Protecting Older Australians – COVID-19 update 14 October 2022

In this edition: Aged care COVID-19 update webinar and COVID-19 isolation requirements for high-risk settings, including residential aged care homes.

Date published:
Health sector

Webinar – aged care COVID-19 update

The next webinar will be held on Friday 21 October 2022, 1pm - 2pm (AEDT).

In this session you will hear from Professor Alison McMillan, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, about the latest advice on isolation requirements in high-risk settings (more information below) and the new National COVID-19 Community Protection Framework. You will hear from the Aged Care Quality Safety Commission on risk proportionate approaches and provider responsibilities. The Department will also provide an update on worker vaccinations and COVID-19 reporting requirements.

Please register to attend.

This session will include a moderated Q&A session with Departmental officials, and we encourage you to submit questions in advance through the registration link.

Top 3 questions from last weeks webinar:

Question 1 – Is screening of staff and visitors still required?
Although we have seen a recent reduction in cases and outbreaks, it is important that residential aged care homes remain vigilant.  It is recommended that facilities continue to refer to CDNA guidance materials to underpin screening arrangements put in place, informed by local risk assessments. We are continuing to supply weekly Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits to residential aged care homes through the National Medical Stockpile which should form part of your surveillance screening.

Question 2 – Are the CDNA guidelines applicable to Home Care providers?
No. Due to the potential impacts of COVID-19 in residential aged care homes, the information provided in the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) guidelines applies to all residential aged care homes in Australia to help with planning, preparing, detecting and the management of cases and outbreaks of acute respiratory infection. Home care providers should review the advice and consider what is applicable for their workers and care recipients.

Question 3 – Now we have the updated CDNA Guidelines, what is the hierarchy of the documents as there are state guidelines as well?
The CDNA has developed these guidelines in consultation with jurisdictions and the aged care sector and where guidance differs from state and territory policies, residential aged care homes should follow local state or territory requirements.

COVID-19 isolation requirements for high-risk settings

On 30 September 2022, the National Cabinet agreed to a nationally consistent approach to transition Australian’s COVID-19 response and to remove the need for compulsory COVID-19 isolation across all jurisdictions, effective 14 October 2022.

With current high levels of immunity through vaccination and infection, we can transition to managing COVID-19 more like the way we manage other respiratory illnesses are managed. Removing mandates and restrictions gives responsibility back to individuals to take a greater role in managing their own risk.

However, because COVID-19 is still circulating in the community and new waves of COVID-19 infections and new variants are likely to emerge, it remains important that we continue to take steps to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on those at higher risk from severe disease by staying up-to-date with and following public health advice as circumstances change.

The Australian Government (in partnership with state and territory governments) will continue to monitor COVID-19 closely and keep the community updated about any changes to recommended public health actions and measures.  Effective, proportionate and targeted measures will be used wherever possible to protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19.

A National COVID-19 Community Protection Framework has been developed and outlines response measures that can be scaled-up should the epidemiological situation change. This Framework has been endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and aims to provide greater certainty to the general community, business and people at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

To continue to protect yourself and those most at risk from severe COVID-19 illness, including older Australians, please:

  • stay up to date with vaccinations
  • wear a mask when in indoor settings and large community spaces where you want to further protect yourself, such as the shops or public transport
  • stay home if you have respiratory symptoms to reduce the risk of infecting others
  • if you test positive for COVID-19, you should stay home, report your test to your state or territory so you can access support and care, avoid attending high-risk places like aged and disability care facilities or hospitals, and wear a mask if you have to go out.

Aged care settings

Aged care providers play a key role in managing the COVID-19 transition, particularly in high-risk settings such as residential aged care homes.

Aged care providers and workers are expected to maintain existing infection prevention and control measures including:

  • All aged care workers should not attend work, and should stay at home, if they have respiratory symptoms to help prevent the spread.
  • It is recommended that facilities continue to refer to CDNA guidance materials to underpin screening arrangements put in place, informed by local risk assessments.
  • Workers who test positive for COVID-19 should not attend the workplace for at least 7 days, including those who provide close personal care to older people in their homes or the community.
  • Residential aged care providers should continue to report all positive COVID-19 test results to the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care via the My Aged Care Provider Portal.
  • Residential aged care providers should undertake regular IPC risk assessments, taking into account their local environment, and increase the use of IPC measures in-line with the assessed risk. For example, if local risk increases, providers should consider resuming the use of masks by staff and routine COVID-19 testing for staff. Increased IPC measures may also apply to visitors.
  • Residential aged care providers should maintain their preparedness to respond to COVID-19 (or other respiratory disease) outbreaks and continue to work closely with their IPC lead nurse to ensure that IPC practices are current and IPC resources are available. This includes planning for additional or replacement workforce.

The National COVID-19 Community Protection Framework also includes advice for high-risk individuals, including older people. All home and community support providers are encouraged to review this advice and share with their care recipients.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) – CDNA National Guidelines for Public Health Units provide nationally consistent guidance on how to respond to coronavirus (COVID-19).

You can call the National Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you need any assistance. The Hotline can connect to the Translation and Interpreting Service (TIS) if language or hearing support is needed.

Help us improve

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.