Protecting Older Australians: COVID-19 Update 21 April 2023

In this issue: COVID-19 heading into winter, Reporting COVID-19 cases and more.

Date published:
Health sector

COVID-19 heading into winter

As we approach winter, we are starting to see a rise in COVID-19 transmissions in the community, which increases the risk to vulnerable people in our community and in higher risk settings such as aged care. To protect the health of older Australians, we ask that you continue to be vigilant by maintaining COVIDSafe behaviours and to please reinforce the following protective actions to your staff, resdients or care recipients and visitors:

  • ask visitors to wear a mask indoors and when visiting older people to reduce risk of transmission
  • conduct visits outside or in well ventilated areas (open windows if you can) and be mindful of physical distancing
  • advise visitors and staff to stay home if they feel unwell or test positive to COVID-19, and to make another time for their visit
  • have hand hygiene stations at entry and other easily accessible points for visitors and staff
  • promote the Partnerships in care program and resources, and
  • being up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations.

Having effective surveillance testing in place using RATs will help you to detect COVID-19 much earlier and enact a swifter response. We encourage regular RAT testing of staff and visitors to screen for infection.

RAT kits will continue to be supplied to residential care homes on a weekly basis from the National Medical Stockpile (NMS) for surveillance screening purposes until 31 December 2023.

We recommend that you still continue to conduct surveillance screening at least 2 times per week and not more than 72 hours apart for staff, or on entry for each visitor. This should increase to daily testing of staff and visitors when you are in an outbreak.

Reporting COVID-19 cases

It remains a requirement for residential aged care homes to report all resident, worker and visitor COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 related resident deaths through the My Aged Care provider portal. This data is important as it allows the Department to maintain a contemporary view of current COVID-19 cases in residential aged care homes and facilitates access to Government support that may be required by your home to help manage a COVID-19 outbreak. It is important that you keep the information up to date by reporting additional COVID-19 cases as they occur and then closing the record once all cases are recovered.

Please call the My Aged Care Provider and Assessor helpline on 1800 836 799 if you need assistance accessing the portal.

Reminder – accessing oral antiviral treatments

The oral antivirals Paxlovid® and Lagevrio® are available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for all residents that are aged 70 years and over. Please ensure your COVID-19 positive residents have access to oral antivirals, prescribed by a medical practitioner as a priority.

In addition, people aged 60 to 69 years with one risk factor are now eligible to receive Paxlovid for treatment of COVID-19.

If you need assistance accessing a prescriber, consider HealthDirect’s free helpline 1800 022 222 or the online Service Finder. Your Primary Health Network may also be able to assist to connect you to a local prescriber.

The Find a Pharmacy website is available for sourcing antivirals through community pharmacy channels.

If you are in outbreak and are unable to access antivirals quickly, please contact the Department via email:

Government support during a COVID-19 outbreak

Support remains available if there is an outbreak at an Australian Government-funded aged care service (residential and in-home care). For further details, please visit the Government supports for the aged care sector webpage.

Contacting the Department

If you are unable to locate the information you need on our website, you can email your queries to the Department.

The centralised contact point to request Commonwealth supports is This replaces the previous case management teams and can assist you with the following queries:

  • Surge workforce - residential aged care homes that need temporary surge workforce support
  • Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits - if you wish to opt out of receiving RAT kits or alter the quantity and/or frequency of supply
  • PCR Testing - request for in-reach PCR testing for residents and staff during an outbreak, continues until 30 April 2023, after which current arrangements will cease - further information provided below
  • Oral Antiviral treatments - if you are in outbreak and are unable to access antivirals through your usual arrangements.

Requests for PPE from the NMS must continue to be submitted through the My Aged Care provider portal.

For all other general enquiries, please email

If you need urgent help outside of normal business hours, please contact your local state or territory office.

PCR Testing pathways

In-reach COVID-19 PCR testing continues to be available through pathology providers to residential aged care homes that are managing COVID-19 outbreaks, including through a dedicated service provided by Sonic Healthcare (Sonic) until 30 April 2023. The Australian Government can arrange access to in-reach COVID-19 outbreak PCR testing, provided by Sonic Healthcare (Sonic), until 30 April 2023. Requests for in-reach COVID-19 outbreak PCR testing from Sonic can be made by emailing the Department:

From 1 May 2023, residential aged care homes will continue to have access to COVID-19 PCR testing through standard Medicare arrangements, where GPs and nurse practitioners can directly request, by referral, COVID-19 and respiratory PCR tests from a pathology provider to assist with the clinical management of patients.

Any COVID-19 PCR testing under Medicare must be bulk-billed and at no cost to aged care homes or patients.

Pathology providers will organise with the residential aged care home, the collection and testing of samples, including onsite testing (like the Sonic service) and results reported directly to the treating practitioner. Some pathology providers may give residential aged care homes access to their residents’ test results via an online portal similar to the Sonic Dx test result portal.

IPC Lead Nurse training grants

Residential aged care providers can still apply for funding to support registered and enrolled nurses to complete specialist IPC Lead Nurse training.

Support is available up to a maximum of $13,020.00 per eligible nurse, for up to 2 registered or enrolled nurses in each eligible residential aged care home, for costs relating to:

  • fees for suitable IPC training courses
  • wages for study leave
  • wages for backfilling for nurses undertaking study.

This funding provides support for more nurses in residential aged care to access IPC Lead Nurse training. Highly skilled staff will ensure residential aged care homes are well prepared to prevent or manage future infectious disease outbreaks including influenza and COVID-19.

For an IPC specialist course to be deemed suitable, it must:

  • focus on infection prevention and control
  • be specified at the level of AQF8
  • be delivered by a recognised education or training provider
  • have an assessment, or assessments, that facilitate successful completion of the course.

The grant opportunity opened 1 December 2022 and applications close at 2pm 30 June 2023 (AEST).

Find out more about this Grant Opportunity: Aged Care Infection Prevention and Control Training (GO5867) on the GrantConnect website.

Top 3 Questions from Webinar held on 6 April 2023

Question 1: Can you please clarify vaccination requirements for aged care workers (residential and home care) and visitors to RACHs?
Vaccination continues to be important in managing the risk related to COVID-19 in high-risk settings such as residential aged care. Aged care workers are strongly encouraged to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations to aid protection against both infection and severe disease for themselves and the people they care for.

There are no Commonwealth mandated restrictions for staff of residential aged care facilities and in-home care workers, however some states and territories may require aged care workers, volunteers and visitors to be vaccinated against influenza and COVID-19. Aged care providers can also adopt their own policies, and work health and safety arrangements. You can find advice for the aged care sector on the Department's website.

Residential aged care providers are required under section 8 of the Quality of Care Principles 2014 to provide staff with access to annual influenza vaccinations for free. Providers are also required under section 10A of the Records Principles 2014 to keep records of the number of staff who have received the influenza vaccination, and if it was received through their vaccination program.

Question 2: Are we still required to report staff COVID-19 vaccinations status on My Aged Care?
Vaccination continues to be important in managing the risk related to COVID-19 in high-risk settings such as residential aged care. Aged care workers are strongly encouraged to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations to aid protection against both infection and severe disease for themselves and the people they care for.

All aged care providers are required under aged care legislation to report weekly, or when there has been a change to the COVID-19 vaccination status of residents and workers through My Aged Care portal.

Question 3: What are the requirements around winter preparation in home and community care settings?
Safe planning, Infection prevention and control (IPC) and emergency care plans are all requirements of managing home care. Home and community care providers need to ensure their organisation is ready should any outbreak occur among care recipients or staff.

It is important to note that advice given by the Department's for aged care workers applies to workers in both residential and in-home care settings, wherever workers are providing close personal care, and recognises the vulnerability of older people. Some of this advice includes:

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