Prevent and prepare for COVID-19 in residential aged care

Residential aged care providers must stay alert and prepared for a potential COVID-19 outbreak in their home. Learn about the measures you should have in place to prevent and prepare for an outbreak.

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.

Learn how to manage a COVID-19 outbreak in a residential aged care home.

Outbreak management plan

Residential aged care homes must have processes in places to prevent and manage COVID-19 outbreaks and impacts.  

Providers should:

  • 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:

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:

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
  • volunteers
  • administration and management staff.

IPC Leads

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.

IPC resources

For guidance, see the:

For IPC training for the aged care sector, see:

Planning communication

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

Find a clinic and book 

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.

Learn more about your responsibilities for ensuring residents have access to COVID-19 vaccine doses. 

State and territory advice

Keep up to date with your state or territory advice on managing a COVID-19 outbreak.


Publications and fact sheets


For more information, watch webinars:

Stay informed

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.

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