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

Page last updated: 4pm, 26 May 2023

Key messages

  • Chief Health Officer Weekly Update 26 May 2023

    Date issued: 26 May 2023

    Issued by: Office of the Chief Health Officer

    Issued to: Clinicians and the Victorian public

    COVID-19 Weekly data

    There were 10,642 COVID-19 cases reported in Victoria this week, an increase of 15 per cent on the previous week. The average daily number of new cases this week was 1,520, up from 1,325 last week.

    The seven-day rolling average of patients with COVID in Victorian hospitals is 415, an increase of 23 per cent from last week. There are currently 431 COVID patients in Victorian hospitals. There are currently 15 COVID patients in intensive care. There are 3 cleared cases in ICU. There are 3 COVID patients on a ventilator. The seven-day rolling average of patients in intensive care in Victorian hospitals is 17. In the past three months, 2,860 COVID patients were hospitalised in Victoria.

    Of Victorians aged 18 and over, 18 per cent have recorded a vaccination or COVID diagnosis in the past six months. This means 4.2 million Victorians are eligible for a 2023 booster dose.

    Of Victorians aged 65 and over, 39 per cent have recorded a vaccination or COVID diagnosis in the past six months. Of Victorians aged 50 to 64, 19 per cent have recorded a vaccination or COVID diagnosis in the past six months.

    A total of 63 COVID-related deaths were reported to the department in the past week. This represents an almost 18 per cent decrease when compared to the same period the previous month. An average of 9 deaths were reported each day in the past week.

    The total number of reported COVID-related deaths in Victoria since the pandemic began is 7,779.

    Epidemiological summary

    There has been a further increase in COVID hospitalisations, reported cases and quantitative wastewater levels over the past few weeks. This follows a recent plateau and indicates a significant period of transmission.

    There has been substantial uptake of the 2023 booster vaccination, particularly among older Victorians. However, of those aged 65 and over, 61 per cent remain eligible and recommended for the booster, which offers significant protection against death and hospitalisation.

    Recent case notifications have increased most notably among school-aged children, as has been occurring for other respiratory viruses such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

    COVID transmission is being driven by the combination of waning immunity and the continual evolution of multiple Omicron recombinant XBB sublineages. This includes XBB.1.16, which has shown a sustained increase since March. The department continues to monitor trends through Victoria’s comprehensive surveillance system.

    Multiple Omicron XBB sublineages comprise 85 per cent of circulating variants from wastewater surveillance, similar to last week. This includes XBB.1.16 (29 per cent), XBB.1.5 (18 per cent), XBB.1.9.1 and XBB1.9.2 (16 per cent), and other mixed XBB sublineages (22 per cent). Other variants include CH.1.1 (6 per cent), Delta/Omicron recombinant XBC (4 per cent), and other strains at low levels (<5 per cent each). There has been continued growth of XBB.1.16 in the last week.

    Steps to protect yourself and others

    Protecting yourself is the best way to protect yourself and the community. If you don’t get COVID, you can’t spread COVID.

    These six steps can help you stay ahead of COVID:

    1. Wear a mask: a high-quality and well-fitted mask can protect you and others from the virus
    2. Get your 2023 booster: new bivalent vaccines targeting Omicron variants are available at your GP or local pharmacy. To find out if you’re eligible for your next booster, visit the Coronavirus website. Flu vaccines are also now available.
    3. Let fresh air in: open windows and doors when you can, it reduces the spread of the virus
    4. Get tested: if you have symptoms, take a rapid antigen test
    5. Stay at home: if you have COVID, you should stay at home for at least five days and until you have no symptoms
    6. Talk to your doctor: if you are at risk of falling very sick, you may be eligible for COVID and influenza medicines – and early testing and diagnosis are important. With expanded criteria, more people are now eligible for COVID medicines.

    2023 boosters

    Eligible Victorians who have not had a COVID vaccination or confirmed infection in the past six months can now receive their 2023 booster. This is irrespective of how many prior doses a person has received. Vaccination continues to provide the best protection against becoming severely unwell or dying from COVID.

    For those not infected or vaccinated in the past six months, a 2023 booster is recommended for:

    • All adults aged 65 years and over
    • Adults 18-64 years who have medical comorbidities or disability with significant or complex health needs

    For those not infected or vaccinated in the past six months, a 2023 booster should be considered for:

    • Adults 18-64 with no risk factors for severe Covid
    • Children and adolescents aged 5-17 who have medical comorbidities or disability with significant or complex health needs

    Victorians are encouraged to book a free booster appointment through their local GP or pharmacy. You can find your nearest vaccination provider through the Health Direct Service Finder.

    RATs available through local councils

    All Victorians are eligible to pick up two free packets of RATs through their local council.

    The council RAT distribution program is currently operating across more than 400 local sites, such as libraries and council customer service centres. The program is now open to all Victorians with all eligibility requirements now removed.

    Individuals can collect up to two packets for themselves plus up to two packets for each household member per visit while people with a disability or their carer can collect up to four packets of tests.

    Testing, especially with any compatible COVID symptoms, is critical to help with early detection and to protect others. It also allows for appropriate care and timely treatment.

    Contact details for participating councils can be found at the Coronavirus website.

    Antivirals and other medicines

    Oral antiviral medications remain highly effective against all currently circulating COVID subvariants to reduce severe disease and prevent death.

    Early testing for COVID and diagnosis are essential to access COVID medicines. For most COVID medicines to work best, you must take it within five days of getting sick – the earlier the better.

    Information on eligibility can be found at the Coronavirus website.

    Advice for cases and contacts

    Helpful information is available online for cases and household, social, workplace, education and other contacts.

    See the checklists and recommend them to your patients.

    General advice

    COVID-19 symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath and loss or change in sense of smell or taste.

    For more information call the 24-hour Coronavirus Hotline at 1800 675 398 or visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) Victoria.

    Current advice to clinicians

    Clinicians are no longer required to report positive COVID-19 test results. Laboratories continue to be required to report positive COVID-19 PCR results. People who have tested positive using a rapid antigen test (RAT) should report their result to the Department of Health online or by calling 1800 675 398.

    COVID-19 testing criteria

    Practitioners should test any patients who meet the clinical criteria below:

    • 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 loss or changes in sense of smell or taste)
    • Note: testing is also recommended for people with new onset of other clinical symptoms consistent with COVID-19** AND who are from the following cohorts: close contacts of a confirmed case of 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**.
    • *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.

    Mental health resources

    Many Victorians are feeling fatigued, isolated or lonely. If you need support for your mental health there are mental health resources you can access on our website.

    Consumer information

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    Keep informed of emergencies affecting the health sector and critical public health issues impacting your work by subscribing to the Chief Health Officer’s alerts and advisories, or see our media releases and follow the Victorian Chief Health Officer on Twitter.

  • COVID-19 vaccines

    Key messages for primary care providers

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

    We are updating general practices, pharmacies and primary care providers regularly in our e-bulletins. Subscribe and read our latest e-bulletins.

    Key messages for the community

    Use the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder to find an appointment at a GP clinic or pharmacy near you. You can also visit for more information on vaccinations at Victoria’s state run vaccination hubs.

    Quick links

    COVID-19 vaccine information in your language.

    Is it true? Get the facts on COVID-19 vaccines.

    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.

  • COVID-19 treatments

  • Get tested for COVID-19

  • What to do if you test positive

Key information for clinicians

  • Caring for patients with COVID-19

    The COVID-19 Positive Care Pathways program is the Victorian statewide program for assessment and management of COVID-19 patients.

    Public hospitals, primary and community health care providers, Primary Health Networks and GPs offer pathways that are relevant and responsive to each local service system and population.

    Clinicians can refer to our COVID-19 Care Pathways page and HealthPathways Melbourne for the latest localised clinical and referral advice for their patients in these pathways.

    The RACGP’s Home-care guidelines for patients with COVID-19 provides detailed guidance on managing patients at home. However, not all patients will require high levels of care, as outlined in this resource. This resource was written in collaboration with the HealthPathways community.

  • COVID-19 telephone support line for GPs and health professionals

    For advice, health professionals can call the dedicated Victorian Coronavirus Hotline – phone 1800 675 398 (press 0 for an interpreter, if required), 24 hours a day.

    Visit the Victorian Department of Health website for more information.

  • COVID-19 therapies helpline

    The Victorian Department of Health has launched a pharmacy helpline to support PBS prescribers in the prescription of oral antivirals nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (Paxlovid) and molnupiravir (Lagevrio) to COVID-19 patients in the community.

    The helpline is staffed by Alfred Health pharmacists experienced in prescribing COVID-19 early therapies. It is intended for use by Victorian PBS prescribers such as GPs and nurse practitioners.

    The helpline is staffed 7 days a week from 8am to 5pm and can be contacted on (03) 8290 3801.

    More information about COVID-19 early therapies is available on HealthPathways Melbourne, and on the Victorian Department of Health website and fact sheet.

  • HealthPathways Melbourne

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

    The suite of COVID-19 pathways is being regularly updated with the latest risk criteria and local referral information.

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

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