National COVID-19 Health Management plan
The National COVID-19 Health Management Plan for 2023 provides guidance to manage COVID-19 in aged care.
As part of the plan, the National Statement of Expectations on COVID-19 Management in Aged Care Settings provides guidance on:
- responsibilities for preparing for and responding to COVID-19 outbreaks
- nationally consistent principles and best-practice guidance
- managing infection prevention and control (IPC) settings to be:
- in place
- scaled up quickly, when needed
- making sure older people are protected from COVID-19.
It should be read together with other approved guidelines, including the national guidelines from the Communicable Diseases Network Australia.
Managing a COVID-19 outbreak
Outbreaks of infectious illnesses, like COVID-19 in residential aged care homes, are a risk to the health and wellbeing of residents, staff and families.
An outbreak of COVID-19 occurs when 2 or more residents test positive to COVID-19 within a 72-hour period.
Outbreak management plan
Residential aged care homes must have processes in places to prevent and manage COVID-19 outbreaks and impacts.
- train all staff in IPC and make sure they regularly update their skills
- work with their IPC Lead to assess their current IPC practices and procedures
- have an outbreak management plan that is regularly tested and updated
- have a workforce management plan with contingencies for an outbreak, including finding staff through recruitment agencies and the organisation
- do a stocktake of personal protective equipment and source more from commercial suppliers, if needed
- engage with staff, residents, their families and visitors, so they understand outbreak procedures.
For resources to help you develop an outbreak management plan, see the:
- Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission guidance documents
- steps you need to take in the first 24 hours after a COVID-19 positive case fact sheet
- National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of Outbreaks of Acute Respiratory Infection (including COVID-19 and Influenza) in Residential Care Facilities.
For lessons learned in managing a COVID-19 outbreak, read the:
Screening and managing visitors
Aged care peak body and consumer advocacy organisations have released an Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes.
The code provides a nationally consistent approach that ensures residents can receive visitors while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Screening visitors on entry to a residential aged care home is vital.
All visitors should:
- be well and free of respiratory symptoms
- strongly encouraged to take a rapid antigen test before entry
- be encouraged to wear a mask during their visit
- not visit if COVID-19 positive, for at least 7 days and be symptom free.
Providers should regularly review screening arrangements in line with their risk assessment of the current COVID-19 risk in their community.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission provides:
- innovative ideas for providers to keep residents in touch with loved ones
- advice on screening staff and visitors to residential aged care homes.
Infection prevention and control
Up-to-date IPC practices and procedures are important in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in homes and services.
All staff should be trained in IPC. including:
- kitchen, cleaning and laundry staff
- administration and management staff.
Each residential aged care home (including NATSIFAC and MPS providers) must appoint an ongoing nurse to be the lead person for IPC.
Learn more about IPC Leads.
For guidance, see the:
- National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of Outbreaks of Acute Respiratory Infection (including COVID-19 and Influenza) in Residential Care Facilities
- COVID-19 environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for health and residential care facilities
- Aged Care COVID-19 – Lowering transmission risk in residential aged care fact sheet.
For IPC training for the aged care sector, see:
- Infection prevention and control for aged care – for all aged care workers
- Infection prevention and control – advanced education eLearning modules – for health care, aged and disability care workers and organisations, and workforce groups
- Partnerships in care – for partners, or potential partners in care and other visitors
- COVID-19 Infection Control Online Training Modules.
All residential aged care homes should plan and prepare their communication systems in case of a positive case or COVID-19 outbreak.
The National COVID-19 Residential Aged Care Emergency Communication Guide provides guidance on communication before and during a COVID-19 outbreak.
Learn more about how to establish and maintain communications during a COVID-19 outbreak.
Vaccinations are important in managing COVID-19 in high-risk settings, such as residential aged care.
All aged care staff should stay up to date with state or territory directions on COVID-19 and flu vaccination requirements.
Giving COVID-19 vaccination at the same time as the annual flu vaccination is safe and efficient.
Aged care residents have the right to choose whether or not to have vaccinations. They should be encouraged to talk to their doctor about getting the flu vaccination, which is recommended for everyone aged 65 years and over.
Residential aged care homes are responsible for ensuring residents have access to recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses.
ATAGI advice on COVID-19 vaccine doses
If it has been 6 months since a COVID-19 vaccination or confirmed COVID-19 infection, an additional dose:
- is recommended for people aged 75 years or older
- should be considered for people aged 65 to 74 years, following discussion with your healthcare provider.
All COVID-19 vaccines are anticipated to provide benefit to eligible people. However, the monovalent Omicron XBB.1.5 vaccines are preferred over other vaccines for eligible people.
State and territory advice
Keep up to date with your state or territory advice on managing a COVID-19 outbreak.
Publications and fact sheets
COVID-19 resources for health professionals, including aged care providers, pathology providers and health care managers
For more information, watch webinars:
To stay up to date on aged care and COVID-19:
Find the latest advice and resources in your state or territory from your local public health agency.