Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for GPs


You can find all RACGP COVID-19 resources in a central location on the RACGP website. For vaccine information visit the COVID-19 vacccine information for GPs webpage.

The information on this page was last updated on Wednesday 7 December 2022, 4.30 pm AEDT.
Recent updates include: 


For local information, see your state or territory health department website. 

Access specific information for your state or territory


You can find all RACGP COVID-19 resources in one centralised location on the RACGP website. These resources cover:

The RACGP has recently published updated guidance for GPs and patients on managing COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 conditions.
 

Winter planning toolkit

You can find the recently launched winter planning toolkit now on the RACGP website. While not isolated to the management of COVID-19 in general practices, the toolkit encourages your practice to implement winter-preparedness activities for the health and safety of your patients and practice team, and covers:

  • key priorities and principles of infection prevention and control

  • workforce protection and planning

  • processes for patient management

  • processes for managing the risk of cross-infection

  • other resources.

​Access the toolkit

On 1 October 2022, ten new temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) pathology items were introduced for pathology laboratory testing for SARS-CoV-2. 

The new temporary MBS items:

  • Apply where a medical or nurse practitioner determines the test is necessary for the clinical management of their patient

  • Supersede MBS items 69479 and 69480 which cease on 30 September 2022.

  • Will cease on 31 December 2022, with future arrangements to be informed by ongoing community transmission of COVID-19 and the advice of public health officials and the pathology sector.

What does this mean for requesters?
In line with the temporary MBS items 69479 and 69480 and other MBS pathology services, Medicare rebates may only be claimed for the new temporary items where a medical or nurse practitioner determines the test is necessary for the clinical management of their patient and provides a valid request.

Where a treating practitioner considers a test for COVID-19 to be necessary for the clinical management of their patient, it should be explicitly stated in the request, including where testing for COVID-19 is requested alongside testing for other respiratory pathogens.

See MBS online for more information 

RACGP resources to support care of COVID-19 positive patients

You can find all RACGP COVID-19 resources here on the RACGP website. 



National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce resources

The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, of which the RACGP is a collaborating partner, has living guidelines, FAQsclinical flowcharts and decision tools to support the management of people with COVID-19.

The Taskforce has recently published seven new consensus recommendations for the care of people after COVID-19

Access clinical flowcharts for:

Risk classification:

Decision tool:

Drug  treatments:

Pathways to care:

Management of COVID-19 and post–COVID-19 conditions: Management of special populations: CPR during the pandemic: See all living guidelines.

 

 

Prescribing Paxlovid and Lagevrio via the PBS

The RACGP has developed resources to support GPs safely prescribe these treatments including a prescribing workflow that aims to support GPs and practices to carry out patient suitability assessments for COVID-19 oral treatments in advance of a patient testing positive to COVID-19, to expedite access to these treatments in the event the patient contracts COVID-19.
 

Eligibility criteria

Adults who have mild to moderate COVID-19 (confirmed by a PCR or medically verified RAT) and who can start treatment within five days of symptom onset, are eligible to be prescribed oral antiviral treatments if:

  • they are 70 years of age or older*
  • they are 50 years of age or older with two other risk factors for severe disease
  • they identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, and are 30 years of age or older with one other risk factor for severe disease; or
  • they are 18 years of age or older and moderately to severely immunocompromised.
​*in people aged 70 years of age and above treatment should be initiated as soon as possible after diagnosis is confirmed even if the patient is asymptomatic. 
 
For further information on these medicines and risk factors for eligibility, see the RACGP’s Oral treatments for COVID-19: Prescribing information for GPs
 

National Clinical Evidence Taskforce recommendations

The National Clinical Evidence Taskforce (the Taskforce) has released treatment recommendations for the use of both Paxlovid and Lagevrio. The Taskforce’s latest recommendation on the use of Lagevrio is ‘Do not routinely use molnupiravir for the treatment of COVID-19.’

The Taskforce has stated that there may be specific circumstances for the highest risk patients, where all other treatment options are contraindicated or inappropriate, in which non-routine use of Lagevrio might be considered. See the Taskforce’s rationale for the updated recommendations.

Please note that the PBS eligibility for both medicines is broader than the Taskforce recommendations.
 

Evusheld

Evusheld (tixagevimab and cilgavimab) has been provisionally approved by the TGA  for the prevention of COVID-19 in people who are at risk of infection but have not been exposed to the virus (pre-exposure prevention of COVID-19).

Provisional approval has been granted for pre-exposure prophylaxis of COVID-19 in people aged 12 years and older weighing at least 40 kg:

  • who have moderate-to-severe immune compromise due to a medical condition or receipt of immunosuppressive medications or treatments that make it likely that they will not mount an adequate immune response to COVID-19 vaccination; or
  • for whom vaccination is not recommended due to a history of severe adverse reaction to a COVID‐19 vaccine or COVID‐19 vaccine component.
Pre-exposure prevention with Evusheld is not a substitute for vaccination in people for whom COVID-19 vaccination is recommended.
 

Evusheld is not currently listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Evusheld is distributed via the National Medical Stockpile to state and territory governments. Information on access to this medicine can be found via each state/territory health department website.

The Department of Health has published guidance on the use of Evusheld.


Following National Cabinet meeting on 30 September 2022, it was announced that effective from 14 October, mandatory isolation requirements for COVID-19 would cease, with each jurisdiction implementing the change via relevant public health legislation. Exceptions will apply for workers in aged care, disability care, aboriginal healthcare and hospital care sectors.

While the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment will cease from this date, Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, targeted financial support for casual workers in these sectors would continue.

It is yet to be clarified if workers in general practice will broadly need to continue to isolate in the event of COVID-19 infection. See current requirements in each state and territory below.
 

State / Territory Information for confirmed cases  Information for contacts 
Australian Capital Territory Access here Access here
New South Wales  Access here Access here
Northern Territory  Access here Access here
Queensland  Access here Access here
South Australia  Access here Access here
Tasmania  Access here Access here
Victoria  Access here Access here
Western Australia  Access here Access here

 

 


 


Most people who test positive for COVID-19 will likely only experience mild symptoms and recover without requiring special treatment or hospitalisation, especially if fully vaccinated. Patients can use the most relevant information in the RACGP’s COVID-19 patient guide to self-manage their illness at home. An online version is now accessible from the same page.

Healthdirect has launched an online tool (based on our COVID-19 patient guide) to help COVID-19-positive patients know what they should do while isolating at home and when to seek medical help. People with COVID-19 are advised that if they are worried about their symptoms, but it is not an emergency, they should use the COVID-19 Symptom Checker or call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 for free information and advice.

The Department of Health (DoH) has also published information for people who test positive for COVID-19 or are close contacts in 63 languages.

People can also access state specific guidance via their state or territory health department website:

You may consider linking these resources from your practice website and sharing them via your practice’s social media accounts.

Information pack for multicultural communities

The Department of Health has published an information pack for multicultural communities about COVID-19, translated into 63 languages.

Information in the pack includes:

  • COVID-19 health and safety tips

  • Rapid antigen tests (RATs)

  • Testing positive for COVID-19

  • Oral treatments for COVID-19

Access the pack
 

New in-language Rapid Antigen Test resources  

The Department of Health has released a COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) communications pack for multicultural audiences. The pack contains links to in-language communication resources, with information about rapid antigen tests including:  

  • where to get RATs 

  • how to use RATs 

  • understanding RAT results 

  • what to do if a RAT result is positive. 

Resources include animations, posters, social tiles and fact sheets. 

Access the pack
 

Telehealth consultations requiring an interpreter:

The RACGP has released a guide to support GPs conduct telehealth consultations with patients requiring an interpreter

The Australian Government’s Translation and Interpreting Service (TIS) has a Doctor’s Priority Line, and as a GP you are eligible for a free TIS code. If not already registered, general practices can register by calling 1300 131 450 or by visiting the TIS website
 

Resources for GPs:

 

National multilingual resources:

  • Healthdirect COVID clarity – in-language COVID-19 guidance
  • Maridulu Budyari Gumal SPHERE – 36 multilingual fact sheets containing medical advice and instructions during COVID-19 covering Arthritis, Asthma, Cardiovascular Health, Diabetes and Stroke translated into Arabic, Chinese, Chinese (Standard and Simplified), Greek, Italian and Vietnamese
  • Ethnolink Information in your language - translated information from federal, state, territory and local government and the World Health Organization
  • SBS Coronavirus information in your language – news and information about COVID-19 in 63 languages
  • Department of Home Affairs COVID-19 in your language – information on the current outbreak in multiple languages
  • Department of Health Translated resources – fact sheets and posters on the current outbreak in multiple languages
  • MyAus COVID-19 App – a multilingual resource for CALD communities on COVID-19 and available supports
 

State and territory multilingual resources:

New South Wales:

Queensland:

Victoria:

Emergency COVID-19 planning for people with disability and COVID-19 oral treatments

People with disability can benefit from a COVID-19 plan that is tailored to their unique support needs. The COVID-19 Person-centred Emergency Planning (PCEP) guide helps people with disability to get the facts about Coronavirus (COVID-19) and make a plan for how they will manage if they contract COVID-19.
 
The PCEP guide was recently updated to recommend that people with disability speak to their GP about COVID-19 oral treatments.
 
Speaking to patients about the suitability of COVID-19 oral treatments for them and how they could access their treatments, before they contract COVID-19, can help them be prepared.

You can share the PCEP guide with people with disability (and their supporters) who may benefit from developing a COVID-19 plan. The PCEP guide is available in Standard English and Easy Read.
 
The Department of Health recently held a webinar on COVID-19 oral treatments and winter preparedness webinar for people with disability, which can be accessed on the Department’s website.
 
Information on oral treatments for COVID-19 is available Department of Health and RACGP websites. The Department also held a forum on COVID-19 treatments for primary care clinicians in early April. A recording of this session can be accessed here.
 

Guidelines for the rights of people with disability during COVID-19

Guidelines have been developed by the Australian Human Rights Commission to support the rights of people with disability during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
The guidelines are designed to assist healthcare, disability services and support workers to take a human rights-based approach to decision-making during the pandemic. 

COVID-19 Health Professionals National Disability Advisory Service

GPs and other health professionals caring people with disability can now access a telephone advisory service being piloted to provide specialised clinical advice during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The COVID-19 Health Professionals National Disability Advisory Service (managed by Healthdirect Australia on behalf of the Australian Department of Health) provides specialised advice regarding the care of a person with disability diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Some people with disability may require reasonable adjustments to their healthcare to ensure they receive, either COVID-19 testing or treatment, with minimum distress. The Advisory Service can provide specific support required to address communication and management issues, such as behaviours of concern and the reduction of risk to the patient and staff involved in the process.

The Advisory Service is staffed by health professionals with disability service qualifications and experience working with people with disability. To access the service call 1800 131 330. The service is available between 7.00 am - 11.00 pm (AEST) seven days a week. 
 

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

 

Australian Government information/resources

 

Disability organisations

Disability service providers

 

 

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) resources

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) are leading a COVID-19 Taskforce (the Taskforce) which includes government and member representatives.

It is recommended that members monitor the NACCHO Coronavirus site for updates and subscribe to the NACCHO Communique for the latest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector news and information on COVID-19.


Recommendations for healthcare teams supporting prevention and management of COVID-19 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

The RACGP, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Lowitja Institute and Australian National University (ANU) are working together to develop a series of rolling, evidence-based recommendations to assist healthcare teams with the prevention and management of COVID-19 in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and other primary care settings.

The guidance is available now through NACCHO’s online COVID-19 information hub and includes:


Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA) resources

Access to information and resources from the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA) from the AIDA website.   

AIDA are conducting twice-weekly peer support forums for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors. Please contact communications@aida.org.au for log-in details. 

 

Department of health resources

The Department of Health have released Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and remote communities.
 

Management Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Populations

The ‘Management Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Populations’ has been developed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Advisory Group on COVID-19 and endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

The Management Plan outlines key issues and considerations in planning, response and management of COVID-19 that need to be addressed at all levels of governance, in collaboration with key partners and stakeholders, including impacted communities.
 

Caring for yourself

During events such as the current coronavirus situation, additional pressure may be placed on GPs and practice staff as frontline workers through increased patient attendance to the practice, responding to fear and anxiety amidst the community and staying up to date as the situation evolves.

It is important during such times that GPs and practice staff take time to care for themselves and take the opportunity to debrief with colleagues. If you require additional support, services are available, specifically developed for doctors.
 

The Essential Network (TEN) for frontline workers

This new online e-mental health hub, developed by the Black Dog Institute, connects frontline healthcare workers with services to cope with the stress of the ongoing pandemic.   
 

DRS4DRS

You can also access support via the DRS4DRS website and state/territory based helplines. DRS4DRS is an independent program providing confidential support and resources to doctors and medical students across Australia, by doctors. Confidential phone advice is available 24/7 for any doctor or medical student in Australia via each state/territory helpline and referral service.
 

RACGP GP Support Program

Should you need support, don't hesitate to contact the RACGP GP Support Program. This is a free and confidential psychological support service available to all members, delivered by LifeWorks Access the service by calling 1300 361 008 (24 hours/7 days).
 

Immediate 24/7 supports

Beyond Blue Support Service - 1300 22 4636
Lifeline Crisis Support - 13 11 14
 

Providing mental health and wellbeing support to your patients

 GPs play a critical role in the ongoing mental health and wellness of their patients. 


The General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC) has collated important information to help you support and care for the mental health and wellbeing of your patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This includes:

  • Mental health resources - resources, factsheets and guides
  • Telehealth consultations - information on MBS item numbers for the provision of telehealth (videoconferencing and phone) consultations by GPs with and without mental health training.

 

Aged Care COVID-19 Grief and Bereavement Service

Do you or your practice provide care in residential aged care or for home care recipients?

Aged care residents, home care recipients, their families, loved ones and staff affected by loss or trauma as a result of COVID-19 can now access free grief, loss and bereavement support services.

Tailored, easy-to-access support is available via the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, including in-person help when possible.

Call 1800 222 220 or visit the Aged Care COVID-19 Grief and Bereavement Service website for help, or to download the MyGrief app. All services are inclusive, confidential, and eligible for the Translating and Interpreting Service and Auslan.
 

 

 

As COVID-19 transmission prevention measures are removed, use of face masks in general practice may no longer be mandated. In the event jurisdictions remove mask mandates in general practice, the RACGP strongly encourages practices to continue mask use for the practice team, patients, and visitors and practices can make it a condition of entry to the practice to wear a mask.  

You can display RACGP developed posters to inform patients of mask requirements, as well as noting this on your practice website, online booking system and phone holding message. It is suggested that this requirement is also outlined in your practice’s infection prevention and control policy and COVID Safety Plan (a COVID Safety Plan template is available here). Processes must be in place to facilitate access to care for patients who are not able to wear a mask. 

Current mask requirements in each state/territory are: 


Positive rapid antigen test (RAT) results have begun to be recorded in official case numbers as states and territories roll out their formal notification processes.

We recommend using your communication channels to advise patients who return a positive RAT result that they don’t need to inform you if they don’t have any symptoms or are only experiencing mild symptoms.

They must report their positive RAT result as per local requirements:

State / Territory

Reporting process

Australian Capital Territory

Register online or by calling 02 5124 6500

New South Wales

Register online or by calling 1800 490 484

Northern Territory

Register online or by calling 1800 490 484

Queensland

Register online or by calling 13 42 68

South Australia

Register online or by calling 1800 253 787

Tasmania

Register online or by calling 1800 671 738

Victoria

Register online or by calling 1800 675 398 

Western Australia

Register online or by calling 13 268 43


GPs obligations for reporting a patient's positive RAT

While notifiable disease reporting obligations are specific to each state and territory, the federal Department of Health has advised that if a patient reports a positive RAT to you, you should ensure a notification is made but the notification can be made by the patient themselves via the local reporting mechanism above. It would be prudent to document this discussion in the patients’ clinical notes.


Routine screening of team members and contractors

There is no requirement for routine screening of team members and contractors. Still practices may choose to implement a rapid antigen testing program to support business continuity and patient and team member safety.

Introduction of such a program should be documented as part of your COVIDSafe plan and should consider:

  • whether self-testing (at home or in the practice) or point-of-care testing (requiring health professional supervision) is appropriate
  • the frequency of testing
  • the logistics of at work and pre-work screening
  • how results are collected and documented
  • how you will manage a positive result
  • the cost of acquiring RATs

Guidance for business owners on the use of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests is available.

Screening for team members who are asymptomatic close contacts with permission to return to work during the isolation period

Close-contact and furlough requirements are being amended for healthcare and support service workers (in line with other essential workers) to help ease workforce pressures. Interim guidance for permission and restrictions for essential workers provides details on employer responsibilities and supports safe decision-making around whether an employee can return to work after a COVID-19 exposure, while still adhering to specific requirements. Requirements include routine rapid antigen testing for some workers depending on their identified risk rating. If a RAT is required but not available, the worker can not return to work and must continue their isolation period.

The interim guidance should be applied in combination with any local requirements in your state/territory or as determined by your local Public Health Unit.

AHPPC statement on rapid antigen testing for current high community prevalence environment

The AHPPC released a statement on rapid antigen testing for current high community prevalence environment which proposes that rapid antigen tests can be used for the following 3 purposes, for which testing recommendations and comments are provided:

  1. As a diagnostic test as an alternative to PCR for those at high risk of having COVID-19. In most circumstances in the current high-prevalence environment, a positive rapid antigen test should be accepted as a diagnosis of COVID-19.
  2. To manage outbreaks.
  3. To help early identification of cases in high-risk settings.
Read the statement


Routine pre-screening for patients for face-to-face consultations

The Therapeutic Goods Administration provide the below advice for health professionals on screening of patients using RATs:

As a precautionary measure, health practitioners may choose to voluntarily screen patients under their care for COVID-19 but there is no requirement that they must do this. In some cases, this may be more convenient for patients than having to obtain test kits personally.

Any testing of patients would be through an arrangement between the particular healthcare professional and the patient. If healthcare practitioners wish to test patients using point of care tests, they are responsible for sourcing the test kits themselves. They can charge patients a reasonable amount as a privately billed service to recoup costs of testing, but the person being tested should first consent to any additional payments before being tested.

Individual patients who test positive will still be responsible for checking to see if they need to report their results to the relevant state of territory health authorities and to report positive results if required to do so.

Except for pharmacists, healthcare practitioners are not permitted to provide a general testing service for members of the public (i.e. for people who are not their patients who are preparing for or are in the course of a consultation).

If your practice implements routine pre-screening for patients for face-to-face consultations, you will need to consider:

  • the logistics of having patients attend the practice early to undertake the test and await result
  • what alternative arrangements for consultations can be made if the patient returns a positive result

Sales of RATs through general practices

While general practices can charge patients for pre-consultation screening using RATs, the sale of RATs by a practice for patients hoe use is not advisable. GPs/practices could be held liable for issues arising (for example, false positives / negatives, too much reliance, malfunctions) under product liability laws, and medical indemnity insurance generally doesn’t cover product liability as it is a different type of risk. Were your practice to pursue this avenue further, the RACGP would recommend seeking specific legal advice.

Access to RATs for Commonwealth concession card holders

From 24 January 2022, people who hold an eligible Commonwealth concession card can access up to 10 free RATs through community pharmacies. The RATS are available over a three-month period with a maximum of five over a period of one month.

Eligible concession card holders:

  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
  • Department of Veteran's Affairs Gold, White or Orange Card
  • Health Care Card
  • Low Income Health Card
  • Pensioner Concession Card.


The RACGP supports free access to rapid antigen tests through multiple distribution points targeting those most at risk of severe COVID-19 disease and most likely to spread COVID in the community. However, in a position of constrained resources, priority should be given to manage the risk of COVID infection in vulnerable patients and spread of the virus in the community. 

In a constrained resource situation, the RACGP supports:

  • general practice access to the government stockpile of rapid antigen tests to enable testing as part of management of symptomatic and high-risk individuals, and those with COVID-19 unable to access polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing when required
  • full-priced rapid antigen tests being available at retail outlets including supermarkets
  • free access to rapid antigen tests for target groups such as those with high risk factors, those where the risk of transmission is high and those who cannot be vaccinated. 

Read the full position statement

Ordering PPE and pulse oximeters 

To streamline distribution of PPE to general practices, a national distributor has been engaged to delivery supplies direct to practices rather than via PHN’s.  

General Practice PPE and Pulse Oximeter Order Forma are available via your PHN, who will continue to be your point of contact for submitting orders. 

The Department of Health has published information on the new process, which also outlines the eligibility criteria for accessing the different PPE bundles and pulse oximeters.  


 

Webinars

Webinar

Date

Time

Host

Registration

Winter preparedness webinar for GPs  Monday 2 May 2022 3–4.00 pm (AEST) Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health joined by RACGP President, Adj. Professor Karen Price and other panellists Join here

General Practice COVID-19 update

Every Thursday 

11.30 am–12.00 pm (AEDT)

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health

View upcoming and previous webinar


National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce resources

The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce (of which the RACGP is a member) supports Australia’s healthcare professionals with continually updated, evidence-based clinical guidelines and resources. 
 

CPR during the pandemic

The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce (of which the RACGP is a member), in partnership with the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG), have published clinical flowcharts to guide clinicians and trained first aid responders in delivering potentially lifesaving CPR as safely as possible.

 

The John Murtagh Library: COVID-19 evidence and research resources

The John Murtagh Library has curated some resources on COVID-19 to help you find reliable evidence and research literature. These resources include evidence summaries, updated ebooks and texts, ‘live’ literature search links, research portals, and more.  

Access the library's COVID-19 subject portal

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