The elderly and people with underlying medical conditions (such as diabetes, lung disease, kidney disease or suppressed immunity) are at more risk of severe illness or death if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19.​

Last updated: 23 November 2020
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What is the COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. It is a new strain of coronavirus that was first identified in China in late 2019 and has now spread to many countries around the world.

How is it spread?

The virus can be easily spread from person to person through contaminated droplets. It may be spread by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects.

What are the symptoms?

In most cases, COVID-19 presents as a mild illness. The most common symptoms are:

  • fever (37.5°C or higher) or history of fever (night sweats, chills)
  • cough.

Other reported symptoms of COVID-19 include headache, sore throat, fatigue, shortness of breath, runny nose, muscle pain, joint pain, loss of smell, loss of taste and nausea/vomiting.

Who is at most risk?

The elderly and people with underlying medical conditions (such as diabetes, lung disease, kidney disease or suppressed immunity) are at more risk of severe illness or death if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19.

How can I help protect my family and friends?

Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment for people who are infected with COVID-19, so it is crucial that the disease is not introduced to aged care homes.

Visitors (including hairdressers providing services) should not enter the facility if they have

  • fever ≥ 37.5 or symptoms of respiratory infection even mild (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath). Residential aged care facilities should request visitors provide details on their current health status (screening for fever could also be considered upon entry)
  • returned from overseas in the past 14 days.
  • returned from Victoria in the past 14 day
  • had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days. A contact is defined as anyone who has been in contact with a known case while they were infectious, which includes the 48 hours before they became symptomatic.
  • visited any of the locations listed at Latest COVID-19 case locations in NSW​ on the same date as a COVID-19 case should be excluded for a period of 14 days since their visit to the listed location.
  • live in or have been in the LGAs or suburbs in New South Wales or Queensland listed in Advice to residential aged care facilities (visitors performing essential caring function may be allowed but must wear a mask).
  • not been vaccinated against influenza (after 1st May 2020). unless:
    • The vaccination is not available to the person, or
    • The person presents to the residential aged care facility a certificate in the approved form, issued by a medical practitioner, certifying that the person has a medical contraindication to the vaccination against influenza. See the approved Influenza Vaccine Medical Contraindication Form

In which case visitors who have not received a current influenza vaccination must wear a mask whilst in contact with residents.

Measures such as phone or video calls should be made available to all residents to enable continuation of communication with family, friends or others who are not allowed to enter the facility at this time

Measures for limiting visitors and visits

To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to residents, facilities should implement the following measures for restricting visits and visitors:

  • In NSW/VIC border communities, only visitors from NSW are permitted providing:
    • The facility must obtain name and contact detail of visitors (in case there is a need for contact tracing)
    • The temperature of the visitor is checked to be below 37.5 degrees Celsius
    • The visitor is escorted directly to the room (single room) of their loved one and must remain within the room for the duration of the visit. At the completion of the visit, the visitor is to be escorted directly back to the reception area
    • A surgical mask is to be worn at all times
    • Hand hygiene is facilitated
    • Visits are restricted to once/day for each person
    • A maximum of two visitors at a time; children are to be closely supervised.
  • All facilities must have a robust process for screening all staff and visitors on entry to the facility
  • No large group visits or gatherings, including social activities or entertainment (including school groups of any size).
  • Limit visits to a short duration
  • Limit visits to a maximum of two visitors at any one time.
  • Visits should be conducted in the resident’s room, outdoors, or in a specific designated area, rather than in communal areas where the risk of transmission to other residents is greater.
  • All visitors should be encouraged to practice social distancing where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.
  • All visitors must have up to date vaccination against influenza unless they have an approved medical certificate signed by the medical practitioner

Measures such as phone or video calls should be made available to all residents to enable continuation of communication with family members. Family and friends should be encouraged to maintain contact with residents by phone and other social communication apps, as appropriate.

Exemptions to the limits can be assessed on a case-by-case basis, for example where the resident is in palliative care.

Who should get tested?

Any visitor to a residential aged care facility must not enter the facility if you have symptoms, even mild symptoms. Instead you should immediately seek COVID testing and remain isolated until a negative test result is known.

The presence of COVID-19 in a Residential Aged Care Facility has potential for serious harm or death for any of the residents. It is vital that caution is exercised to ensure that our family members are safe.

General advice for hygiene measures for COVID-19 and other respiratory outbreaks (e.g. influenza)

Visitors should be aware of any signage and other forms of communication (i.e. information and factsheets) that are displayed within the facility must abide by the advice given. Please follow the infection control guidelines as directed by the facility staff.

Visitors should be encouraged to practice physical distancing where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.

Masks should be worn when visiting the facility. It can be a cloth or surgical mask. For more information on masks, please visit the NSW Government website.

It is important to maintain strong hand hygiene and cough etiquette practices.

More information

For more information see the COVID-19 FAQs

Current as at: Monday 23 November 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW