Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources, information, plans and guides for health professionals.

COVID-19 pandemic plan for the Victorian health sector

Victoria’s health system is prepared for an emerging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with a new plan to manage more cases and the growing risk of an outbreak in Victoria. 

The COVID-19 Pandemic Plan for the Victorian Health Sector sets out a four-stage response to COVID-19. The plan is flexible and proportionate to the current risk and will be updated as we learn more about the virus.

Chief Health Officer alerts and updates

Stay up to date

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the new coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

This site will be updated as new information becomes available.

 
Quick reference guide and checklist

The Coronavirus: quick reference guidelines for health services and general practitioners - Version 21 - 24 May 2020 (Word) for general practitioners and health professionals provides advice for the management of suspected cases.

Current Victorian coronavirus disease (COVID-19) case definition and testing criteria

People without symptoms should not be tested except in special circumstances such as recovered cases wishing to return to work in a healthcare facility or aged care facility or where requested by the department as part of outbreak management or enhanced surveillance.

Patients who meet the following clinical criteria should be tested:

Fever OR chills in the absence of an alternative diagnosis that explains the clinical presentation*

OR

Acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or anosmia)

Note: In addition, testing is recommended for people with new onset of other clinical symptoms consistent with COVID-19** AND who are close contacts of a confirmed case of COVID-19; who have returned from overseas in the past 14 days; or who are healthcare or aged care workers.

*Clinical discretion applies including consideration of the potential for co-infection (e.g. concurrent infection with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza)

**headache, myalgia, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea

Advice for clinicians

Assessment and testing for COVID-19

What are the recommendations for testing aged care residents?

Please refer to advice on the Aged Care Sector coronavirus (COVID-19) page.

What should I do when assessing a patient with respiratory symptoms in a community setting?

  • Separate from other patients.
  • Place single-use surgical mask on the patient.
  • Use droplet and contact precautions (gown, gloves, eye protection and single-use face mask) when assessing the patient
  • Conduct a medical assessment, and focus on:
    • History of contact with sick people or confirmed COVID-19 cases.
    • Travel history, occupation and/or residence in high risk settings
    • The date of onset of illness and especially whether there are symptoms or signs of pneumonia.
  • If the patient has symptoms and signs suggestive of pneumonia, viral load might be higher. These patients should be tested and treated in hospital. If clinically required, ambulance transport should be used - advise 000 operator of suspected COVID-19.

Who should I test for COVID-19?

Test all cases meeting the current criteria for COVID-19 testing, which are listed in the Coronavirus: Case and contact management guidelines for health services and general practitioners and Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) General practice quick reference guide (Word). Please ensure you refer to the latest version of these documents as the criteria may change.

If you have a patient who meets the criteria for COVID-19 testing (and who does not have symptoms or signs of pneumonia):

  • Place a surgical mask on the patient and isolate them in a single room with door closed.
  • Use droplet and contact precautions (single-use surgical face mask, eye protection, gown and gloves).
  • Collect specimens for COVID-19 testing:
    • Take a single oropharyngeal and deep nasal swab for COVID-19 PCR. To conserve swabs the same swab that has been used to sample the oropharynx should be utilised for deep nose sampling (i.e. one swab per patient only).
    • Oropharyngeal (throat): swab the tonsillar beds and the back of the throat, avoiding the tongue. 

    • Deep nasal: 

      • Using a pencil grip and while gently rotating the swab, insert the tip 2-3 cm (or until resistance is met) into the nostril, parallel to the palate, to absorb mucoid secretion. 
      • Rotate the swab several times against the nasal wall. 
      • Withdraw the swab and repeat the process in the other nostril. To conserve swabs, the same swab that has been used to sample the oropharynx should be utilised for nasal sampling.  
    • Place the swab back into the accompanying transport medium.  
    • Take blood in a serum tube for storage at VIDRL.
  • Consider alternative causes, in particular consider testing for other respiratory viruses using a multiplex PCR if available. Ask your local laboratory if they require a second swab for this.  

If appropriate personal protective equipment is unavailable, direct the patient to the nearest coronavirus assessment centre.

Patients with symptoms and signs suggestive of pneumonia should be tested and treated in hospital.

All patients who meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing should be advised to self-isolate until the results of the test are known; further advice should be provided based on test results.

Who should not be tested for COVID-19?

Patients without symptoms should not be tested except in special circumstances such as recovered cases wishing to return to work in a healthcare facility or aged care facility or where requested by the department as part of outbreak management or enhanced surveillance.

When do I need to notify a case to the department?

Notification to the department is only required for confirmed cases – phone 1300 651 160, 24 hours a day.  

Where can I find more information about COVID-19?

Detailed information for medical practitioners can be found in the Coronavirus: Case and contact management guidelines for health services and general practitioners.

Why can’t we test everyone for COVID-19?

All symptomatic patients should be tested for COVID-19. The current testing criteria can be found in the latest version of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Guidelines for health services and general practitioners, located above. Testing criteria will continue to be updated as more is known about the disease and the risk factors for infection.

People without symptoms should not be tested except in special circumstances such as recovered cases wishing to return to work in a healthcare facility or aged care facility or where requested by the department as part of outbreak management or enhanced surveillance.

If a person without symptoms is tested and the result is negative, it does not mean that they have not been infected, as they might still be incubating the virus (See also: “What is the incubation period?”). In other words, a negative test in an asymptomatic person does not rule out COVID-19 infection.

What testing is currently available for COVID-19?

PCR-based tests:

Molecular testing on a well-collected single throat and deep nasal swab is the current test of choice for the diagnosis of acute COVID-19 infection. Molecular tests use real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to look for evidence of the genetic material (RNA) of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Because these tests directly detect viral RNA, they are an indicator for viral shedding.

A positive PCR result indicates current or very recent infection. SARS-CoV-2 RNA is generally detectable in respiratory specimens from about one day prior to symptom onset, and during the acute phase of infection. Patients may continue to shed viral RNA after their symptoms resolve, but the extent to which this correlates with transmissibility is currently unclear.  Clinical resolution (and for some cases two consecutive negative PCR tests) are currently being used as criteria when considering release from isolation. However, this may change as our knowledge of the virus increases.

A negative PCR result means that SARS-CoV-2 RNA was not identified in the sample. Negative results do not preclude SARS-CoV-2 infection, and interpretation of such results should be combined with clinical observations, patient history, and epidemiological information. 

For more information please see Communique: Point of Care Testing for COVID-19 (Word)

Serology-based tests:

There are several serology tests currently undergoing assessment in Australia but the accuracy and clinical utility of these have not yet been established. In the interim, clinicians assessing patients with suspected COVID-19 infection can send serum to VIDRL (the state reference laboratory) for storage so that serology can be performed once a test becomes available.

Serology-based tests detect antibodies that develop in response to COVID-19 infection. Early reports indicate that it may take seven days or more from the time a patient first becomes sick for antibodies to be detectable. Therefore, these tests are of limited use for the diagnosis of acute infection. Elderly or immunocompromised patients may never (or only much later) develop antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19, and therefore may return a negative test despite infection. Because antibody tests do not detect active viral shedding, they cannot detect if an individual is infectious.

Several serology-based point-of-care tests (PoCT) for COVID-19 have recently been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) subject to conditions. The conditions require that additional evidence to support the ongoing safety and performance of these tests be provided to the TGA within 12 months of approval. These PoCTs are yet to be validated in Australia and are not currently recommended for the acute diagnosis of COVID-19 infection as they will miss patients in the early stages of the disease when they are infectious to other people.

See the Position statements by the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia and the Public Health Laboratory Network on PoCT for COVID-19 on the Royal College of Pathologists website. Further information is also available on the TGA website.

I am a general practitioner and have ordered a COVID-19 test – who will notify the patient of the results?

It is the responsibility of the general practitioner who ordered the COVID-19 test to ensure arrangements are in place for contacting the patient with the test result, regardless of whether it is negative or positive.  If the result is positive, call the Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 651 160 to notify the confirmed case, and agree on next steps for management of the patient.

I am a clinician in a health service and have ordered a COVID-19 test – who will notify the patient of the results?

It is the responsibility of the testing clinician and health service who ordered the COVID-19 test to ensure arrangements are in place for contacting the patient with the test result, regardless of whether it is negative or positive. If the result is positive, the health service infectious diseases lead, or senior clinician should call the Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 651 160 to notify the confirmed case and provide any additional clinical information.

Why is the department also contacting patients with a positive COVID-19 test result?

The department receives notification from laboratories of all positive results.  The department contacts all confirmed cases (people who test positive) to conduct an interview, provide information about self-isolation and trace close contacts. To prevent administrative hold-ups in the investigation process, the department is no longer waiting for the treating doctor to inform the patient of their result before making contact.

Even if the department has already contacted your patient with a positive COVID-19 test result, the treating doctor or clinical team representative (as appropriate) should still contact the patient - this is important to ensure that the patient has received their result, any clinical queries have been addressed, and there is a clear management plan in place call the department on 1300 651 160 to provide any additional clinical information and/or agree on next steps for management of the patient.

Hospital and GP Respiratory Clinics

Do GP respiratory clinics examine patients and do swab tests?

The GP Respiratory clinics are funded to assess and test people for coronavirus (COVID –19). 

The list of Victorian medical centres that have established GP respiratory clinics is available on an interactive map. Please go to the GP Respiratory Clinics and Hospital Respiratory Clinics (COVID-19) page. 

This map provides GPs with the most up-to-date details of coronavirus (COVID-19) GP respiratory clinics and hospital respiratory clinics for referral purposes.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – infection control and supply

What is the correct PPE use and when should PPE be used?

A poster with correct technique for how to put on and take off your PPE can be found in the DHHS: How to put on and take off your PPE (PDF). 

A video created by the Melbourne Health demonstrates the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for contact and droplet precautions.

Further advice can be found in the Coronavirus: Case and contact management guidelines for health services and general practitioners.

What is the current advice on use of masks by the general population? 

Previous advice from Victoria’s Chief Health Officer on 15 March 2020, is still current. Use of masks by asymptomatic people in community settings is not recommended while community transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) remains low.   

People who are symptomatic should self-isolate at home and use a mask, if available, when going to and from testing. A mask should be provided by clinicians to all symptomatic people seeking testing, if they do not already have one.   

More information on what the public are advised can be found through the How to stay safe and well page on the website  

Where can GPs gain access to gown supply?  

If you are having trouble sourcing single use fluid repellent gowns from your normal supplier, there are steps to consider: 

  • Ensure that you are using the gowns in accordance with published guidance; 
  • Consider extending the use of the gowns that you have (so long as you believe it is reasonable and safe to do so); 
  • Consider using a reusable non fluid repelling cloth gown covered by a plastic single use apron; 
  • For low risk situations, consider using plastic single use apron and bare below the elbows, with associated hand and forearm hygiene; 
  • Consider use of fluid repellent coveralls, ensuring that you are familiar with safe donning and doffing procedures; 
  • Consider use of non-fluid repellent, reusable coveralls in association with plastic single use apron, with safe donning and doffing procedures. 

Do I need to wear full PPE when examining a patient with an upper respiratory tract infection? 

The current clinical criteria for testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) include an acute respiratory tract infection (for example, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose or anosmia). For anyone who meets these clinical criteria, full PPE will be required to examine the patient.  

Can we wear the same PPE and swab multiple people? 

The use of some PPE can be extended for sessions such as swabbing multiple people in a testing clinic. Masks, protective eye wear and gowns can be used for an extended period in these circumstances.  

Gloves must be changed, and hand hygiene performed between each patient. Masks may be worn for up to 4 hours or unless damp or soiled. Goggles and gowns may be used for a similar period but must be replaced if they become soiled. 

When single-use PPE is removed it must be disposed of and not reused. If reusable, it must be cleaned and disinfected before reuse.

COVID-19 infection, immunity and recovery

What is the incubation period?

The incubation period is the duration between exposure to the virus and the onset of symptoms. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently estimates that the incubation period ranges from 1 to 14 days, with a median incubation period of 5 to 6 days. These estimates will be refined as more data becomes available.

When is someone considered infectious?

Evidence on the duration of infectivity for COVID-19 infection is evolving. Epidemiological data suggests that the majority of transmission occurs from symptomatic cases. The role of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission is still unknown. Cases are currently considered infectious from 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms until they meet criteria for release from isolation.

Can reinfection occur?

Apparent re-infection has been reported in a small number of cases. However, most of these reports describe patients having tested positive within 7-14 days after apparent recovery. Immunological studies indicate that patients recovering from COVID-19 mount a strong antibody response. It is likely that positive tests soon after recovery represent persisting excretion of viral RNA, and it should be noted that PCR tests cannot distinguish between “live” virus and noninfective RNA.

Vaccination and medications

What are the recommendations for influenza vaccination?

With COVID-19 spreading across Australia, this year it is more important than ever to ensure that patients receive the seasonal influenza vaccination. Influenza vaccination should be given as soon as possible. The regular influenza season may coincide with the peak of the current COVID-19 pandemic, potentially placing additional burden on the Australian health system.

  • Influenza vaccine distribution to immunisation providers has commenced. Adjuvanted influenza vaccines are available for people aged 65 years and over.
  • From the 1st of May, the flu vaccine will be mandatory for people wanting to visit an aged care facility (including aged care workers).
  • Claims that influenza vaccination may increase the risk of coronavirus infection have been circulating on social media. There is no convincing evidence to support these claims.
  • For guidance and service delivery models for providing immunisation services, please see our Victorian immunisation services factsheet (Word)

Can Tamiflu still be given to patients with mild flu-like symptoms? 

The antiviral medication Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is not effective against coronavirus (COVID-19). Tamiflu is used to treat influenza. In otherwise healthy adults who have a low risk of complications, treatment with a neuraminidase inhibitor (such as Tamiflu) reduces duration of influenza symptoms by less than one day on average, when treatment is started within 48 hours of symptom onset. Such limited benefit must be balanced against the potential adverse effects of antiviral treatment, including nausea, vomiting, headaches and neuropsychiatric events. 

It is recommended that Tamiflu be reserved for use in patients:

  • who need to be admitted to hospital for management of influenza (see also Additional considerations in severe influenza)
  • with moderate-severity or high-severity community-acquired pneumonia, during the influenza season
  • who are at higher risk of poor outcomes from influenza (e.g. pregnant women) .

Are ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories safe to use in patients infected with COVID-19?

  • There have been some concerns internationally that use of ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) during COVID-19 infection may lead to an increased risk of complications or death.
  • There is currently no published peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support a direct link between use of ibuprofen and more severe infection with COVID-19.

Are ACE inhibitors and ARBs safe to use in patients with COVID-19?

  • There have been some concerns internationally about a possible link between ACE inhibitor medications (angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors) and ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers) and increased risk of infection with COVID-19 and worsened outcomes.
  • At this stage, peak international and Australian cardiology bodies strongly recommend that patients stay on their current anti-hypertensive therapy.
  • See the Heart Foundation website for further information.

Can hydroxychloroquine be used for prophylaxis?

  • There is no clinical evidence that hydroxychloroquine is effective as prophylaxis against COVID-19.
  • Hydroxychloroquine is in short supply and should be prioritised for use in recognised indications including autoimmune conditions and Q-fever endocarditis.
  • The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) have advised pharmacists to refuse the dispensing of hydroxychloroquine unless it is for a recognised indication.

Should anti-viral or adjunctive drugs be prescribed for patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection?

  • Interim clinical guidelines for the management of patients with COVID-19 have been released by the following peak professional bodies:
  • These guidelines clearly state that there are no proven pharmaceutical treatments for COVID-19 (other than supportive care). No antiviral or immunomodulatory agent has thus far been proven effective in clinical trials, and they may even be harmful and/or in short supply.
  • At this stage, treatment of COVID-19 with antivirals is considered ‘experimental’ and should only occur within the context of controlled intervention trials.
  • Two controlled interventional trials of antiviral therapies for COVID-19 are recruiting hospitalised patients in Australia and New Zealand: REMAP-CAP (endorsed by ANZICS), and ASCOT (endorsed by ASID).

Medication assisted treatment of opioid dependence (MATOD)

For guidance on medication assisted treatment of opioid dependence, see the following resources:

Assisted Reproductive Treatments (ART)

  • More category 2 and some category 3 elective surgeries will resume across public and private hospitals from 27 April 2020. This will include resumption of Assisted Reproductive Treatment.

  • This will be managed in a staged process to protect patients and healthcare workers and ensure enough capacity to treat coronavirus patients is maintained if required.

Practice environment and workforce

If there is a positive case in our clinic, what are the cleaning and disinfection instructions? 

For advice on recommended environmental cleaning and disinfection instruction of clinics and/or consultation rooms, please refer to the ‘Environmental cleaning and disinfection’ section within the COVID-19 infection control guidelines.

How can we best implement social distancing in the consultation setting, including practices with small consultation rooms?

Physical distancing is to be practiced within clinics and wards, between staff and patients, and between staff and staff. This includes:

  • waiting room chairs separated by at least 1.5 metres
  • direct interactions between staff conducted at a distance
  • staff and patients to remain at least 1.5 metres apart with the exception of clinical examinations and procedures.
  • Use droplet and contact precautions (gown, gloves, eye protection and single-use face mask) when assessing a patient with respiratory symptoms in a community setting, see Advice for clinicians within the Coronavirus: Case and contact management guidelines for health services and general practitioners

If a GP at my clinic tests positive to COVID-19, should all other staff be required to self-isolate and should I close my clinic?

Like others, health and aged care workers need to isolate themselves for 14 days after:

  • returning from overseas
  • being in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.

You can still go to work if you have:

  • had casual contact with COVID-19 cases and are well
  • directly cared for confirmed cases while using PPE properly
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms and self-isolate if you become unwell.

For aged care workers, these rules also apply:

  • from 1 May, you must have your influenza vaccination to work in or visit an aged care facility
  • if you’re a residential aged care worker, you must not go to work if you have a fever or symptoms of a respiratory illness

Further advice on COVID-19 when clinicians can and cannot work click on the tab Advice to healthcare workers on this page.

Should GPs stand down their at-risk staff from the clinic? If so, what obligations do GPs have to their staff in this circumstance?

Where possible at-risk staff should be redirected to undertake appropriate non face to face work, such as Telehealth consultations.

For further updates, refer to the Telehealth section of this FAQs and Commonwealth government fact sheets.

For further information about special provisions for vulnerable people in the workplace see the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee recommendations.

Telehealth

When can we use telehealth?

The Commonwealth emphasises the importance of using telehealth item numbers responsibly, appropriately and for the right reasons during this pandemic. A service may only be provided by telehealth where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so.

From 30 March 2020, telehealth (video-call) and phone consultation items are available to all Medicare eligible Australians for a wide range of consultations. The new MBS temporary bulk billed telehealth item numbers for COVID-19 are general in nature and have no relation to diagnosing, treating or suspecting COVID-19.

The item numbers must be bulk billed. Providers do not need to be in their regular practice to provide telehealth services. Providers should use their provider number for their primary location, and must provide safe services in accordance with normal professional standards.

For the latest news on the temporary COVID-19 bulk billed MBS telehealth items please consult www.mbsonline.gov.au, including a link to the temporary item numbers, COVID-19 fact sheets and latest news.

What chronic conditions are included in the new provisions for telehealth? Are mental health care plans included too?

From 30 March 2020, telehealth (video-call) and phone consultation items are available to all Medicare eligible Australians for a wide range of consultations. The new MBS temporary bulk billed telehealth item numbers for COVID-19 are general in nature and have no relation to diagnosing, treating or suspecting COVID-19. Mental Health plans are included.

For the latest news on the new MBS temporary bulk billed telehealth item numbers for COVID- please consult www.mbsonline.gov.au, including links to the temporary item numbers COVID-19 fact sheets and latest news.   Fact sheets are available for Allied Health providers, Consumers, GPs and OMPS, Mental Health practitioners, Nurse Practitioners, Obstetric Attendances, participating Midwives and Specialists. Please find further at COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services fact sheets .

What platforms are best use for telehealth/video calls?

MBS telehealth services are videoconference services, and this is the preferred approach for substituting a face-to-face consultation. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providers will also be able to offer audio-only services via telephone if video is not available. There are separate items available for the audio-only services.

No specific equipment is required to provide Medicare-compliant telehealth services. Services can be provided through widely available video calling apps and software such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Duo, GoToMeeting and others.

Free versions of these applications (i.e. non-commercial versions) may not meet applicable laws for security and privacy. Practitioners must ensure that their chosen telecommunications solution meets their clinical requirements and satisfies privacy laws.

For further updates, refer to commonwealth government overarching COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services fact sheets.

If I cannot physically examine my patient, how can I effectively provide the correct diagnosis and medical advice?

Many important questions and challenges have been raised, and the Commonwealth will continue to work through these. The Commonwealth will continue to communicate changes on the Government website www.health.gov.au, with regular webinar updates listed online, and through peak bodies.

How can doctors provide scripts, medical certificates and referrals via telehealth consultation?

Prescriptions can be mailed or emailed to the patient or the patient’s pharmacist – refer to the Provider Frequent Asked Questions at COVID-19 Temporary MBS Telehealth Services fact sheets for temporary telehealth bulk-billed items.

The Home Medicines Service is a temporary program, which aims to support and protect the most vulnerable members of our community from potential exposure to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) by providing a fee per delivery payable to Australian pharmacies for the home delivery of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (RPBS) medications thereby removing the need for a patient to visit a Pharmacy.

Vulnerable people, and those in home isolation, will be able to order their PBS and RPBS prescriptions remotely and have these items delivered to their homes to reduce their potential exposure to COVID-19. Further advise can be found at COVID-19 Home Medicine Service.

The Australian Government is currently working to fast track the implementation of electronic prescribing (ePrescribing) to help protect people most at-risk in our community from exposure to COVID-19. Updates on this can be viewed on the Government website.

Many important questions and challenges have been raised, and the Commonwealth continue to work through these. We will continue to communicate changes on the Government website www.health.gov.au, with regular webinar updates listed online, and through peak bodies.

Work Safe telehealth item numbers specifically state “video”, do they accept phone consultations (MBS does)?

Although the WorkSafe document does not explicitly outline phone consultations, we have confirmed with WorkSafe that phone consultations are accepted for WorkSafe clients.

Please refer to the MBS Online under the heading `General Practitioner Attendances’ for items numbers for phone consultations (there are separate item numbers for video consultations and phone consultations).

Information about WorkSafe - item codes for telehealth are now available.

Vulnerable groups

DHHS acknowledges the diversity of issues that may present in vulnerable groups of our population. This is a challenge that is not being overlooked, be assured we are planning as best we can and will respond as quickly as we can as issues arise.

Can I continue to provide clinical care in aged care/residential care/supported homes?

You can still go to work if you have:

  • had casual contact with COVID-19 cases and are well
  • directly cared for confirmed cases while using PPE properly

Monitor yourself for symptoms and self-isolate if you become unwell.

For aged care workers, these rules apply:

  • from 1 May 2020, you must have your influenza vaccination to work in or visit an aged care facility.
  • if you’re a residential aged care worker, you must not go to work if you have a fever or symptoms of a respiratory illness

For further information about providing clinical care in these settings, see Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for the health and aged care sector.

Is there advice about contact with elderly? Should we be recommending people reduce contact with elderly relatives?

Interventions to support ‘transmission reduction, or ‘physical distancing’ measures are particularly important in reducing the spike of infections and protecting our elderly and those with chronic diseases or pre-existing medical conditions. Find out more at Physical distancing and other transmission reduction measures - coronavirus (COVID-19)

Are there resources (including in common community languages) and pictorial information for vulnerable groups including CALD, homeless?

COVID-19 translated information for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, health professionals and industry in over 40 languages is available on the department’s website. A GP poster is currently available in simplified Chinese.

Are pregnant women considered an 'at risk' group for COVID-19?

At this time, pregnant women do not appear to be more likely to develop severe COVID-19 than the general population. It is expected that most pregnant women who develop COVID-19 will experience mild or moderate illness from which they will make a full recovery. However, there is currently limited information available regarding the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their babies. Therefore, it would be prudent for pregnant women to practice social distancing and ensure good hygiene practices to reduce the risk of infection.

Medication assisted treatment of opioid dependence (MATOD)

For guidance on medication assisted treatment of opioid dependence

What is the current advice regarding Aged Care facilities? 

Please refer to advice on the Aged Care Sector coronavirus (COVID-19) page. 

Increase in elective surgeries

More category 2 and some category 3 elective surgeries will resume across public and private hospitals from 27 April 2020. 

This could include IVF procedures, post-cancer reconstruction procedures, eye procedures and cataracts, endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures, some dental procedures, joint replacements including knee, hip and shoulder and screening programs for cancer and other diseases. It also includes all procedures for children under the age of 18.

This will be managed in a staged process to protect patients and healthcare workers and ensure enough capacity to treat coronavirus patients is maintained if required.

Where can I find out more information?

Call the Department of Health and Human Services on to discuss any questions you have. If you need a translator first call 131 450, then request the hotline on 1300 651 160.

For Victorian updates to the current incident, go to:
Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria - Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/novelcoronavirus

For national updates:

Department of Health (Australian Government) Coronavirus Alert
https://www.health.gov.au/news/latest-information-about-novel-coronavirus

Royal Australian College of General Practice (RACGP): https://www.racgp.org.au/coronavirus

Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA):    https://www.ahpra.gov.au/News/COVID-19.aspx

For international updates:

WHO Western Pacific Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
https://www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/novel-coronavirus

WHO Coronavirus resources  https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) CDNA National Guidelines for Public Health Units (COVID-19 SoNG):   https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cdna-song-novel-coronavirus.htm 

Advice for frontline workers

Anyone who works in health, aged or residential care who has taken the recommended infection control precautions, including the use of recommended personal protective equipment (PPE), while caring for a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19), is not considered to be a close contact.

However, they are advised to self-monitor and if they develop symptoms consistent with coronavirus (COVID-19), they should self-isolate and notify the department on 1300 651 160 so they can be tested and managed as a suspected case of coronavirus (COVID-19).

When do healthcare workers have to self-quarantine?

Consistent with public health advice, you are required to self-quarantine for 14 days if you have come into close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19). If you have been diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19) you are required to self-quarantine for a minimum 14 day period.

Healthcare workers who have returned from overseas will be placed in mandatory quarantine for 14 days.

Hospital workers must not enter or remain at a hospital in Victoria if:

  • the person has been diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19), and has not yet met the criteria for discharge from isolation
  • if the person has travelled/arrived in Australia from any country in the past 14 days
  • has had known contact with a person who is a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) case without using recommended infection control precautions, including use of recommended PPE

Remember, if you have taken the recommended infection control precautions while caring for a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19), including use of recommended PPE you are not considered to be a close contact and do not need to self-quarantine.

Minimising transmission risk through health care worker (HCW) movement (Word)

Emergency Accommodation for healthcare workers

The Hotel for Heroes program, otherwise known as the coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Accommodation (CEA) program, has been extended to provide emergency accommodation for frontline workers who are required to self-quarantine or self-isolate, should they be unable to do so in their home.

Eligible frontline workers include:

  • Public and private hospital clinical or non-clinical healthcare workers 
  • Paramedics and patient transport officers
  • Frontline workers in hospital laboratories
  • Victoria Police workforce
  • Youth Justice workforce
  • Metropolitan Fire Brigade officers
  • Country Fire Authority Emergency Medical Response officers
  • Corrections workforce
  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation workforce
  • Workers in supported accommodation for people with a disability 
  • Public sector residential aged care workforce
  • Community based pharmacy workforce
  • Workers in primary care settings.

The CEA program will also be available to a small number of essential frontline hospital and paramedic workers who regularly operate in an environment that involves consistent exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) positive patients, who need accommodation on compassionate grounds or those cannot safely self-isolate at home - for up to a three-month period during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Frequently Asked Questions Emergency Accommodation for frontline workers (Word) 

Information for staff Emergency Accommodation for frontline workers (Word) 

Restrictions on hospital visitors and workers

There are now restrictions on who can visit - or work at - a Victorian hospital

Factsheet for visitors to hospitals (Word)

This is to help reduce the spread of coronavirus into hospitals by people who may pose a risk and do not have an important reason to be there.

What restrictions will be placed on visits?

Across Victoria, patients in public, private and denominational hospitals, multi-purpose services and day procedure centres will only be allowed one visit per day, from a maximum of two visitors at one time for two hours a day.

Who is prohibited from visiting a Victorian hospital?

To keep patients and staff safe you will not be able to visit a hospital if you:

  • have been diagnosed with coronavirus and have not been discharged from isolation
  • have arrived in Australia within 14 days of your planned visit
  • have recently come into contact with a person who has a confirmed case of coronavirus
  • have a temperature over 37.5 degrees or symptoms of acute respiratory infection.

Are there exemptions to these rules?

There are some categories where visitors can stay longer than two hours, but the maximum limit of two visitors at a time will still apply. These exemptions are:

  • the parent, guardian or temporary carer of a patient who is under 18 years old
  • the carer of a patient with a disability
  • the partner or support person of a patient who is pregnant and attending hospital in relation to their pregnancy
  • accompanying a patient to the hospital's emergency department
  • accompanying the patient to an outpatient appointment
  • providing end of life support to a patient of the hospital.

All visitors can expect to be screened on entry

Before you can enter any hospital to visit a patient in one of the above categories, you will be screened to ensure you do not have a temperature. Further advice on implementation will be provided shortly.

Who can work at a Victorian hospital? 

The only people who may enter hospitals for work purposes are:

  • a person who is an employee or contractor of the hospital
  • a student under the supervision of an employee or contractor of the hospital
  • a person providing health, medical or pharmaceutical goods or services to a patient of the hospital (whether paid or voluntary)
  • a person providing goods or services necessary for the effective operation of the hospital (whether paid or voluntary)
  • union and employer representatives
  • a person involved in emergency management or law enforcement
  • a person who enters an area of the hospital exempted from the restriction. 


What about people providing a care and support visit? 

A person providing a care and support visit to a patient may visit for a maximum of two hours per day, provided this is the only care and support visit made to the patient on that day. 

All other types of permitted visitors may stay longer than two hours if they wish.


Are there any other restrictions on visits? 

Yes. There is a maximum limit of 2 visitors at one time, not including hospital workers. Visitors can be in any combination of the permitted visitor categories.


Are there any time limits on visits?

A person who is attending solely to provide care and support for a patient can only remain with a patient for a maximum of two hours per day. The two-hour time limit applies only to care and support visitors, not to any other type of visit.

Can hospitals vary these limits at their own discretion? 

Hospitals cannot allow more visitors than these directions permit. Hospitals can, however, issue even more strict limits on visitors should they need to. 


What if I do not comply? 

A person who ignores the ban will be liable for fines of up to approximately $20,000, or up to approximately $100,000 in the case of companies and other bodies corporate.

How will these directions be implemented?

Safer Care Victoria is currently preparing advice to support health services in the appropriate implementation of these directions.

Health services – preparedness and planning
Resources for health professionals

Maternity and newborn resources

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health workforce response

The Working for Victoria health portal is now closed to further expressions of interest. For further information please visit COVID-19 health worker response.

General practitioner model of care, clinic map and resources

A General Practitioner (GP)-specific model of care has been developed to support GPs to refer patients to appropriate services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The models of care and pathways are based on the following common principles:

  • The individual care pathway considers patient needs, preferences and the systems’ resource constraints.
  • Holistic care and support is provided to patients, based on their individual health and other needs.
  • The least restrictive and intensive healthcare option possible is provided.

For more information, see Models of care for GPs (pptx).

The GP Clinic Map has been developed and linked into the Model of Care. The interactive map provides details of current hospital respiratory clinics, GP respiratory clinics, community health clinics and private pathology collection centres across the state. It provides the name of clinic, opening hours and any booking and or referral instructions.

Due to the rapid expansion of COVID-19 testing in Victoria, additional clinics will commence testing daily. The department will continue to update the map as testing services become operational.

Other resources