Aged care

Advice for visitors to aged care facilities

From 7am on Friday 3 July, anyone entering the ACT who has been in a COVID-19 Melbourne hotspot must quarantine for 14 days after leaving the hotspot, under a public health direction.

Anyone who entered the ACT prior to this time, who has been in a Melbourne hotspot, is recommended to quarantine for 14 days after leaving the hotspot. If this applies to you, please contact ACT Health through the COVID-19 Helpline on (02) 6207 7244.

Anyone who has been in the Melbourne Metropolitan area should not visit or work in an aged care facility for 14 days after leaving the area.

If people who have been in the Melbourne Metropolitan area are seeking to visit an aged care facility on compassionate grounds, this should be considered following a risk assessment, in consultation with ACT Health, if required.

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 a resident of the facility;
  • 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; 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 or close friend in an aged care facility for the purposes of providing care and support. You are not limited in the number of hours you can spend with your relative or friend.

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 history of fever (e.g. night sweats or chills) or symptoms of a respiratory infection such as a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, loss of smell or loss of taste; or
  • have not had your 2020 influenza (flu) vaccination, unless you have a documented medical contraindication to receiving the vaccination.

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

Children of all ages are allowed to visit a residential aged care facility. As with all visitors, children must have received the 2020 influenza vaccine (babies under 6 months are exempt from the requirement for influenza vaccination) and must adhere to restrictions on visitor numbers, physical distancing and hand hygiene during their visit.

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

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 - no more than two people visiting a resident at any one time
  • 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 and practise hand and respiratory hygiene
  • supervise any children with you and make sure they practice physical distancing and hygiene measures.

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

From 7am on Friday 3 July, anyone entering the ACT who has been in a COVID-19 Melbourne hotspot must quarantine for 14 days after leaving the hotspot, under a public health direction.

Anyone who entered the ACT prior to this time, who has been in a Melbourne hotspot, is recommended to quarantine for 14 days after leaving the hotspot. If this applies to you, please contact ACT Health through the COVID-19 Helpline on (02) 6207 7244.

Anyone who has been in the Melbourne Metropolitan area should not visit or work in an aged care facility for 14 days after leaving the area.

If people who have been in the Melbourne Metropolitan area are seeking to visit an aged care facility on compassionate grounds, this should be considered following a risk assessment, in consultation with ACT Health, if required.

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.

The personal welfare and mental health of residents in RACFs is of vital importance. Visitors including family and friends provide support for resident wellbeing, and external service providers such as hairdressers and allied health are an important component of person-centred residential care. These factors must be balanced against the significant risks of COVID-19 outbreaks in RACFs.

Staff and Visitors

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.

Staff who have symptoms of COVID-19 should be excluded from the workplace and tested for COVID-19. Staff must immediately report their symptoms to the RACF, even very mild symptoms, and not attend any workplaces. Sick leave policies should enable employees to stay home if they have any of the COVID-19 symptoms.

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

  • Visitors providing a care and support visit are limited to a maximum of two people at any one time, – this includes family, friends, professional service staff, or advocacy staff. There are no limits on the number of visits or visitors per day;
  • Family and friends providing a care and support visit are not limited in the number of hours they can spend with the resident;
  • A visiting service provider (e.g. hairdressers, diversional therapists) can provide a care and support visit, if those services cannot be provided on an online, telehealth or virtual basis. Visits must not last longer than two hours. These providers must adhere to the same physical distancing and hygiene practices implemented in community settings;
  • 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 should be permitted at this time, however gatherings of residents in communal or outdoor areas which adhere to physical distancing and current limits on gathering sizes in the ACT may be permitted; and
  • Educate visitors on entry about practising physical distancing and hygiene measures during their visit. Providers should place signage through the facility to remind visitors to maintain these measures.

Facilities should return to a higher level of protection (e.g. restricting visiting service providers) if there are recent cases of COVID-19 acquired in the local area of the facility.

RACF staff are not required to supervise visits. In the event a facility needs to return to a higher level of protection, facilities should recommence supervising visitors.

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.

Residents

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. No new residents with symptoms compatible with COVID-19 should enter the facility, unless they have recently tested negative for COVID-19.

Residents admitted from other health facilities should be assessed by appropriate medical staff prior to admission to the facility.

Residents should be screened for symptoms on entry or re-entry to the facility using a questionnaire about symptoms of COVID-19 and an initial temperature reading. If otherwise unexplained symptoms are present or indicated in the response to the questionnaire, or fever is present, the resident should not be admitted to the facility. If the admission is unavoidable, the resident should be isolated and tested immediately, and appropriate infection prevention and control precautions should be implemented. The resident should be managed as per CDNA recommendations for suspected COVID-19 cases.

There is no public health requirement or recommendation for routine COVID-19 testing of asymptomatic residents of an aged care facility prior to admission or re-admission from the community or hospital, where the hospital admission was unrelated to COVID-19. There is also no requirement to quarantine residents for COVID-19 in these circumstances. .

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.

External Excursions

External excursions for groups of residents should not be permitted.

With our current epidemiology in the ACT, individuals and family members (e.g. close friends, partners, couples or siblings/family groups living within an RACF) should be permitted to leave the RACF to attend small family gatherings.

  • The size of the family gathering should be in line with limits on gathering sizes in the ACT and physical distancing and respiratory and hand hygiene should be adhered to during the visit; and
  • The RACF should conduct a risk assessment for each visit, taking into account the local epidemiology, number of people attending and the feasibility of physical distancing. The RACF should maintain a record of the visit location, number of people in the gathering and the date of visit.

In the event a facility needs to return to a higher level of protection (e.g. during an outbreak of COVID-19 or a local cluster in the community), facilities should cease all external excursions.

End of Life Visits

RACF providers are asked to take particular care to balance the need to protect residents from the risk of COVID-19 transmission, while supporting the rights and wellbeing of residents and their families. Compassionate visits should be given to residents in palliative care and those nearing the end of life. Under the ACT Public Health (Residential Aged Care Facilities) Emergency Direction 2020, a resident who is at end of life can receive visits from close family and friends to provide end of life support. In these circumstances, there are no restrictions on the number of visitors or visits. Visits should be undertaken in a way that minimises risk to other residents and staff and visitors should maintain hygiene and physical distancing, where possible.

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.
  • 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.
  • Babies under 6 months of age.

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.

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. Each resident may only have one visitor, or two visitors at any one time. You are not limited in the number of hours that you can spend with your relative or friend. 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. Visits must not last longer than 2 hours. 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.

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 a maximum of two visitors at any one time.

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 history of fever (e.g. night sweats or chills) or symptoms of a respiratory infection such as a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, loss of smell or loss of taste
  • 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 unions attend residential aged care facilities to meet with their members?

Under the Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009, officials from registered organisations, including unions, can be issued permits by the Fair Work Commission giving them legal rights to enter a workplace, including a residential aged care facility.

However, unions and union officials should recognise the presence of the declared public health emergency and carefully consider their need to enter a residential aged care facility. Meetings with union members should be held off-site wherever possible. If entering a residential aged care facility, steps need to be taken to minimise risks to residents and staff (e.g. giving the facility advance notice, providing proof of vaccination, and complying with health screening requirements).

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 history of fever (e.g. night sweats or chills), 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 as follows. Each resident may have visits from no more than two people at any one time. 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: July 03 2020