COVID-19

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) information for primary health care providers.

Page last updated: 2:00pm, 26 February 2021

Urgent updates

  • COVIDSafe settings

    From 11:59pm 26 February 2021 Victoria returns to its previous COVIDSafe settings, allowing for more visitors in the home, reduced mask wearing and increasing the number of workers heading back to the office.

    Masks will be only be required on public transport, in rideshare vehicles and taxis, in sensitive settings such as aged care facilities – and in some larger retail settings including indoor shopping centres, supermarkets, department stores, indoor markets.

    While masks are no longer mandated in most circumstances, the evidence is clear wearing a face covering makes a real difference in slowing the spread of the virus – so masks continue to be recommended indoors or outdoors when distancing can’t be maintained.

    For more information visit the Victorian Government website and read a summary of the settings (.pdf).

    Reminders

    Visit the Victorian Department of Health website for more information on case locations and outbreaks, and where to get tested.

    If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, get tested and isolate until you receive a negative result.

  • Stay up to date with public exposure sites

    New and updated exposure sites are listed on the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website.

    Anyone who has visited Tier 1 exposure sites during the times listed must immediately isolate, get a COVID-19 test, and remain isolated for 14 days.

  • Chief Health Officer Daily Update 26 February 2021

    Victoria’s Chief Health Officer released a COVID-19 Daily Update at 6:21pm on Friday, 26 February 2021.

     Read the full update
     Subscribe to receive CHO alerts

    Purpose

    This Chief Health Officer update is intended to provide clinicians and the Victorian public with information about the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Victoria as well as relevant public health response activities in Victoria. This update will be sent regularly.

    Chief Health Officer Alerts will continue to be issued when there are changes to the public health advice related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

    What’s new?

    • Victoria has recorded two new cases of COVID-19.
    • The total number of COVID-19 cases reported in Victoria is now 20,479.
    • There were no new deaths and the state’s death toll stands at 820.
    • The number of active cases in Victoria is 17. This includes 12 locally acquired cases and 5 overseas acquired cases.
    • A total of 4,942,705 test results have been received. This is an increase of 16,594 since yesterday.
    • You can find further details in today’s coronavirus (COVID-19) media release.
    • The DHHS website has full details in the interactive daily report.

    Easing of restrictions 

    • From 11:59pm tonight, Victoria will return to the previous COVIDSafe settings that were in place prior to the Black Rock outbreak.
    • Victorians will be able to host up to 30 people in their home per day and outdoor gatherings can increase to 100.
    • Meanwhile, public and private sector office workers can return to work at up to 75 per cent a day.
    • Masks will be only be required on public transport, in rideshare vehicles and taxis, in sensitive settings such as aged care facilities – and in some larger retail settings including indoor shopping centres, supermarkets, department stores and indoor markets.
    • Density limits remain for pubs, restaurants and cafes, beauty services, retail business, gyms, funerals and wedding and nightclubs and community facilities, such as libraries, RSLs and community halls.
    • For more information on the new coronavirus settings visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) Victoria.

    Holiday Inn outbreak

    • There are two new cases of COVID-19 linked to the Holiday Inn.
    • The new cases include two household members of cases that attended the private function on Sydney Road, Coburg.
    • Both were in quarantine while infectious and there are no further public exposure sites. Both were identified on a Day 11 test.
    • We are continuing to manage, monitor and test the primary close contacts linked to the Holiday Inn cases.

    COVID-19 vaccination program

    • A total of 839 COVID-19 vaccination doses were administered yesterday at hospital vaccination hubs across Victoria.
    • This brings the total number of vaccine doses administered in Victoria since the program started on Monday 22 February to 2,902.
    • Victorians with the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 are being prioritised for the vaccine, including Hotel Quarantine and Health Hotel workers, airport and port workers, and frontline health staff in COVID-19 screening clinics, specialist COVID-19 wards, Intensive Care Units, Emergency Departments, and more.
    • The vaccines are being administered through hospital vaccination hubs managed by public health services. Hubs also manage several special outreach sites including at Melbourne Airport and the Port of Portland.
    • Hubs will also deliver the vaccine to public sector residential aged care patients and workers, with the Commonwealth responsible for providing the vaccine to the private sector aged care and disability sectors.
    • All nine hospital vaccination hubs will commence operations over the coming weeks.
    • The Victorian Government is working closely with the Commonwealth on the rollout of its vaccination program.
    • Initially, it will be a steady and staged rollout, reflecting both the number of doses available and sensitivity of high-risk workplace settings.
    • Looking forward, we are working to deliver 40,000 to 50,000 vaccines over the next four weeks.

    Wastewater catchment

    • Wastewater monitoring is now undertaken at 132 locations across Victoria including 71 wastewater treatment plants and 61 sites within Melbourne metropolitan sewage networks.
    • Fragments of the virus detected in wastewater may be due to a person with COVID-19 being in the early active infectious phase or it could be because someone is continuing to shed the virus after the early infectious period.
    • Further information can be found at Wastewater monitoring.

    Testing sites and expanded testing

    • Demand for testing is stable across the system, with no waiting times longer than 30 minutes.
    • The department is publishing expected wait times at testing sites as well as updated information about locations and hours of operation at Where to get tested.

    New Zealand Travel Bubble

    • From 11:59 pm Wednesday 24 February all flights arriving from Auckland into Victoria will be regarded as ‘red zone’ arrivals and anyone arriving will be required to enter mandatory hotel quarantine for 14 days.
    • Those who arrived in Melbourne from Auckland yesterday, Tuesday 23 February, are asked to get a COVID-19 test immediately and quarantine until they receive a negative test result.

    Interstate border restrictions 

    • All travel into Victoria from other states and territories requires a travel permit. You can apply for a permit via the Service Victoria website.
    • From 12:01am 26 February 2021 travel from Victoria into South Australia is allowed. Travellers who arrived earlier than this date and are in quarantine should check their requirements on the SA Health website.
    • From 12:00am 27 February 2021, travellers can enter Queensland, with no restrictions.
    • Victoria is classified as low risk by Tasmania, however travellers who have spent time in a high-risk area or premises in the 14 days before arriving in Tasmania are not permitted to enter.
    • Travellers from Victoria entering the Northern Territory from Greater Melbourne (including Melbourne Airport) must complete 14 days of mandatory supervised quarantine.
    • Travellers from Victoria entering Western Australia must apply for a G2G Pass, quarantine for 14 days on arrival and obtain a COVID-19 test on day 11 if still within Western Australia.

    Current advice to clinicians

    COVID-19 testing criteria

    • Practitioners should test any patients who meet the clinical criteria below:
    1. Fever OR chills in the absence of an alternative diagnosis that explains the clinical presentation* OR
    2. Acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, or loss or changes in sense of smell or taste)
    3. Note: testing is also recommended for people with new onset of other clinical symptoms consistent with coronavirus (COVID-19)** AND who are from the following cohorts: close contacts of a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19); those who have returned from overseas in the past 14 days; or those who are healthcare or aged care workers. Testing is recommended for those cohorts with onset of other clinical symptoms**. Asymptomatic testing is not recommended at this stage except for targeted programs.
    4. *Clinical discretion applies including consideration of the potential for co-infection (e.g. concurrent infection with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza)
    5. **headache, myalgia, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea.
    • If a symptomatic patient that presents for testing, confirms exposure to a known coronavirus (COVID-19) case within the past 14 days, and the outbreak definition is met, the test sample is to be treated as an ‘outbreak sample’.

    Victoria’s restriction levels

    • The State of Emergency has been extended until 11:59pm, 15 March 2021 to allow the Chief Health Officer’s directions to remain in force.

    Read the full update: Coronavirus COVID-19 daily update for information.

  • Vaccine roll-out

    Key messages for primary care providers

     Visit our COVID-19 vaccines page for the latest information for vaccine providers in our region.

    Key messages for the community

    The COVID-19 vaccine roll-out in Australia will start in late February 2021.

     Download Australia’s Epidemiology and COVID-19 Vaccine Roadmap.

    • Everyone in Australia will be offered a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.
    • At first doses will be limited so high priority groups will get their vaccines first.
    • The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) gave advice to the Government on prioritising groups for COVID-19 vaccination.
    • The COVID-19 vaccine will be voluntary and free. As safe and effective vaccines become available the Government will vaccinate as many Australians as possible for COVID-19.
    • If you choose not to have a COVID-19 vaccine your eligibility for Government payments won’t be affected.

    Quick links

    Find out more about how COVID-19 vaccines are developed, tested and approved.

     More information about how COVID-19 vaccines are being delivered in Australia.

  • Current key messages

    • Testing is critical to keeping numbers down, so get tested if you have any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) no matter how mild. Go straight home after your test and self-isolate while you wait for the results. You must not go out until you get your results. Go to the DHHS testing map  for locations.
    • Public exposure sites are listed on the DHHS website. If you have visited any of the locations listed during the dates indicated, you should watch for coronavirus symptoms. If symptoms occur immediately get tested and stay at home while you wait for results.
    • Notification is required for all confirmed cases. Clinicians can send notifications of confirmed cases to DHHS by submitting an online form to the public health team, or by calling 1300 651 160, immediately, 24 hours a day.
    • COVIDSafe principles apply across Victoria:
      1. You must carry a face mask with you when you leave home. Rules on when you must wear a mask can change frequently. Check the Victorian Government website for the current advice.
      2. Wearing a face mask is strongly recommended in all situations when you can’t keep 1.5 metres distance from other people. Don’t go to work if you feel unwell.
      3. Maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres.
      4. Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow.
      5. Wash hands with soap or use hand sanitiser regularly.
    • Visit the DHHS website for the latest information on restrictions levels.

Key information for clinicians

  • Current testing criteria and case definition

    Victorian COVID-19 testing criteria

    Generally, only people with symptoms should be tested. However, people without symptoms can be tested in special circumstances as directed by DHHS. Refer to the guidelines for health services and general practitioners for more information on asymptomatic testing.

    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, loss or change in sense of smell or taste).**

    *Clinical discretion applies; consider potential for co-infection (e.g. SARS-CoV-2 and influenza).

    ** Older people may present with other atypical symptoms including functional decline, delirium, exacerbation of underlying chronic condition, falls, loss of appetite, malaise, nausea, diarrhoea and myalgia.

    Additional testing note:

    People who are at higher risk of infection due to their environmental exposure or higher risk of severe illness should also be tested if they have new onset of other clinical symptoms associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) (e.g. headache, myalgia, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea) AND meet the following epidemiological criteria:

    • Close contacts of a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19).
    • Returned overseas travel in the past 14 days.
    • Health care or aged care workers.
    • Residents of an aged care facility or older people in the community

    Case definition

    Confirmed case

    A person who tests positive to a validated SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid test

    OR

    has the virus isolated in cell culture, with PCR confirmation using a validated method

    OR

    undergoes a seroconversion to or has a significant rise in SARS-CoV-2 neutralising or IgG antibody level (i.e. four-fold or greater rise in titre)

    Probable case

    • A person who has detection of SARS-CoV-2 neutralising or IgG antibody AND has had a compatible clinical illness AND meets one or more of the epidemiological criteria outlined in the additional testing note above.

    Case notification

    Only confirmed and probable cases need to be notified to the department.

    You should notify the department of confirmed and probable cases as soon as practicable by either:

  • Outbreak management and high priority COVID-19 tests

    Due to the volume of testing, DHHS is asking GPs who are performing COVID-19 tests to label samples from three priority groups as “URGENT PRIORITY” samples to speed up results.

    If a symptomatic patient that presents for testing confirms there has been an exposure to a known COVID-19 case within the past 14 days, and the outbreak definition* is met, the test sample is to be treated as an ‘outbreak sample’. To ensure all outbreak samples and other urgent priority samples are prioritised for testing in laboratories please follow these instructions:

    Three “at risk” groups whose samples should be labelled “URGENT PRIORITY”:

    Priority 1 (P1): Outbreak

    • Including Close Contacts of a confirmed case, people in quarantine hotel(s), and residents or staff of a known outbreak at a residential aged care facility or a residential disability setting. Note for priority testing a Close Contact must have been notified by DHHS that they are a Close Contact.

    Priority 2 (P2): Symptomatic health care workers and residents including

    • Aged care workers
    • Residential disability setting workers
    • Symptomatic aged care residents, disability setting residents and hospital patients.

    Priority 3 (P3): Other ‘at risk settings’

    • For symptomatic people identified to be from other ‘at-risk’ settings as determined by the referring clinician. This includes non-residential disability settings.

    How to label urgent samples

    1. Sample bag: the outside of the sample bag(s) must have a red sticker** and marked “URGENT PRIORITY”
    2. Pathology slip: must have a red sticker** and be marked as “URGENT PRIORITY” with “P1/P2/P3” to identify the reason why the sample is urgent. For example: “Priority 1– Outbreak“. See above for the three priority groups.
    3. Sample: the sample must be labelled clearly with the patient’s name and date of birth and marked as P1, P2 or P3 to indicate the priority group.

    Samples should then be forwarded on for laboratory testing using normal processes.

    *Please refer to the latest Case and contact management guidelines available on the DHHS website for the definition of “outbreak” and “close contact” in the context of urgent priority testing.

    ** Some GPs and pathology providers are unaware of the red sticker. We have followed up with DHHS, who have advised that GPs do not have to attach a red sticker if they do not have one. GPs can just:

    As of 26 July 2020, URGENT PRIORITY 1 – OUTBREAK samples can now be processed by the receiving pathology provider or hospital laboratory. These samples no longer require referral to the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory for processing.

  • Clinical guidelines and key documents

    Nominate someone in your practice or service to check the COVID-19 hub on the DHHS website each day to make sure you have the latest copies of the:

    • quick reference guide and checklist
    • case and contact management guidelines for health services and general practitioners
    • case definition and testing criteria
    • health care worker PPE guidance
    • infection control guidelines.
  • HealthPathways Melbourne

    HealthPathways Melbourne is the best place to find up-to-date clinical advice plus local referral information during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Health professionals can access the following COVID-19 pathways on HealthPathways Melbourne:

    These form the suite of COVID-19 pathways, which are being regularly updated with the latest risk criteria and local referral information.

    Health professionals should be aware of increased mental distress, alcohol and other drugs use and risk of family violence during the pandemic. There are many mental health, alcohol and other drugs, and family violence pathways, and these are being regularly updated to reflect service options for your patients.

    Need a login? Contact info@healthpathwaysmelbourne.org.au

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