As of 20 May 2024

The NSW Respiratory Surveillance Report provides an indication of transmission of key respiratory viruses (COVID-19, influenza and RSV) in the community. COVID-19 and influenza vaccines offer the best protection against severe illness from these viruses. Facilities are strongly encouraged to:

  • Ensure residents are up to date with recommended vaccinations, including COVID-19 and influenza. It is safe for COVID-19 vaccines to be administered on the same day as an influenza vaccine. Please read the COVID-19 vaccine advice and recommendations for 2024. The advice includes:
    • individuals aged 75 years and older are recommended to have a COVID-19 vaccine every 6 months.
    • individuals aged 65 – 74 years are recommended to have a COVID-19 vaccine every 12 months, but can receive every six months.
  • Pharmacists are funded by the Australian Government to administer vaccines under the National Immunisation Program free of charge to residents and facilities.
  • Ensure a plan is in place for testing and antiviral medicine access. Residents should be pre-assessed for eligibility for antiviral medicines to support timely testing and access.
  • Ensure business continuity plans are in place to support adequate staffing coverage.

This advice includes information for RACFs about:

Many residents are at higher risk of severe illness if they develop COVID-19, influenza or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Providers of residential aged care need to balance their responsibilities to reduce the risk of COVID-19, influenza, RSV and other infections entering RACFs while meeting the physical, social, and emotional needs of residents.

Facilities should have appropriate preparedness plans in place to ensure a timely response to acute respiratory infections (ARIs). Facilities should refer to Guidance for Aged Care Facilities on the Public Health Management of Acute Respiratory Infections (RACF ARI Guidance) for outbreak management advice.



  • For the best protection against severe COVID-19 and influenza, it is strongly encouraged that residents are up to date with recommended vaccinations. Read the latest vaccination advice for
  • An RSV vaccine is available to adults 60 years and above. People must pay for this vaccine. Residents who are 60 years and above can talk to their GP about the benefits, eligibility and cost of the RSV vaccine. Please see the ATAGI advice for the RSV vaccine for more information.
  • Facilities can contact the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care at if they have issues accessing the COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care is funding pharmacists to administer free National Immunisation Program vaccines, including influenza vaccines, to residents in aged care facilities.

Pre-assessment for testing and antiviral medicines

  • GPs and RACFs are encouraged to establish and annually update a Pre-assessment action plan for respiratory infections in aged care facility residents in the event that the resident develops COVID-19 or influenza. This supports timely testing and access to antiviral medicines.
  • The administration of antiviral treatment as soon as possible after symptom onset or diagnosis, especially for people with COVID-19, reduces the risk of severe disease and can prevent hospitalisation and death.

COVID-19 antiviral medicines

  • COVID-19 antiviral medicines are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for eligible aged care residents.
  • RACFs are encouraged to replenish supply of COVID-19 antivirals for rapid availability. They can be ordered as per the usual practice for RACFs.

Influenza antiviral medicines

Residents who test positive to COVID-19

If a resident tests positive to COVID-19, refer to the RACF ARI Guidance.

Leaving the facility

If residents who have tested positive or have symptoms of acute respiratory symptoms need to leave the facility, they should wear a mask and be provided with appropriate mask wearing advice.


Receiving visitors is essential for resident wellbeing and helps to reduce social isolation. The risk of spreading COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses can be reduced by supporting visits to occur in the safest possible way. Facilities may determine their own advice to allow visitations to safely occur. Risk mitigation strategies include:

  • highlighting that visitors should not enter RACFs when respiratory symptoms are present
  • where possible, visits should be held outdoors or in well-ventilated areas away from other residents.

Entry restrictions

Visitors should not enter the facility if they have:

If a visit must occur when a visitor meets the above circumstances, the visitor must wear a mask when moving through the facility and minimise movement within the facility.

Mask wearing

For all visitors, wearing a mask indoors is encouraged when respiratory viruses are circulating at moderate or high levels in the community, as per the NSW Respiratory Surveillance Report.


The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care provides outbreak support in advance to aged care services through the Aged Care Outbreak Management Supplement. This supplement contributes to the cost of planning for and managing outbreaks such as purchasing of rapid antigen tests (RAT), personal protective equipment (PPE) and associated workforce requirements.

Entry restrictions

Staff, including students, contractors, volunteers, pathology collectors and therapists should not enter an RACF if they have:

  • tested positive for COVID-19. Staff should not enter an RACF for at least 7 days after their positive test and when symptoms have resolved. Facilities should follow the RACF ARI Guidance to determine when it is safe for employees to return to work
  • any acute respiratory or influenza-like symptoms
  • been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19. See below for further information.

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. Facilities are encouraged to determine their own advice for when it is safe for employees to return to work.

Testing staff for COVID-19

It's encouraged that facilities provide free RATs to staff to promote testing as required but regular surveillance testing is not required when there are low levels of COVID-19 in the community. Please note that staff with respiratory symptoms should not attend work even with a negative RAT result.

Mask wearing

Masks should be worn by staff when there are moderate or high levels of respiratory viruses circulating in the community as indicated by the NSW Respiratory Surveillance Report.

Please remember that masks can be removed for staff:

  • while communicating with people who are hearing impaired
  • 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 alone in an indoor area
  • to eat or drink - staff are encouraged to enjoy their meal breaks in areas with good natural ventilation or outdoors.

Staff removing a mask for one of the above reasons can decrease the risk of transmission by physically distancing from others, if appropriate.


Staff are strongly encouraged to stay up to date with all recommended vaccines including COVID-19 and influenza.

Providers should review COVID-19 staff vaccination rates and facilitate access to vaccination for those who are due. For information on recommended COVID-19 vaccine disease see the latest advice.

Providers must comply with the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care's mandatory flu vaccination program, which includes:

  • offering free flu vaccinations to all aged care staff and keeping records of their vaccinations
  • demonstrating how flu vaccinations have been promoted and how aged care staff and volunteers have been informed about the benefits of vaccination
  • demonstrating the steps taken to encourage aged care staff and volunteers to get vaccinated.

For further information, visit:


Ventilation is an important factor in minimising spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viral infections. The key principle is to bring in fresh air to dilute the indoor air; simply re-circulating indoor air (for example, a fan) is not effective.

Natural ventilation should be used wherever possible. RACFs can consider seeking professional advice from an occupational hygienist or ventilation engineer. Carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors and HEPA filters may play a role but require users to have a good understanding of how to use them.

Current as at: Monday 20 May 2024
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW