Prevent and prepare for COVID-19 in residential aged care

Residential aged care providers need to remain alert and prepared for a potential outbreak of COVID-19 at their facilities. This page covers the measures you should have in place at all times to prevent and prepare for an outbreak.

Reduce infection risk – Screening and visitor restrictions

Screening all people on entry to a residential aged care facility is vital. Providers should regularly review screening arrangements to keep them up to date and effective.

To help stop the spread of COVID-19, information sheets are available for:

When required, restrictions on the access of visitors to residential aged care facilities are important to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and protect residents and staff.  You should stay up to date with the visitor access directions in your state or territory.

Supporting Visitation - resources

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee supports having visitors in residential aged care facilities in the least restrictive manner possible:

  • visits must be in line with the known or likely wishes and preferences of residents
  • visitors include family, friends, visiting health workers and support staff.

The Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19 (the Code) can help providers to apply restrictions with care and compassion. The Code keeps residents and their loved ones at the centre of decision making.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission provides information on:

To stop the spread of infection, we provide information sheets for:

Infection prevention and control

All staff should be trained in Infection Prevention and Control (IPC). This should include kitchen, cleaning and laundry staff, volunteers, and administration and management staff. Providers should also check that staff maintain safe physical distancing.

Hand wash and sanitiser should be available in all parts of the facility. Relevant staff should frequently clean high touch surfaces such as door handles and shared equipment like walking aids.   

In order to prepare and prevent an outbreak, you should review IPC guidance. All staff should be trained in IPC. Continually remind everyone about this critical importance.

Infection prevention and control

All staff should be trained in Infection Prevention and Control (IPC). This should include kitchen, cleaning and laundry staff, volunteers, and administration and management staff. Providers should also check that staff maintain safe physical distancing.

For information on how to help stop the spread of COVID-19:

These printable resources are available to support your service:

Residential aged care facilities should conduct self-audits to maintain required standards of IPC across all areas and all shifts.

In order to prepare and prevent an outbreak, each facility should review IPC guidance available in the National Guidelines for the prevention, control and public health management of COVID-19 outbreaks in residential care facilities in Australia developed by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA).

All residential aged care facilities should have a IPC clinical lead for each facility. The role of IPC leads is to observe, assess and report on the service’s IPC. They provide advice within the facility and are a key infection control contact in the event of an outbreak.     

More information is available on the IPC leads page.

The Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) use data sources to identify services that are at high risk of an outbreak.

Aged care services should consider both their baseline level of transmission risk and the ways in which they may be able to lower their risk in the event of an outbreak.

More information about how providers can assess their risk is available at Aged Care COVID-19: Lowering transmission risk in residential aged care.

IPC resources

Further advice on IPC procedures is available:

Prepare and maintain your outbreak management plan

Residential care facilities must be prepared for COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in their facility by:  

  • preparing your facility
  • preventing the risk of an outbreak
  • minimising the impact of COVID-19 should an outbreak occur.

To prevent COVID-19 cases and prepare for outbreaks, providers should:

  • have an outbreak management plan which you test and adjust regularly
  • have a workforce management plan with contingencies for an outbreak – this includes finding staff through recruitment agencies and within the wider organisation  
  • do a stocktake of personal protective equipment (PPE) and source more PPE if needed
  • plan how you will organise residents in different scenarios, considering the layout of your facility and the implications for staff and equipment
  • engage with staff, residents and their families so they know how you are preparing for an outbreak and what they will need to do
  • identify how you will need to adjust care delivery and services in the event of an outbreak
  • plan the support services you may need, or changes to these services, as community transmission increases, or if there is an outbreak at your service.   

Preventing and preparing resources

Here are some resources to help develop your outbreak management plan:

You may also wish to read the reviews of previous outbreaks and the national review, to learn about what has and hasn’t worked when managing a COVID-19 outbreak.

Prepare your communication system for a COVID-19 outbreak

All residential aged care facilities should prepare their communication systems in case they have a COVID-19 outbreak.

The National COVID-19 Residential Aged Care Emergency Communication Guide provides provides guidance on communication in advance of, and during, a COVID-19 outbreak. It covers roles and responsibilities, and communication protocols and processes for the Australian Government, State and Territory Governments, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) and residential aged care facility (RACF) providers.

Templates are also available as a guide – a starting point for aged care facilities and stakeholders to use and adapt for their own needs. 

Communication requirements will increase or decrease, depending on the level of transmission, event, situation, location and facility.

Further information is available from the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre on how to establish and maintain communications in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

State and territory preparedness and response resources

Your state or territory has resources on how an outbreak in aged care will be managed in their jurisdiction. You should ensure you are familiar with the plan in your state or territory.

New South Wales

Victoria

Queensland

Western Australia

South Australia

Tasmania

Australian Capital Territory 

 Northern Territory

Flu vaccinations

States and territories set out influenza vaccination requirements with regard to visitors to and entry into residential aged care facilities through health directions as part of the public health response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

These directions impose entry restrictions that generally apply to individuals entering a residential aged care facility, including:

  • staff, visitors
  • health practitioners
  • volunteers
  • others.

The directions are temporary in nature.  State and territory governments review, update, extend or repeal their directions as necessary as they continue to lead the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Make sure you stay up to date with your state or territory directions on flu vaccination requirements.

When directions are in place

When in place, under state and territory directions, aged care providers must ensure that people without a flu vaccination do not enter or remain in their facility. Make sure you stay up to date with your state or territory directions on flu vaccination requirements.

Residential aged care providers must also see appropriate evidence of immunisation status from visitors and workers.

Appropriate evidence may be:

  • a statement or record from a health practitioner
  • an immunisation history statement available from Medicare online
  • the Express Plus Medicare mobile app.

Providers may ask to see evidence from a worker, or rely on the employer’s assurance. For example, employers may include:

  • a State Government body that employs emergency services workers such as ambulance drivers or paramedics
  • an employment agency that provides temporary agency staff.

State and territory law enforcement agencies will enforce these directions. Persons who fail to comply with any of the directions may face penalties. These include fines for individuals and for corporations.

Providers, workers and individuals who have concerns or questions should contact their local state or territory government for more information.

Information for aged care workers on the flu vaccination is available on the Advice and resources for aged care workers page.

Resources

Publications and fact sheets

Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for health professionals, including aged care providers, pathology providers and health care managers

A collection of resources for health professionals, including aged care providers, pathology providers and health care managers, about coronavirus (COVID-19).

Webinars

Online training

A 30-minute online module – COVID-19 infection control training – is available for care workers across all health care settings. Training specific to aged care is also available.

Register now

Staying informed

We have an aged care COVID-19 newsletter called ‘Protecting Older Australians’ with up to date advice on COVID-19 in aged care.

To stay up to date on aged care and COVID-19:

Australian Government WhatsApp channel for COVID-19

Join our COVID-19 WhatsApp channel to learn the latest on Australia's response to coronavirus (COVID-19). If you're already a WhatsApp user you can send a message to the channel to connect. If you don't have WhatsApp, download the app to join the channel.

Coronavirus Australia app

Stay up to date with official information and advice about the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. You can check your symptoms and get notified when urgent information and updates are published.

Last updated: 
20 December 2021

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