPE to general practices and pharmacists in their area, saving on effort and distribution lags.

Practices that are rural and/or remote, as per the Modified Monash Model 3-7, will be flagged as priority sites for shipping.  

For information about PPE standards, read regulation of PPE and COVID-19 on the Therapeutic Goods Administration website.

Read more about how we manage the limited supply of PPE.

Eligibility for surgical masks from PHNs

PHNs will provide surgical masks to GPs and ACCHOs if they have a demonstrated need, such as:

  • there is no local supply available commercially
  • the people coming to your practice are more likely to have been exposed to COVID-19
  • your practice has an unusual number of patients who have respiratory symptoms.

PHNs will provide surgical masks to community pharmacies if they meet both of the criteria below:

  • there is no local supply available commercially
  • staff have significant contact with people who have fever and respiratory symptoms.

Eligibility for respirators from PHNs

PHNs will provide respirators to GPs and ACCHOs who:

  • need to assess suspected COVID-19 cases
  • do not have respiratory clinics or emergency departments nearby.

These practices must have:

  • isolation facilities and other appropriate infrastructure
  • staff who are trained to use PPE
  • a pandemic plan.

You must use respirators with other PPE (gowns, gloves and eye protection).

Requesting masks and respirators from PHNs

When you contact your PHN to make a request, explain how you meet the eligibility requirements.

For the contact details of your PHN, use the PHN map locator.

If you’re eligible

Generally, PHNs will provide:

  • 2 boxes of 50 surgical masks to each practice
  • 1 box of 50 surgical masks to each community pharmacy.

Depending on stock levels PHNs may be able to provide you with more based on your practice size and demonstrated need.

You can give these surgical masks to:

  • your staff to use for their protection
  • patients and customers who may have COVID-19
  • patients and customers who have a confirmed case of COVID-19.

We have supplied PHNs with a small number of respirators. They will conserve these stocks as far as possible.

You must not sell these masks or respirators as commercial stock.

How we’re managing PPE supply

National Medical Stockpile PPE supplies have been sourced in a competitive global market where access to sufficient volume of PPE from traditional suppliers has been limited due to unprecedented international demand.

The National Medical Stockpile rapidly contracted a range of suppliers to deliver products from both Australia and overseas. These products all meet the National Medical Stockpile quality assurance measures ensuring products deployed are safe, effective and fit for purpose.

The National Medical Stockpile only releases products for dispatch where there is a high level of confidence in their quality, based on a range of assurance activities. These products are supported by post‑contracting assurance activities such as a targeted Therapeutic Goods Administration post market review and independent product testing against Australian Standards. The National Medical Stockpile has also used Australian Government contracts to ensure appropriate specifications are met as part of the purchase.

We ask the health workforce to use PPE conservatively where possible.

The Australian Government is:

  • working with local industry to increase local production of PPE
  • working with international suppliers
  • providing PPE in response to demonstrated need.

Until we have enough for everyone, our priority is to ensure staff in frontline health services likely to come into contact with people with COVID-19 have PPE. This includes:

  • public hospitals
  • general practices
  • community pharmacies
  • other settings where people are most likely to present with COVID-19
  • aged care providers (services with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case, or where clinical advice requires it).

PPE for disability support services and workers

Read about how disability support services and workers can access PPE.

PPE for the general public

For PPE advice for the general public, see:

Staying informed

To stay up to date on COVID-19:


Online training

A 30-minute online module — COVID-19 infection control training — is available for care workers across all health care settings.

This training is hosted on an external site, provided by our COVID-19 training partner Aspen Medical.

Register now

Publications and fact sheets

See our resources for health professionals on PPE.


View our webinars on the COVID-19 response for the health and aged care sector.

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