As of 24 November 2022

NSW is experiencing a COVID-19 wave, which is expected to peak in December 2022.
Home care service providers and employers should:

  • encourage  clients to be up to date with their vaccinations.  
  • encourage clients to speak to their GP for pre-assessment for antiviral medicines  to support timely access and safe administration.
  • be prepared, so providers and clients remain COVID-Safe during the festive season.
  • ensure business continuity plans are in place to support adequate staffing coverage.

The advice on this page also applies to people working within the Commonwealth Home Support Programme.

COVID-19 safety measures for home care service providers 

All in-home care service providers should maintain vigilance to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 into a person's home.

Providers should undertake their own risk assessments to determine safe delivery of services. These should take into consideration the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community, vaccination status of both staff and client and types of services being provided. 

Staff should actively ask clients about symptoms on arrival. If staff become aware of a client with symptoms, arrangements should be made for COVID-19 testing. 

Throughout this document, reference is made to Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) Guidance. 

Staff

Employers should ensure they have business continuity plans in place to support adequate staffing coverage, particularly during the COVID-19 wave.

Staff, including students, contractors, volunteers, pathology collectors and therapists should not provide a home care service if they: 

  • Have tested positive for COVID-19. Staff should not provide a home care service for 7 days after their positive test. Employers should follow guidance outlined in table 1, page 8 of the relevant ARI Guidance to determine when it is safe for employees to return to work. The Australian Government’s High-Risk Settings Pandemic Payment is available for eligible staff who work in a high risk setting, including home care support services, and cannot go to work because they have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. See section Staff exposed to COVID-19 below for further information. 
  • Have acute respiratory or influenza-like symptoms. For more detail about symptoms, see page 4 of the relevant ARI Guidance. 

Staff exposed to COVID-19 

If the exposure has been in the workplace, managers should refer to Appendix 2 of the RACF ARI Guidance to support decision making for when staff can safely return to work, particularly if they are critical to service delivery.

If the exposure has been outside of the workplace, staff should refer to the Advice for people exposed to COVID-19 fact sheet. Employers are encouraged to determine their own advice for when it is safe for employees to return to work. This may include asking the staff member to take additional precautions to decrease the risk of transmission and test regularly after exposure to someone with COVID-19. Managers should refer to COVID-19 advice for staff in high-risk community and/or private settings to support their decision making. 

Testing for COVID-19 

It is recommended that home care staff undergo a COVID-19 RAT at least every 3 days. 

Mask wearing 

All home care staff should wear a surgical mask covering their nose and mouth whilst providing in-home care. This is particularly important at times of high community transmission. A staff member may remove their mask: 

  • While communicating with another person who is deaf or hard of hearing
  • If wearing a mask creates a risk to health and safety
  • Where clear enunciation or visibility of your mouth is essential
  • If they are working in an indoor area and there is no other person is in the area.

Anyone removing a mask for one of these reasons should remain 1.5 metres from others, particularly in indoor communal areas.

COVID-19 Vaccination for staff

Under the Public Health (COVID-19 Care Services) Order (No 3) 2022, all staff, health practitioners and students providing in-home and community aged care or disability services must have had 3 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The third dose is due 3 months after a person's second dose. For staff (including new staff) who have had 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, they must have their third dose within 6 weeks of their third dose being due.

Exemptions under the  Public Health (COVID-19 Care Services) Order (No 3) 2022 relating to the third dose of a COVID-19 vaccination may apply to some staff, including:

  • An exemption  which allows a person who has had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to continue working without the third dose if they have been assessed by the facility as being essential to the operation of the provision of services to people with a disability or people receiving in-home and community aged care services.
    The exempt worker must take reasonable steps to get vaccinated as soon as practical. If they have not taken reasonable attempts, they are not exempt from their third COVID-19 vaccination.
  • An exemption which allows a person who has had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to continue working without the third dose if they:
    • were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 4 months, and
    • can provide evidence of their diagnosis to their employer. Evidence of diagnosis can be either proof of registration with Service NSW of a positive rapid antigen test result, or evidence of a positive COVID-19 PCR result.

These exemptions do not permanently exempt the person from the requirement to have a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Staff who do not meet the conditions in the exemption instrument must comply with the vaccination direction in the Public Health (COVID-19 Care Services) Order (No 3) 2022. Providers should work with staff to make sure they are able to access their third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine when it is due. 

Staff who have a medical contraindication to all reasonably available COVID-19 vaccinations will require a COVID-19 medical contraindication certificate.

See further information on Public Health Orders and Exemptions.

Day activity programs

Day activity programs are permitted to operate

Staff and participants should not attend if they have tested positive to COVID-19, have any COVID-19 symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

In arranging activities, day program providers should maintain COVID-19 safe practices including:

  • encouraging all staff and volunteers to be fully vaccinated
  • encourage everyone to wear a mask when indoors
  • encouraging regular use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • maintaining a distance of at least 1.5 meters from other people
  • have COVID-19 occupational health and safety plans in place.

Vaccination for clients

For the best protection against severe illness it is important to be up to date for all vaccinations including COVID-19 and influenza. Clients should be strongly encouraged to receive both booster doses for COVID-19 if they are eligible. This helps provide added protection during times of increased COVID-19 in the community.

Antiviral medicine usage for clients

Providers should encourage clients to meet with their GPs to develop a care management plan, which will help to support vaccination, testing and treatment for COVID-19.  Clients who are at high risk of severe illness may be eligible for antiviral medicines.

  • COVID-19 antiviral medicines are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for people who meet eligibility criteria.
  • The administration of antiviral treatment as soon as possible after symptom onset for people with COVID-19 reduces disease severity and can prevent hospitalisation or death.
  • GPs are encouraged to use the Antiviral Pre-Assessment form  to establish an advance preference for people to receive COVID-19 and influenza antiviral medicines to support timely access and safe administration.

Further information

  • The Commonwealth Department of Health has issued a Guide for Home Care Providers to assist staff in reducing the risk of COVID-19.
  • Please seek the advice of your local NSW Health Public Health Unit if you are in doubt about how to appropriately mitigate risk when providing home care services on 1300 066 055.
  • For more information about NDIS-related issues, including any funding issues relating to compliance with these measures for NDIS participants, contact:
Current as at: Thursday 24 November 2022
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW