In the event of a cluster of COVID-19 cases within NSW this rapid deployment plan has been developed to facilitate the rapid deployment of resources to areas of concern within 24 hours to conduct rapid COVID-19 screening and testing on NSW residents.
SHEOC Operations is the central coordination point for NSW Health's COVID-19 rapid deployment of resources, or enquires and is available 24/7 on 02 8741 5340 or via email to
The local health district (LHD)/specialty health network (SHN) is responsible for developing and implementing a management plan to rapidly deploy resources (staffing and equipment) to areas of concern within 24 hours in the event of a major cluster.
LHDs/SHNs identify an officer responsible to plan, co-ordinate and manage logistics in a major cluster and to liaise with SHEOC Operations.
The officer responsible ensures the location and nature of the proposed rapid deployment of resources is communicated to relevant parties (e.g. SHEOC Operations team, NSW Health Pathology, local
Primary Health Network, local community services,
Local Emergency Management Officer (LEMO)/Local Emergency Management Committees (LEMCs).
Possible triggers for engagement
Request from the NSW Health Chief Health Officer or SHEOC to an LHD/SHN to deploy additional resources
- A LHD/SHN may be requested to rapidly deploy resources to areas of concern within 24 hours to provide COVID-19 screening and testing services in the event of a major cluster.
- In these instances, the Chief Health Officer (CHO) will contact the Chief Executive of the LHD/SHN with a request for a service to be established. The LHD/SHN liaises with the SHEOC 24/7 via
- SHEOC Director of Operations or delegate officer notifies
State Emergency Operations Controller (SEOCON) who will work together to identify gaps and prioritise resources.
- SHEOC Director of Operations or delegate identifies required outcome and specific need to implement NSW Health's rapid deployment plan
LHD/SHN identifies area/s to deploy additional resources
- A LHD/SHN identifies the need to rapidly deploy resources as a result of a local cluster. In these instances, the LHD/SHN will contact the SHEOC 24/7 on 02 8741 5340 or via email to
- The officer responsible engages the local Emergency Management Committee (LEMC) who will work with their local council/s to plan and implement a range of strategies to assist with establishing COVID-19 screening services within the community. The Regional Emergency Management Officer (REMO) for your region will be able to advise the most appropriate contact. See
Emergency Management Regions
- SHEOC Director of Operations or delegate provides assistance if required with engagement of other providers for adjunct staffing and equipment to facilitate rapid clinic set up by LHD/SHNs
Early engagement with local community stakeholders
Early and ongoing engagement and communication with the local community and community leaders is essential to maintain trust with any public health actions. This is especially important when deploying resources to areas of concern to rapidly undertake COVID-19 testing in the event of a major cluster.
LHDs/SHNs should know their populations, especially the location and nature of their more vulnerable communities to be able to address specific needs. This involves:
- Using established local community resources including community health centres, faith based organisations and community leaders to communicate with local communities.
- Working with the LHD/SHN Multicultural Health teams based in hospitals and community centres to ensure all rapid deployment services are culturally appropriate and accessible to people from culturally and linguistically diverse background (CALD) communities. The
NSW Health Multicultural Health Communication Service is a state-wide health service that provides a range of services including multilingual health information and translation services. For translated resources see
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) resources
- Work with the LHD/SHN Aboriginal Health Unit to ensure all rapid deployment services are culturally appropriate and accessible to Aboriginal people. NSW Health Centre for Aboriginal Health and the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AHMRC) have developed a range of information and resources (including, fact sheets, brochures and posters) about the prevention and management of COVID-19. See
COVID-19 Aboriginal health resources
- SHEOC Operations and SHEOC Communications are able to assist with coordination of messaging and linkages with other community stakeholders.
Lao Buddist templet pop-up clinic: Engagement with local community
In August 2020, a COVID-19 pop-up clinic was established to encourage the Lao community to come forward for testing.
South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) and NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service identified a gap in COVID-19 testing for the Lao community. A pop-up clinic was established in association with a Lao Buddhist Temple in Fairfield LGA.
South Western Sydney Local Health District, NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service and Lao community representatives worked together to understand how to best deliver a culturally accessible and appropriate site for the Lao community.
This model is being rolled out further in local community centres and places of worship to encourage people to come forward amid concerns of misinformation around safety and cost.
See SBS report:
Extra clinics are being set up in NSW multicultural communities to help bust coronavirus myths
Overview of demand escalation and actions
|Positive cases in NSW but minimal localised demand||Clinics, Drive-through, Pop-up and mobile services.|
|Increase in demand due to positive case findings or areas for increased concern||Expand services within the local area.|
|Increase in demand due to local cluster/s in high risk settings and potential for rapid spread (e.g. high density living or institutions or vulnerable populations)|
Expand services within the local area.
Deployment of mobile "squad team" to high risk setting.
|Wide spread community transmission across NSW|
SHEOC will act as the centralised coordination point for distributing resources on a need's basis including but not limited to the following Emergency Services and Supporting agencies:
HealthShare NSW, NSW Health Pathology, Private Pathology Providers, NSW Ambulance, Primary Health Networks (PHNs), State Emergency Operations Controller (SEOCON), Regional Emergency Management Officers (REMO), Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), Resilience NSW, NSW Police, Transport for NSW, volunteer organisations (e.g. St John Ambulance), and other bodies included in the SHEOC and SEOC structures
LHD's require the flexibility to stand down at short notice. Stand down activities will focus on:
- Supporting and maintaining quality care
- Ceasing activities that are no longer needed, and transitioning activities to seasonal or interim arrangements
- Monitoring for a second wave of the cluster, or the development of antiviral resistance
- Communications activities to support the return from pandemic to normal business services
- Evaluating systems and revising plans and procedures.
Expansion of services (drive throughs - pop ups - mobile services)
Goal: Expand service capacity to increase testing and case finding
Expanding COVID-19 screening services (drive throughs - pop ups - mobile services) in areas of concern to cope with increased demand. SHEOC Operations is able to provide support in the provision of additional resources and coordination of logistics. The officer responsible should notify SHEOC Operations of the need for support prior to expanding the service i.e. when reaching capacity. A guideline for screening clinics is available at
Guideline for COVID-19 Screening Clinics (Drive-Through, Pop-up and Mobile Van). SHEOC Operations support includes:
- Working with State Emergency Operations Controller (SEOCON) to identify gaps and prioritise resources with Regional Emergency Management Officer (REMO)
- Identify suitable areas for additional pop-up screening and testing clinics, for example, sports fields and car parks.
- Expand where possible and enhance existing drive through services, for example multiple lanes instead of a single lane, portable lighting for after daylight hours service
Information to consider prior to expanding your existing services:
- Understand the daily capacity of the clinic and the physical constraints of the site
- Do you have long queues at current services on different days of the week or different times of the day? Consideration should be given to:
- additional staffing to cope with demand at peak times
- opening additional lanes of a drive-through at peak times
- diversion of traffic to COVID-19 clinics close by - see
- Traffic flow assistance through a Traffic management plan and Traffic Controller.
- Seek early support from LEMC who will work with local council
- SHEOC Operations is able to provide assistance with engagement of other providers for adjunct staffing and equipment to facilitate rapid clinic set up
- Utilise local community resources including community health centres, churches/mosques, community leaders to communicate with local communities
Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) for patients who require translation services when at a COVID-19 screening clinic Ph:131 450
Human resources management
- COVID-19 screening is currently conducted by a range of individuals to provide COVID-19 symptom checks. Consideration should could be given to expanding to other providers capable of fulfilling this role i.e. volunteers.
- COVID-19 swabbing is currently conducted by medical, nursing and allied health staff within NSW Health using appropriate PPE and swabbing technique. Consideration should be given to expanding to other providers capable of fulfilling this role.
COVID-19 negative sms trial: Expansion of a drive though
In August 2020, a COVID-19 negative test results SMS trial was undertaken to determine the most effective SMS messaging that would increase the likelihood of the public to re-test.
By using a clear call out to "Come back as soon as you have symptoms again" the likelihood to re-test increased from a mean intention of 8.2 out of 10 (BAU) to 8.7. That is, 11% more people say they are very likely to get retested if they get sick again.
The Behavioural Insights Unit conducted this trial at St Vincent's Health Network (SydPath) laboratory COVID-19 clinic sites over a 3 week period. Over 30,000 SMS's were sent and over 4,000 survey responses received. Survey responses not only provided preference for the SMS "Come back as soon as you have symptoms again", there was high praise given to the COVID- 19 clinics for their excellence in service provision (service rating of 9.5 mean out of 10).
As a result of the trial, St Vincent's (SydPath) are now using this SMS and have implemented several other changes as a result of the survey feedback. The Bondi drive-through has tripled its peak capacity with the ability to further surge up and down as required and reduced wait times to less than 1 hour at peak morning times and 5min otherwise, by expanding to 4 lanes instead of 1 and increased staffing at peak times.
Testing in high-risk areas and populations
Goal: COVID-19 screening and testing is offered appropriately to a known population in high risk settings
A number of exercises have been undertaken across NSW to test scenarios where an outbreak or cluster has occurred in high density settings. The learnings from these exercises can directly be applied to settings such as residential aged care facilities or similar.
In NSW Health, every effort should be made to ensure appropriate care is provided to vulnerable people living in high-density communities (for example, high-rise towers, aged care facilities, correctional and detention facilities, military barracks, boarding schools, hostels and factories).
Early engagement and communication with facility managers, and the community and community leaders is essential to maintain trust with any public health actions. LHDs should know their population, especially vulnerable communities, to be able to address specific needs (See
Early engagement with local community stakeholders).
In developing a local 'incident response plan' consider:
- stakeholder and community engagement and communication
- logistics and social welfare arrangements
- public health actions including testing, prevention of spread etc.
Expanding services within the local area
Consider expanding COVID-19 screening services (drive throughs - pop ups –mobile services) in the high risk area or population. Please refer
to Expansion of services (drive throughs - pop ups - mobile services).
Door to door testing
Consideration of door to door testing should only be warranted when targeting asymptomatic testing as it is heavily resource intensive.
Advanced notification to community is required using appropriate, non-threatening communications materials/strategies in multiple languages (refer to resource links).
- consider 'mobile squad team'
- in the event of a positive test, a risk assessment will be undertaken by the LHD Public Health Unit
- home isolation should be considered where possible and if it is not possible the LHD is to facilitate accommodation via established channels
- if the person is identified as a high public health risk who will not comply with home isolation a Public Health Medical Officer is authorised to place the person under a Public Health Order.
Mobile 'squad team'
Mobile squads are a group of clinicians and support staff that can be rapidly deployed to an area of concern. Some LHDs have established these models to rapidly stand up a mobile screening clinic or service for specific populations.
An example of the components of a mobile squad team includes: Team leader, screening staff, swabbing staff, administration staff (patient administration system experience necessary), social worker, security on standby, logistical support (infrastructure, waste, toilets, food storage, PPE etc.) and Wi-Fi to access patient administration system.
In Early August 2020 a Residential Aged Care Facility (RACF) in Ashfield with approximately 150 residents had a staff member test positive that was working during the infectious period.
Sydney Local Health District led an outbreak management team using a mobile squad response to contain the potential outbreak. Access to the facility was restricted to essential services only.
The rapid deployment of the mobile team was implemented to test staff and residents. All staff and residents were tested, with repeat testing in accordance with public health guidance.
There were no further cases. The Mobile Squad Team succeeded in containing the possibility of an outbreak in a high risk, high density setting.
See ABC report:
How this Sydney aged-care home averted a coronavirus disaster
Accessing COVID-19 testing for vulnerable people
There are residents in the community who are unable to access a clinic, drive-through, or pop up due to a range of reasons (e.g. elderly, disabled, non-ambulant). In these circumstances, utilising the persons existing health networks is the preferred mechanism for individual arrangements for accessing COVID-19 testing (e.g. An individual's GP).
Other options include:
- contacting their local community health units and/or public health units to enable a home visit
- communicating with your PHN network to provide testing services to known vulnerable or disadvantaged cohorts
- arranging alternative patient transport options to a testing service
- establishing an outreach screening and testing team (adapt door-to-door 'squad team').
Resources and links to useful information
Aboriginal Health and Medical research Council of NSW
The Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) is the peak body for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) across NSW
Alcohol and other Drugs Contact information, support and treatment services
Alcohol and other drug information, support and treatment is available through publicly funded and private services across New South Wales.
Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza (AHMPPI)
AHMPPI outlines Australia's strategy to manage an influenza pandemic and minimise its impact on the health of Australians and our health system.
Centre for Aboriginal Health
The Centre for Aboriginal Health (CAH) is a Centre within the Population and Public Health Division of the NSW Ministry of Health.
Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control
Education Resource. Infection Prevention and Control COVID-19 Resources for health and other workers in NSW
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) National guidelines for public health units
Recommendations for surveillance, infection control, laboratory testing and contact management for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) Outbreaks in Correctional and Detention Facilities in Australia
CDNA National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Correctional and Detention Facilities in Australia.
Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) Outbreaks in residential aged care facilities in Australia
CDNA national guidelines for the prevention, control and public health management of COVID-19 outbreaks in residential care facilities in Australia
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) resources
COVID-19 resources including translated resources
COVID-19 Aboriginal health resources
COVID-19 Aboriginal health poster and flyer resources
COVID-19 Case Alerts
Find locations with reported cases, areas and suburbs with increased testing, or read the latest news, alerts, media releases and social posts
COVID-19 clinic locations for the public to access COVID-19 testing
COVID-19 information for people with disability
COVID-19 information and support for people with disabilities
COVID-19 Clinic forms
Patient registration, assessment and medical certificate/discharge advice forms, are available form NSW state forms catalogue. Product codes: NH700583 (POD item) and NH700583A (self-print).
COVID-19 Mental Wellbeing Services
If you're feeling anxious or stressed, you're not alone. There are services that can support you through these difficult times.
COVID-19 testing prioritisation
Prioritisation of COVID-19 testing is for public health purposes, maintaining essential services and supporting HSC students, the laboratory request form is clearly marked so testing can be prioritised.
Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ)
DCJs brings together Family and Communities and Justice Clusters to work together to help create a safe, just, resilient and inclusive NSW.
Guideline for COVID-19 screening clinics (drive-through, pop-up and mobile vans)
Pop-Up, Drive-Through and Mobile Van COVID-19 Screening Clinics can be rapidly established to promote testing within the community and increase local testing capacity.
Local Emergency Management regions and contacts
NSW is divided into 11 Emergency Management Regions. Each Region is made up of local government councils. Resilience NSW provides contacts for Emergency Management Regions.
Local Government NSW
Local Government NSW helps member councils deliver improved services and better outcomes to their local communities
Multicultural NSW is the lead agency for implementing the policy and legislative framework to support multicultural principles in NSW
NSW Multicultural Health Communication Service
Established in 1987 to effectively and appropriately communicate with people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and coordinate the provision of multilingual health information.
NSW Public Health Units
In NSW calling 1300 066 055 will direct you to your local Public Health Unit
Residential aged care facility outbreak management
NSW Health is working in close partnership with the Commonwealth to support residential aged care facilities as they manage a COVID-19 outbreak.
Resilience NSW is the lead disaster management agency for NSW, responsible for all aspects of disaster recovery and building community resilience to future disasters
Self-Isolation guidelines and information
You must self-isolate if; you have COVID- 19, you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, you are a returned traveler exempt from hotel quarantine or you have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting results.
St John Ambulance assisting with resources for NSW Health during COVID-19
Provide adjunct staffing and equipment to facilitate rapid set up of services by LHD/SHNs. The request form is included in Appendix 3 of the
Guideline for COVID-19 Screening Clinics (Drive-Through, Pop-up and Mobile Van).
Traffic Management literature and resources.
Translation and Interpreting (TIS)
National Contact Centre 131 450
The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is an interpreting service for people who do not speak English and for agencies and businesses that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients.
Purpose:To facilitate the rapid deployment of resources to areas of concern to conduct rapid COVID-19 screening and testing of NSW residents in the event of a major COVID-19 cluster in NSW.
- Provide guidance and information to enable rapid deployment of resources to areas of concern within 24 hours.
- Outline example of models for rapid deployment of resources to promote early detection of community-acquired COVID-19 cases as determined by need.
- Encourage community engagement to promote early detection and support effective management of community-acquired COVID-19 cases.
Developed by: COVID-19 Clinics Team, Health Service Operations Team, State Health Emergency Operations Centre (SHEOC)
Consultation: Public Health Physician, Office of the Chief Health Officer; PHEOC Laboratory Team; SHEOC Director of Operations; PHEOC Deputy Incident Controller
Endorsed by: SHEOC Deputy Incident Controller