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

Page last updated: 7:45pm, 24 September 2020

Urgent updates

Chief Health Officer update 24 September 2020

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer released a COVID-19 Daily Update at 7:07pm on Thursday, 24 September 2020.

 Read the full update
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Key messages

What's new?

  • As of 24 September 2020, 12 new cases have been diagnosed since yesterday, with the total number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Victoria now at 20,105. 
  • The overall total has increased by five due to seven cases being reclassified.
  • Today’s 14 daily average case number for metropolitan Melbourne is 26.7 and regional Victoria is 1.1.
  • Within Victoria, eight of the new cases are linked to outbreaks or complex cases and four are under investigation.
  • To date, 773 people have died from coronavirus (COVID-19) in Victoria, an increase of two since yesterday.
  • There are 4,267 cases that may indicate community transmission, a decrease of one since yesterday.
  • There are 532 cases currently active in Victoria. 18,738 people have recovered.
  • 67 people are in hospital. This includes eight patients in intensive care.
  • A total of 2,622,822 test results have been received. This is an increase of 13,337 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.
  • Elective surgery resumed across Victoria’s regional public and private hospitals on Thursday 17 September 2020 and will resume in metropolitan Melbourne from the end of September.
  • Elective surgery is resuming in stages, in line with the Victorian Government’s roadmap for reopening.
  • The plan will see hospitals in regional Victoria increase to 75 per cent of usual elective surgery activity from Thursday, 17 September and 85 per cent from 28 September.
  • Hospitals in metropolitan Melbourne will begin to ramp-up to 75 per cent of usual activity from the 28 September, when they enter the Second Step of the roadmap, and 85 per cent of usual activity when they move to the Third Step.
  • All Victorian hospitals will move to 100 per cent of their usual activity when the state moves from the Last Step to COVID Normal, planned for 23 November

Current advice to clinicians

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

  • COVID-19 testing criteria
  • Victoria’s restriction levels
  • Key messages for the community
  • Clinical information (links)
  • Consumer information (links)

Current key messages

  • Stay home and get tested if you have 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.
  • You must wear a face covering in Victoria whenever you leave your home, unless an exception applies. A face covering needs to cover both your nose and mouth.
  • Everyone in Victoria must stay safe by maintaining good hygiene, keeping your distance from others and if you feel unwell stay home. A curfew is in place for Melbourne from 8:00pm to 5:00am. The only reason to leave home during these times is for work, medical care and caregiving. Visit the DHHS website for more information on restrictions levels.
  • Notification is required for all confirmed cases by calling 1300 651 160, immediately, 24 hours a day. Notification of suspected cases is no longer required.

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Current case definition and 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


Acute respiratory infection (for example: cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, anosmia or loss of smell or loss of taste)

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 health care or aged care workers.
- who are residents of an aged care facility or older people in the community

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

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

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

The Case and contact management guidelines were last updated on 31 August 2020 (version 24).

HealthPathways Melbourne

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

Health professionals can access the following COVID-19 pathways available 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 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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