Aged care

Advice for visitors to aged care facilities

The outbreak of any virus in an aged care facility can have serious consequences.

We also know that older people in our community are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

To assist in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Australia, the National Cabinet has accepted the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advice to restrict visitation in all Aged Care Facilities. This is a measure that is designed to protect the most vulnerable in our community.

This means that from 5.00pm on 23 March 2020, until the conclusion of the declared public health emergency, a person must not enter, or remain on, the premises of a residential aged care facility in the ACT unless:

  • the person is an employee or contractor of the residential aged care facility; or
  • the person's presence at the premises is for the purposes of providing goods or services that are necessary for the effective operation of the residential aged care facility; or
  • the person's presence at the premises is for the purposes of providing health, medical or pharmaceutical goods or services to a resident of the residential aged care facility; or
  • the person's presence at the premises is for the purposes of a care and support visit to a resident of the residential aged care facility, and is the only care and support visit made to the resident on that day; or
  • the person's presence at the premises is for the purposes of end of life support for a resident of the residential aged care facility; or
  • the person's presence at the premises is required for the purposes of emergency management or law enforcement; or
  • the person's presence at the premises is in the person's capacity as a prospective resident of the residential aged care facility.

This means that you can visit your family member in an aged care facility for the purposes of providing care and support. Visits cannot last more than 2 hours, and only one person, or two people at the same time, can visit each resident per day.

However, you cannot visit aged care facilities if you:

  • have returned from overseas in the last 14 days;
  • have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days;
  • have a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees or symptoms of a respiratory infection such as a cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath; or
  • have not had your 2020 influenza (flu) vaccination, unless you have a documented medical contraindication to receiving the vaccination.

Please note that young people under 16 years of age are only permitted to visit a residential aged care facility for compassionate reasons for the purposes of visiting someone at the end of life.

No school or childcare groups of any size are allowed to visit residential aged care facilities.

This applies to anyone visiting or working at an aged care facility.

Advice for family and friends

If you visit an aged care facility, you need to reduce the risk of transmission by:

  • following the restrictions outlined above - only one visit per day, with no more than two people, for no longer than two hours
  • following any other restrictions the aged care facility puts in place to keep their residents safe
  • keeping your visit in a resident’s room, outdoors, or a specific area that the facility has designated for visits. Keep out of communal areas where risk of transmission is greater
  • practising physical distancing - maintain a distance of 1.5 metres wherever possible

If you cannot visit your family and friends in a residential aged care facility, it’s important to keep in touch. Make phone or video calls, send postcards, photos or artwork, or film short videos to share.

More information is available in the national factsheet: Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for families and residents on restricted visits to residential aged care facilities.

Advice for aged care facilities

Residents of residential aged care facilities are at increased risk of COVID-19 infection and are more vulnerable to serious complications if they do become infected.

Residential aged care facilities in the ACT should ensure that they have a robust infection control program in place to prevent and control the transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses in facilities.

Facilities are urged to have procedures in place should a case or outbreak of COVID-19 be detected among their staff and/or residents. Detailed guidelines on managing outbreaks are provided in the Australian Department of Health’s COVID-19 guidelines for outbreaks in residential care facilities.

Aged care facilities must take all reasonable steps to ensure that people who are prohibited from entering do not enter or remain on the premises. All staff and visitors should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and risk factors on arrival to the facility. For more information, please refer to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s entry screening advice for residential aged care facilities.

Aged care facilities should implement the following measures for restricting visits and visitors to reduce the risk of transmission to residents:

  • Visits must be limited to 2 hours;
  • Visits for each resident must be limited to a maximum of two people, once per day – this includes family, friends, professional service staff, or advocacy staff;
  • Visits should be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors, or in a specific area designated by the aged care facility, rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission to residents is greater;
  • No large group visits or gatherings, including social activities or entertainment, should be permitted at this time; and
  • Visitors should also be encouraged to practise physical distancing measures where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.

Measures such as phone or video calls must be accessible to all residents to enable more regular communication with family members. Family and friends should be encouraged to maintain contact with residents by phone and other social communication apps, as appropriate.

Active health screening for symptoms of COVID-19 should be conducted for all residents being admitted or re-admitted from other health facilities and community settings. New residents who are being admitted from other health facilities should be assessed by appropriate medical staff prior to admission to the facility. No new residents with symptoms compatible with COVID-19 should enter the facility.

There is no public health requirement or recommendation for asymptomatic residents of an aged care facility to be tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to the facility from a hospital admission, if that hospital admission was unrelated to COVID-19. Testing of asymptomatic individuals in aged care settings is not currently recommended in the ACT, except in the scenario of an outbreak.

Appropriate infection prevention practices   should be implemented for residents returning from treatment or care at other facilities.

Managers of aged care facilities can find more information about preparing for a COVID-19 outbreak in the National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Residential Care Facilities in Australia.

Personal Protective Equipment

For personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies for residential aged care facilities, contact your regular supplier or parent organisation. If you are unable to procure PPE through regular channels, you can email your request to the Australian Government Department of Health at agedcarecovidppe@health.gov.au.

The requests will be triaged by the Australian Government Department of Health. In liaison with ACT Health, the Australian Government Department of Health will advise you if the request is approved and ACT Health will arrange for the PPE to be provided to your facility.

Staff should be trained and deemed competent in the proper use of PPE, including donning and doffing procedures. Refresher training is recommended for all existing and new staff.

Influenza Vaccination

Annual influenza vaccination is the single most effective action in preventing the spread of influenza and should be promoted among residents and staff. All staff and visitors entering the facility are required to be vaccinated for influenza from 1st May. For further information about how to implement this requirement refer to the FAQs for aged care facilities.

Immunisation providers should implement enhanced infection control measures to ensure that they can safely provide influenza vaccination services. Further information please see our fact sheet.

If you are having problems accessing the influenza vaccine for your staff or residents, please contact Capital Health Network on (02) 6287 8099.

FAQs for aged care facilities and visitors

What are the influenza vaccination requirements and are there any exemptions?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the key medical decision-making committee for health emergencies, has advised that all residential aged care staff and visiting workers should be vaccinated for influenza by 1 May 2020. Like all States and Territories, the ACT has issued a Public Health Direction giving effect to that decision.

Under paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Public Health (Residential Aged Care Facilities) Emergency Direction 2020 , a person is not to enter or remain on the premises of a residential aged care facility in the ACT if the person does not have an up-to-date vaccination against influenza. Exceptions to this requirement include:

  • Anyone with a documented medical contraindication to the influenza vaccination. There are only limited medical contraindications for the influenza vaccine, as detailed in the Australian Immunisation Handbook.
  • staff member, contractor or person providing goods or services to a residential aged care facility who is unable to access the vaccine due to supply restrictions. The person is only exempt from the requirement until such time as the vaccine becomes available.
  • Emergency responders or law enforcers who are entering a residential aged care facility for the purposes of emergency management or law enforcement. However, persons who have not been vaccinated should remain on the premises for no longer than is necessary to manage the initial emergency response.

Facilities experiencing vaccine supply issues should contact Capital Health Network on (02) 6287 8099. Facilities should make continual reasonable efforts to obtain supply and make the vaccine available to their staff. Facilities should prioritise the vaccination of staff who are in direct contact with residents, followed by vaccination of staff who have less contact with residents.

If staff cannot have the influenza vaccination due to a documented medical contraindication, facilities may consider whether they wish to deploy these staff elsewhere. Providers should consider encouraging visitors who cannot have an influenza vaccination for medical reasons to only visit for compassionate reasons.

How do we implement the requirement for staff and visitors to be vaccinated by 1 May?

Under paragraph 5 of the Public Health Emergency Direction, the operator of a residential aged care facility (RACF) must take all reasonable steps to ensure a person does not enter the premises in contravention of the requirements.

Providers should document that evidence of influenza immunisation status was requested and provided from all visitors and staff entering the facility. Appropriate evidence might include:

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

For individuals who cannot have the influenza vaccination for medical reasons, providers must seek a medical certificate or similar evidence from a medical practitioner confirming that a person cannot have the vaccine because they have a medical contraindication. They must be able to produce the evidence if requested by ACT Health. They do not need to apply to ACT Health for an exemption.

For staff, contractors or people providing goods or services to the residential aged care facility who have not been able to access the influenza vaccination due to supply restrictions, providers must seek evidence that they have tried more than one supplier to obtain the vaccine to be granted an exemption. The exemption applies only until such time as the vaccination becomes available. They do not need to apply to ACT Health for an exemption.

Without the production of a medical certificate based on a medical contraindication, any staff member who refuses to receive the influenza vaccine is not to be permitted entry to the facility. Providers will need to seek their own legal advice regarding employment conditions for staff who choose not to be vaccinated. These staff members may need to be re-deployed elsewhere until they are vaccinated or until the public health emergency ends.

If a person attempts to enter the facility despite being informed that they are restricted from entering due to any of the requirements specified in the Public Health (Residential Aged Care Facilities) Emergency Direction 2020 , the provider should discuss the situation with them, provide information regarding the Public Health (Residential Aged Care Facilities) Emergency Direction 2020, and request the person leave the premises. If necessary, in an extreme situation, police can be called.

Further information is available at Department of Health – Information Sheet - Restrictions on entry into and visitors to aged care facilities.

Who can visit as a part of a care and support visit?

  • family members or close friends of a resident
  • professional service providers such as solicitors
  • advocacy support such as religious counsel

Can I still visit my friend or family member who is a resident of an ACT aged care facility?

Yes. Your visit qualifies under a care and support visit. Visits must not last longer than 2 hours, and each resident may only have one visitor, or two visitors at the same time, per day. You must comply with all of the restrictions described above. Good hand hygiene must be practised at all times and physical distancing of 1.5 metres maintained where possible.

Can a religious adviser, such as a priest or imam, visit a resident of an ACT aged care facility?

Yes. This visit qualifies under a care and support visit. However, the religious adviser needs to comply with the restrictions, including the requirement to have an influenza vaccination. Good hand hygiene must be practised at all times and physical distancing of 1.5 metres maintained where possible.

Are funeral providers and church service providers required to have an influenza vaccination in order to enter an ACT aged care facility?

Yes. Under the Public Health (Residential Aged Care Facilities) Emergency Direction 2020 , all visitors entering an aged care facility must provide evidence of having received the 2020 influenza vaccine, unless they have a documented medical contraindication to receiving the vaccine, or have been unable to access the vaccine due to supply restrictions. In this case, a person is only exempt from the requirement until such time as the vaccine becomes available.

Can our family’s solicitor attend in order to arrange a will and/or enduring Power of Attorney?

Yes. This visit qualifies under a care and support visit. However, the solicitor needs to comply with the restrictions, including the requirement to have an influenza vaccination. Good hand hygiene must be practised at all times and physical distancing of 1.5 metres maintained where possible.

Can hairdressing services continue to be provided to residents?

Yes. This visit qualifies under a care and support visit   . However, the hairdresser needs to comply with the restrictions, including the requirement to have an influenza vaccination. Visits must not last longer than 2 hours, and each resident may only have one visitor, or two visitors at the same time, per day.

Hairdressing should be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors, or in a specific area designated by the residential aged care facility, rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to residents is greater.

Good hand hygiene must be practised at all times.

I am a staff member or a contractor for an aged care facility. Can I go to work?

If you are a staff member and have recently travelled overseas, you should be aware that the Australian Government has strict quarantine requirements in place for people entering Australia from overseas.

Do not visit aged care facilities if you:

  • Have returned from overseas in the last 14 days
  • Have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
  • Have a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees or symptoms of a respiratory infection such as a cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath
  • Have not been vaccinated against influenza

If you are unsure, talk to your workplace about work arrangements.

Anyone entering Australia from any overseas country must quarantine for 14 days from the date of arrival in Australia, and closely monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. Close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case must quarantine for 14 days after their last contact with the confirmed case, and closely monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.

For more information, please see our Travellers page. If you are quarantined at home, please see our Quarantine page and our Getting Tested page.

Can renovations to residential aged care facilities, or installation of solar panels, continue?

Yes. However, anyone entering the premises of a residential aged care facility must comply with the restrictions. Physical distancing measures and good hygiene must be practised at all times.

What about contractors who provide a service to a residential aged care home but who do not enter the premises, such as waste collection?

Contractors who do not enter the premises, such as waste management or collection services, are exempt from the restrictions. However, any contractors who need to enter the premises in the course of their work must comply with all restrictions.

Can emergency responders enter a residential aged care facility?

Emergency responders or law enforcers are permitted to enter a residential aged care facility in the case of an emergency, as long as they:

  • Have not returned from overseas in the last 14 days
  • Have not been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
  • Do not have a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees or symptoms of a respiratory infection

It is expected that emergency responders would not be attending work if they meet any of the above criteria.

If an emergency responder has not been vaccinated for influenza, they must only remain on the premises for no longer than is necessary to manage the initial emergency response.

Are residential aged care providers required to take the temperature of a person prior to that person entering the residential aged care facility?

Under the Public Health (Residential Aged Care Facilities) Emergency Direction 2020 , facilities must take all reasonable steps to ensure that a person does not enter or remain on the premises of the residential aged care facility if the person is prohibited from doing so. However, there is not a specific requirement under the Public Health Direction to undertake temperature testing of all people entering the facility. The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s entry screening advice for residential aged care facilities strongly recommend that all staff and visitors are asked a series of screening questions about COVID-19 symptoms and risk factors upon arrival to a residential aged care facility. These screening questions can be supplemented by temperature testing. If temperature testing is used in addition to the standard screening questions, they recommend that a no-touch method is used, such as an infra-red temperature detection device.

What records do residential aged care providers need to keep from May 2020 as evidence that staff, contractors, volunteers and visitors have had the influenza vaccination?

Aged Care providers should keep records of staff and resident influenza vaccinations or medical contraindications.

Visitors, contractors and volunteers entering the facility should be informed that it is a legal requirement that they provide evidence of their influenza immunisation status, and that the facility is required to document that this evidence was requested and provided. The facility should also indicate that this documentation will be stored in line with the aged care provider’s usual record keeping requirements, which is required under Privacy laws to ensure that the security and privacy of such records is maintained.

Appropriate evidence of influenza immunisation status might include a statement or record from a health practitioner, an immunisation history statement from Medicare online, or the Express Plus Medicare mobile app.

How can staff help prevent the spread of the virus?

Staff should not attend work if they are unwell, even with very mild symptoms.

Practising good hand hygiene, respiratory/cough etiquette, and general hygiene is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus.

Information about quarantine, isolation, personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning when there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 within an aged care facility can be found in the national COVID-19 guidelines for outbreaks in residential care facilities.

If care and support visitors are on the premises, make sure the restrictions outlined above are follows. Each resident may have one visit per day, from no more than two people, for a maximum of 2 hours. The visit should be in the resident’s room and not in communal areas.

What are the penalties for not complying with these measures?

If someone does not comply with the restrictions (without a reasonable reason), then penalties will apply.

The maximum penalties are:

  • In the case of a natural person (individual), $8,000 (50 penalty units)
  • In the case of a body corporate, $40,500 (50 penalty units)
  • In the case of a utility that is a body corporate $1,620,000 (2000 penalty units)

More information

For more information, see:

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Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

Last Updated: May 29 2020