COVID-19 hotspots for Commonwealth support purposes
Find out what a COVID-19 hotspot is, what information the Chief Medical Officer uses to declare one, what support is available, and when we remove them from the list.
Declaring a hotspot
The Australian Government Chief Medical Officer (CMO) declares COVID-19 hotspots for the purposes of Commonwealth support. Hotspots enable Commonwealth support to be provided to defined areas within states and territories, where it might be needed.
Factors the CMO considers when determining whether an area should be declared as a hotspot include:
- epidemiology – the number of cases, rate of increase of cases, links with known outbreaks, source of infection, and whether cases were in quarantine
- the geographic spread of cases
- the impact, real or potential, on regional and remote areas
- the make up of the population in the area – for example, if there are vulnerable people or culturally and linguistically diverse people
- the level of current public health restrictions in the area
- how many people, on average, each positive case of COVID-19 is infecting – the effective reproductive number
- whether cases moved outside of the affected area
- modelling of likely transmission from this area
- the ability for the area to identify unrecognised community transmission – this includes testing rates, laboratory capacity, and public health capacity to do case notifications and contact tracing.
Vaccination rates and hotspots
Under the National Plan agreed to by all First Ministers, the Commonwealth’s hotspot declaration automatically ceases within a particular state or territory 2 weeks after the 80% fully vaccinated rate has been reached within that jurisdiction.
Once a hotspot is declared
When the CMO declares a hotspot:
- we publish this on our website and announce it to the public
- the CMO notifies states and territories through the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC)
- the National Incident Centre (NIC) reviews it daily.
State or territory chief health officers can write to the CMO to ask for a review of a hotspot location.
Declaring a hotspot for Commonwealth support enables the Commonwealth to:
- provide personal protective equipment (PPE) from the National Medical Stockpile
- support aged care facilities, including by providing PPE and the single site workforce supplement, and integrating an aged care response centre into the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre
- provide help with contact tracing
- offer testing to those with no symptoms via GP-led respiratory clinics
- reprioritise vaccine supplies, if required
- offer the COVID-19 Disaster Payment to eligible workers
- offer access to 2 telehealth consultation items through the Medicare Benefits Schedule.
Removing a hotspot
The CMO may decide to remove a hotspot from the list. When deciding whether to remove a hotspot, the CMO considers whether:
- case counts have decreased for at least 14 days
- the effective reproductive number is below 1
- there are no active cases in vulnerable populations, such as those in aged care facilities or other residential facilities
- there are no active cases in harder-to-reach populations, such as people experiencing homelessness
- all cases being detected are among people already identified as contacts who have been in quarantine before becoming infectious
- there is a reduction in, or no cases of, a more transmissible variant in the community (not in quarantine)
- case numbers have not increased as a result of easing restrictions
- community awareness and testing is high
- extra PPE, supports for age care, and contact tracing are no longer requested.
Once 80% vaccination coverage is reached in a state or territory, and two weeks has passed, hotspots will automatically lift.
See our list of current hotspot locations.