FRIDAY, 31 JULY 2020

We are streamlining our information to you to provide a focus on the three states (Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland) most at risk of COVID-19. We will continue to review and update our three-stage Recovery Plan for COVID-19 which outlines the national requirements of governments and ESSA’s recommendations in respect to the best practice management of COVID-19.  

Masks and other PPE
New ESSA Policy Recommendation
ESSA recommends members in lockdown or in a declared hotspot a wear a level 1 or type 1 disposable surgical mask in public-facing areas. Governments have also mandated compulsory surgical masks for health workers in some settings in hotspots (more details for states provided below).

The Australian Government requires the mandatory use of masks for disability workers in hotspot areas. Updated 17 July, 2020

Why is ESSA linking masks to hotspots?
ESSA is taking the expert advice from Chief Health Officers in all state and territory governments (often by governments outside of hot spot areas) as the trigger for ESSA members to wear surgical masks. This advice allows ESSA to take a conservative approach to managing the COVID-19 risk and helps you, your family and your clients stay safe.     

What is a hotspot?
A hotspot is a geographical area that has a high concentration of COVID-19 cases. Hotspots are changing rapidly and are declared by state and territory governments, often by governments outside of the hotspot area. ESSA will provide updates on hotspots on a regular basis.  

Guidance on the use of face masks and shields by health care workers in areas with significant community transmission of COVID-19
These new guidelines published on 30 July, 2020 from the Australian Government Department of Health Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) outline precautions health care workers in areas with significant community transmission should take to protect themselves against COVID-19.

Face Masks: How they protect you and when to use them
This fact sheet published on 29 July, 2020 explains the different types of face masks, what kind of protection they give the wearer, and who should use them.

The Australian Government has also provided the following new resources:

COVID-19: by how much do social distancing and masks reduce the risk?
A commentary piece in The Lancet, analysed important new WHO-commissioned research published on June 01, 2020.

The findings showed a reduction in risk of 82% with a physical distance of 1 m in both health-care and community settings. Every additional 1 m of separation more than doubled the relative protection, with data available up to 3 m. This evidence is important to support community physical distancing guidelines and shows risk reduction is feasible by physical distancing. Masks and respirators reduced the risk of infection by 85%, with greater effectiveness in health-care settings than in the community.

Face coverings mandatory across regional Victoria
The Victorian Government has issued a new requirement for everyone aged 12 years and over across regional Victoria to wear a face covering when they leave home from Sunday 2 August at 11:59pm. The fine for not wearing a face covering is $200.

Masks for VIC members
ESSA's policy on masks released last week is still current for VIC members.

ESSA recommends members in lockdown or in a declared hotspot a wear a level 1 or type 1 disposable surgical mask in public-facing areas.
From 12.00 pm on Friday 3 July 2020, all 79 Local Government Areas (LGAs) within the State of Victoria are considered a COVID-19 hotspot by the Queensland Government. This means every Victorian member, no matter where you live or work, should be wearing a level 1 or type 1 disposable surgical mask in public-facing work areas.

All aged care workers across Victoria are now required to wear face masks following recommendations from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. This advice applies to both residential care and home support care workers.  Updated 17 July, 2020

The Australian Government requires the mandatory use of masks for disability workers in hotspot areas. Updated 17 July, 2020

Visitors in the home – greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Queenscliffe, Colac-Otway, Golden Plains, Moorabool. There have been further restrictions on numbers of visitors in these areas. 
The updated restrictions - announced 30 July, 2020 for Victoria are here.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Aged care workers travel and accommodation support
This fact sheet (published 30 July, 2020) outlines the travel and accommodation support available to aged care workers who are working in designated COVID-19 areas in Victoria as part of the surge workforce.

ICYMI: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation and Worker Support Payments

$300 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Isolation Payment providing support to Victorian workers who are waiting for test results.
$1500 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Worker Support Payment providing financial support to Victorian workers who are self-isolating or quarantining.

The latest public health orders:
Stay at Home (Restricted Areas)
These directions require everyone who lives in a restricted area to limit their interactions with others by restricting the circumstances in which they may leave home and by placing restrictions on gatherings. The Stay at Home Directions (Restricted Areas) (No 5) come into force at 11.59pm on 30 July 2020 and replace the Stay at Home Directions (Restricted Areas) (No 4).

Restricted Activity (Restricted Areas)
The purpose of these directions is to restrict the operation of certain businesses and undertakings in the Restricted Areas in order to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). The Restricted Activity Directions (Restricted Areas) (No 3) came into force at 11:59 pm on 22 July 2020 and replace the Restricted Activity Directions (Restricted Areas) (No 2).

Restricted activities
These directions place restrictions on businesses and other organisations, and limit recreational, cultural and entertainment activities. The Restricted Activity Directions (No 15) come into force at 11:59pm on 30 July 2020 and replace the Restricted Activity Directions (No 14).


New South Wales
New COVID-19 compliance rules for NSW gyms (From Saturday, 1 August 2020)
Gyms in NSW can no longer operate without staff. Under the new rules here, all gyms and fitness centres must: 

This Marshall can be an existing staff member assigned as a COVID-19 Safe Hygiene Marshal who will be in distinctive clothing (e.g. shirt or badge) and responsible for ensuring all aspects of the COVID-19 Safety Plan are being adhered to including overseeing social distancing, cleaning and ensuring the accuracy of record keeping.

Masks for NSW members
ESSA's policy on masks released last week is still current for NSW members.

ESSA recommends members in lockdown or in a declared hotspot a wear a level 1 or type 1 disposable surgical mask in public-facing areas.
This means all ESSA members living and working in greater Sydney, Eurobodalla Shire and Port Stephens hotpots (as declared by the NT Government) should be wearing a level 1 or type 1 disposable surgical mask in public-facing work areas.

The Australian Government requires the mandatory use of masks for disability workers in hotspot areas. Updated 17 July, 2020

NSW Health Guidance
NSW Health has released some documents as below (please use these documents referenced below as a guide only.)


The latest FAQs on Masks (updated 28 July, 2020)
COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control: Response and Escalation Framework - FAQs
This document includes the following FAQs:

Can a Health Worker (HW) wear a cloth mask at work?
No. Cloth masks vary in quality and effectiveness. As they are not fluid resistant, they will not prevent blood, body fluids and respiratory droplets penetrating the mask. A cloth mask can be worn by HWs travelling to and from work.

COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Response and escalation framework (published 23 July, 2020) assists Local Health Districts (LHDs) and Specialty Health Networks (SHNs) in managing the changing risk and guiding the appropriate response.

COVID-19 testing clinics
Find your nearest testing centre in NSW here.

Case numbers and statistics
The latest case numbers and statistics on coronavirus disease in NSW including a Heat map: COVID-19 in NSW by postcode is available here.

The latest public health orders
The amended public health order relating to COVID-19 and border control is here. (original order commenced 8 July; amendments commenced 22 July 2020 at the beginning of the day and at 9:26pm, 24 July at 2:30pm and 25 July at 10:52am)

The amended public health order relating to COVID-19 restrictions on gathering and movement is here. (original order commenced 1 July 2020; amendments commenced 17 July 2020 and 24 July 2020)

The latest public health order relating to COVID-19 self-isolation is here. (commenced 23 July 2020 at 8:37pm)

Change to stamp duty thresholds as part of the government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan
The threshold above which stamp duty will be charged on new homes for first home buyers will increase from the current $650,000 to $800,000, with the concession reducing on higher values before phasing out at $1 million. More information available here.

Prepare Now: ESSA recommends members in South East Queensland prepare for a second lock down by ordering a level 1 or type 1 disposable surgical masks, hand sanitisers, disinfecting wipes and other cleaning products.

Please also consider these issues highlighted ESSA’s three-stage Recovery Plan for COVID-19:

  • COVID Infection control training
  • COVIDSafe Plans
  • Screening processes for clients
  • Upskilling reception staff on COVID risks
  • Sourcing PPE
  • Environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for COVID-19.


Heed the Advice:
A news article Queensland’s virus wake-up call: honesty is essential to stop spread in today’s Brisbane Times (31 July, 2020) includes warnings from respected public health experts:      

“Dr Young urged anyone in southern Brisbane, Logan or Springfield who was feeling unwell to get tested as soon as possible, and said the next week would be critical in getting on top of any potential second wave of the virus in Queensland.

It came as Queensland’s border authorities defended how they were handling border crossings, saying that they do rely on people being honest with where they have been.

Professor Ian Mackay, a clinical virologist at the University of Queensland, said the situation should serve as a wake-up call for all Queenslanders to do the right thing both when crossing borders or just going about their daily life…….

UQ public health physician and infectious diseases expert Linda Selvey agreed that new Queensland cases were inevitable, but said she believed the state could prevent a second wave from happening here.………..

Professor Selvey said Queensland was a ‘logical next place’ for a virus outbreak in Australia after Victoria and NSW, but that didn’t mean it was inevitable if everyone followed health measures.”


Public Health Alert - Areas at Risk
Members living and working in Logan, South Brisbane or Springfield and who are feeling unwell please stay home and immediately get tested. Please ensure you are screening your clients making appointments and again on entry to your clinics.

The latest public health orders
New Aged Care Direction (No. 8)

From 30 July, 2020 there are new requirements for residential aged care facilities in Queensland. See here. This direction applies to these suburbs listed here.

Some key points include:

  • Employees, contractors and volunteers to notify a residential aged care facility of their additional place of employment, if relevant; and
  • If they become aware of a COVID-19 case identified at an additional place of employment, to notify the operator of a residential aged care facility (and)
  • Must have an up to date vaccination against influenza, if the vaccination is available to the person. Example – the vaccination is not available to a person with a medical contraindication to the influenza vaccine
  • Any person (other than a resident) must not enter, or remain on, the premises of a restricted residential aged care facility without wearing a single use surgical face mask. Note – a person who does not, or is unable to wear a mask, must not enter a restricted residential aged care facility.
  • A person providing health, medical, personal care or pharmaceutical services to multiple residents in a restricted residential aged care facility, must ensure compliance, where relevant, with the wearing of personal protective equipment in accordance with the Australian Guidelines.

Restrictions on Businesses, Activities and Undertakings Direction (No. 5) effective 24 July, 2020

This applies to boot camps, personal training, gyms, health clubs, fitness centres, yoga, barre, spin facilities, indoor sporting centres and venues, and swimming pools.


COVIDSafe Plans
A reminder that any non-essential business or organisation working in the sport, recreation and fitness sectors must have an approved COVIDSafe Plan and complete the Statement of Compliance to demonstrate you are undertaking best practice as a COVID Safe Business. Public health controls (social distancing and hygiene) must also be adhered to.

Guidance is available for the following sub-sectors:   

  • Field Sports
  • Fitness Facilities
  • Indoor Sports
  • Outdoor Recreation Activity Providers
  • Outdoor Sports
  • Swimming Pool and Aquatic Centre

Please note that your COVIDSafe Plan must have a requirement to collect contact details for contact tracing purposes, screen clients and restrict their access to those with COVID-19 or at risk of having it. More details Queensland COVIDSafe Plans are available here.

Queensland Health has a COVID-19 Clinical Screening Assessment tool to enable Hospital and Health Services (HHSs) to appropriately assess the suitability for COVID-19 screening. This tool may be useful to assist your reception staff screen clients making appointments.

Please also ensure that your reception staff are using this Coronavirus (COVID-19) allied health checklist for receptionists from the Australian Government Department of Health.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Telehealth items guide
MBS telehealth items were introduced to help reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19. This guide provides answers for questions commonly asked by health professionals about the use of these MBS items. This new guide was published on 28 July, 2020 and is available here.

Bupa – Permanent Telehealth items
Bupa has become the first health fund to permanently retain telehealth items with an announcement yesterday (30 July, 2020). From 1 October, 2020, Bupa’s customers will continue to be covered for a range of popular telehealth services on Extras for exercise physiology, psychology, physiotherapy, speech therapy, counselling, dietetics, occupational therapy and midwifery.

Bupa’s analysis of its most common telehealth ancillary services claimed by Bupa members from 25 March 2020 to 20 July 2020 showed that exercise physiology was one of the top two services along with physiotherapy for the 60-69 year age group.

Please share this news with your clients who are Bupa customers.

End dates for other major funds
Temporary telehealth items with the other funds expire as follows:

  • Medibank and NIB at 30 September, 2020
  • HBF and HCF at 31 December, 2020.

Now that Bupa has announced the retention of ancillary telehealth items, ESSA expects more new from the other funds over the coming months.


Consensus Statement for post-COVID-19 rehabilitation
A consensus statement published on 31 May, 2020 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine provides initial recommendations for exercise management of patients post COVID-19 who were previously physically active. ESSA recommends practitioners apply their clinical judgement when working with post COVID-19 clients given research in this space is at an early stage. 


Department of Health (DoH) COVID-19 Primary Care and Allied Health Webinar
The recording of the 23 July, 2020 webinar is here. Some key points as below:

  • 142 respiratory clinics now operational across Australia
  • Over 3.6 million tests
  • 1,000,000 people have completed the COVID-19 infection control training
  • 6,700,000 downloads of the COVIDSAFE app
  • The Australian Government has to date dispatched more than 52 million masks in response to COVID-19, including 11 million to Victoria
  • From July 20, Telehealth stage seven with GP providers will be required to have an existing and continuous relationship with a patient in order to provide Telehealth services with exemptions for Victorian Stage 3 stage three restrictions, people under the age of 12 months or people who are experiencing homelessness.
  • PHNs not supplying wipes or hand sanitisers.

Please ignore the advice that cloth masks are an option for allied health professionals. This advice has been superseded by more recent advice from both the New South Wales and Victorian Governments. 

The next webinar will be on 5 August, 2020 11:30am to 12:00pm AEST here.


ICYMI: JobKeeper and JobSeeker Extensions
The Australian Government announced extensions to both schemes last week:

JobKeeper Extension
A summary of the JobKeeper 2 Extension details is as below: 

Current Job Keeper Payments

28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021

4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021

$1,500 per fortnight for all eligible employees & business participants

$1,200 per fortnight for all eligible employees & business participants working for or actively engaged in a business for more than 20 hours per week on average in the four weeks before 1 March 2020

$1,000 per fortnight for all eligible employees & business participants working for or actively engaged in a business for more than 20 hours per week on average in the four weeks before 1 March 2020

No part-time payment

$750 per fortnight for employees & business participants working for less than 20 hours a week on average

$650 per fortnight for employees & business participants working for less than 20 hours a week on average


If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can still register for JobKeeper here.

JobSeeker Extension
The Coronavirus Supplement will be extended until 31 December 2020 for JobSeeker and other eligible income support payment recipients:


25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020

base JobSeeker payment of $565.70 per fortnight (Single, no children)

base JobSeeker payment of $565.70 per fortnight (Single, no children)

$550 per fortnight Coronavirus Supplement

$250 per fortnight Coronavirus Supplement

Total $1,115.70 per fortnight

Total $815.70 per fortnight


More information is available in the Fact Sheet (21 July, 2020) here.


Paid Pandemic Leave - Aged Care
Eligible residential aged care employees covered by the Aged Care Award, Nurses Award and Health Services Award are entitled to up to 2 weeks of paid pandemic leave from the first pay period on or after 29 July 2020 until 29 October 2020. Read more on the Fair Work Commission’s decision here.


Allied health treatment cycle arrangements continue during pandemic - DVA
Visit Improved Dental and Allied Health (provider information) for further information about the treatment cycle, including a range of clinical resources.


Mental Health
The Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service has a range of digital resources available, and counsellors are available to talk 24/7: 1800 512 348



A lack of COVID-safe measures at a physiotherapy session: Read this ABC news article (29 July, 2020) about an 83-year-old grandmother who died with COVID-19.

NBN Co moves to support increased data demand, extends additional capacity offer to internet retailers: A media release on 24 July, 2020 outlines the NBN Co’s plans to support increased data demand and extend additional capacity offer to internet retailers. NBN Co has also extended its offer to increase the fair use thresholds for its standard Sky Muster satellite service to 90GB* of data on average until 30 September 2020. This offer, which came into effect at the end of March, adds 45GB* to the applicable fair use threshold for each standard Sky Muster service at no additional cost to internet retailers.

Patient-centred, virtual and innovative: Healthcare post COVID-19 - Australasian Institute of Digital Health: An article (20 July, 2020) from the Institute sharing key points raised by the panellists (including Claire Hewat CEO, Allied Health Professions Australia) in a recent virtual conference hosted is available here.