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.
Do not visit aged care facilities if you have:
- returned from overseas in the last 14 days
- 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
From 1 May 2020 you must have had your influenza (flu) vaccination to visit an aged care facility.
Please note that young people under 16 years of age will only be permitted in an aged care facility for compassionate reasons for the purposes of visiting someone at 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
- Practice social distancing - maintain a distance of 1.5 metres
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.
Aged care facilities should implement the following measures for restricting visits and visitors to reduce the risk of transmission to residents, including:
- Limiting visits to 2 hours;
- Limiting visits 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 social distancing practices 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.
Managers of aged care facilities can find more information about preparing for a COVID-19 outbreak on the Chief Health Officer alerts page and in the interim national COVID-19 guidelines for outbreaks in residential care facilities.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- ACT Health: Donning and doffing personal protective equipment (PPE) factsheet
- NSW Clinical Excellence Commission: COVID-19 PPE training videos
- Australian Government Department of Health: COVID-19 infection control training
- Australian Government Department of Health: COVID-19 wearing personal protective equipment in aged care video
- Australian Department of Health: Revised advice on non-inpatient care of people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, including use of personal protective equipment.
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 inform the Capital Health Network.
For more information, see:
- Australian Department of Health: Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for public gatherings and visits to vulnerable groups
- Australian Department of Health: Information for residents of residential aged care services, their family members and visitors
- Australian Department of Health: Information for health care and residential care workers
- Australian Department of Health: Interim advice on non-inpatient care of persons with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2091 (COVID-19), including use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- ACT Health: Quarantine information
- ACT Health: Donning and doffing personal protective equipment (PPE) factsheet
- ACT Health: Chief Health Officer alerts page
FAQs for aged care facilities
How do we implement the requirement for staff and visitors to be vaccinated by 1 May?
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 by 1 May 2020. ACT, like all States and Territories, the ACT has issued a Public Health Direction giving effect to that decision.
Under paragraph 2 of the Public Health (Residential Aged Care Facilities) Emergency Direction 2020, people are not to enter or remain on the premises of residential aged care facility in the ACT if the person does not have an up-to-date vaccination against influenza, if the vaccination is available to the person.
Under paragraph 3 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.
ACT Health is taking a reasonable approach to this requirement. If a staff member of a residential aged care facility is attempting to access the vaccine but is having supply issues, or a person (staff, visitors or contractors) is unable to receive the vaccine for a medical reason in line with the Australian Immunisation Handbook, then the vaccine is not considered to be ‘available’ to them. There are only limited medical contraindications for the influenza vaccine and providers must seek a medical certificate or similar evidence from a medical practitioner confirming that a person cannot have the vaccine for medical reasons and be able to produce the evidence if requested by ACT Health. They do not need to apply to ACT Health for an exemption.
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.
Facilities experiencing vaccine supply issues should inform the Capital Health Network and 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.
Emergency responders or law enforcers are permitted to enter a residential aged care facility but persons who have not been vaccinated must only remain on the premises for no longer than is necessary to manage the initial emergency response.
In all other circumstances, visitors and staff must be vaccinated with this season’s influenza vaccine. 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.
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 the pandemic is over.
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. However, you must comply with the restrictions.
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.
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.
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 day.
- 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 (after 1 May 2020)
- Are 16 years old or younger, other than for compassionate reasons for the purposes of visiting someone at end of life.
If you are unsure, talk to your workplace about work arrangements.
Anyone entering Australia from any overseas country must self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the date they left an overseas country, and closely monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
For more information, please see our Travellers page.
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 quarantining, self-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 interim 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. No more than two people at any one time, once per day. The visit should be in the resident’s room and not in communal areas.
What are the penalties if I do not comply with these quarantine 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, $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)
For more information, please see:
- Public Health Act 1997
- Public Health (Residential Aged Care Facilities) Emergency Direction 2020
- Our factsheet on the Direction
You can also call the COVID-19 Helpline on (02) 6207 7244 between 8am and 8pm daily.