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 Friday 21 January 2022, 3.40 pm AEDT.
Recent updates include: 

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

Access specific information for your state or territory

Two oral COVID-19 treatments provisionally approved by the TGA - 20 January 2022

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has granted provisional approval to two oral COVID-19 treatments:

  • PAXLOVID (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir) - Pfizer Australia Pty Ltd
  • LAGEVRIO (molnupiravir) - Merck Sharp & Dohme (Australia) Pty Ltd
The medicines have been approved for use in peopel aged 18 years and over who develop mild-to-moderate COVID-19 and do not require initiation of oxygen but are deemed to be at increased risk of progression to hospitalisation or death.

Clinical guidance on priority groups and prescribing is currently in development and is expected in the coming days.  
 

You can read a newsGP article on these announcements. 

 

Increased funding for telehealth and provision of PPE - 17 January 2022

On Sunday 16 January 2021, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Regional Health Minister David Gillespie announced a range of measures to give GPs and other specialists more flexibility to support patients, including:

  • an additional $24 million for temporary changes to telehealth to give GPs and other specialists more flexibility to support patients, including the continued supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and online support.

  • the introduction of temporary specialist inpatient telehealth MBS items (video and phone) and initial and complex specialist telephone consultation items, including longer telephone consultations for GP’s (level C) until 30 June 2022. These services will be available nationally, rather than targeted at Commonwealth hotspots.

  • expanding the MBS item for GPs caring for COVID positive patients in the community through face-to-face consultations to include patients that have tested positive through a rapid antigen test (RAT).

  • packages of personal protective equipment (PPE) to GPs, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and GP Respiratory Clinics to support GPs providing face-to-face care. Over 20 million units of PPE will be provided for primary care over the next three months, including nine million p2/n95 masks for GPs

  • Healthdirect will develop a national assessment, triage and notification infrastructure to connect people who test positive with the care they need and advice, based on the guidelines we developed (soon to be available in multiple languages). This is expected to commence in Queensland on 17 January 2022 with other states to follow.

​These changes follow a recent meeting between RACGP President Dr Karen Price, representatives from all peak medical bodies, and the Health and Regional Health Ministers and are the direct result of sustained advocacy from the RACGP.

You can read the RACGP's full media release here.

Further details will be provided as they become available. 

 

New national COVID-19 test & isolate protocols  2 January 2022

Following a national cabinet meeting on Thursday 30 December 2021, there is now an agreed national definition for a close contact of a COVID-19 case and new testing requirements.

This is an important update that affects:

  • the definition of a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case
  • quarantine requirements for patients
  • furloughing requirements for GPs and practice staff
  • testing requirements for close contacts and suspected cases, including use of PCR and rapid antigen tests.

The Department of Health has subsequently released new national test and isolate protocols which are now in effect in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. 

People in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia should check the state or territory requirements and timelines.

Access the new test and isolate protocols 
 

 


On Thursday 4 January 2022, the Prime Minister urged people to contact their GP after returning a positive COVID-19 test result. We acknowledge the extra strain this will put on general practice teams, and we contacted members with the advice below on how to prepare your practice.

We recommend updating your patient messaging with the following information. Note, however, this is general guidance only, and you should check with your local Public Health Unit for specific escalation processes to be included in any patient messaging.

If you can, consider updating your pre-recorded phone messages, regularly updating your website and leveraging your social media presence.
 

Calling 000

Advise patients experiencing worsening or severe COVID-19 symptoms to call 000 immediately. You can find the list of red-flag symptoms in the RACGP’s Home-care guidelines for patients with COVID-19.
 

Managing COVID at home

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. The majority will be able to self-manage their illness by referring to the RACGP’s COVID-19 patient guide. You could link to this guide from your practice website and through your practice’s social media accounts. 

Encourage patients who want to talk to their usual GP about their results or any symptoms to make a telehealth appointment.
 

Caring for higher-risk patients

Patients who have a higher risk of adverse outcomes or more severe disease should speak with you about their positive result.

This includes those who:
  • are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated
  • are aged ≥65 years
  • are pregnant
  • have comorbidities, including
    • lung disease, such as COPD, asthma or bronchiectasis
    • cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension
    • obesity (body mass index >30 kg/m2)
    • immunocompromising conditions
  • have chronic kidney disease
  • have diabetes (type 1 or 2)
  • have liver disease
  • have significant neurological disorders, such as stroke or dementia
  • suffer from some chronic inflammatory conditions and therapies
  • have significant frailty or disability
  • have severe mental health conditions.
 
 

 

Ordering PPE and pulse oximeters via PHNs

The Department of Health will provide access to additional PPE for general practices, GP-led respiratory clinics and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services that are carign for COVID positive patients and who are not receiving free PPE from other sources.

The additional PPE includes P2/N95 respirators, surgical masks, full-length gowns, gloves, hand sanitiser, and either goggles or face shields.
 
You can order through your Primary Health Network (PHN) using their latest request form. 

You can now also order pulse oximeters – up to a maximum of five per practice in hotspot or outbreak areas.
 
For more information, read the Distribution of PPE through PHNs communication from the Department of Health.
 

The Prime Minister has announced that close-contact and furlough requirements will be 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 certain requirements.

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

Read the interim guidance


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

Reporting mechanism not yet available


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 in place for routine screening of team members and contractors, but practices may choose to utilise 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 certain 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.


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. We’re 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


With current access issues to rapid antigen tests (RATs), the RACGP is offering members the opportunity to pre-order point-of-care RATs in bulk, for dispatch from 1 February, via the RACGP Plus Member Benefits site.

A minimum order of 5 boxes of 25 tests applies, and equates to $8.36 per test.

Use of point-of-care RATs is subject to requirements outlined by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and may only be used by healthcare professionals.

Update from the Chief Medical Officer 29 December 2021

Professor Paul Kelly, Australia's Chief Medical Officer (CMO), has provided an update for General Practitioners on the approach to managing COVID-19 positive patients in the community.

Read the CMO's letter
 

RACGP resources to support care of COVID-19 positive patients

The RACGP has published updated Home-care guidelines for patients with COVID-19 to help you support patients who test positive for COVID-19 in their home. The guidelines include advice and information on:
  • supporting patients through a COVID-19 diagnosis
  • determining medical and social risk factors and disease severity
  • determining home-care suitability and the appropriate monitoring protocol
  • escalating care where necessary.
NB: not all patients will require high levels of care as outlined in this resource.
 

The patient complement to this guide Managing COVID-19 at home with assistance from your general practice has also been updated. 

This updated resource provides key information for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are being cared for at home with assistance from their GP, and covers:

  • how to stay safe while isolating at home with COVID-19
  • how to check their oxygen, heart rate, respiratory rate and temperature
  • what to do at the end of their isolation period
  • an action plan to be developed with their GP
  • a daily symptom diary they can complete and discuss with their GP during telehealth consults.
NB: Patients should use the most relevant information in this guide to suit their needs.

You can also access the Caring for patients with post-COVID-19 conditions resource. 

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 on the management of adults with mild COVID-19. 

Access the clinical flowcharts for:

See all living guidelines.

 


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.

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.

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:

  • 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
  • Etholink 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:

The RACGP has compiled a summary of links to information and resources to support people with disability during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 

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)

 

NSW and Victoria NDIS participants can claim for personal protective equipment (PPE)

Victoria and NSW NDIS participants can recover the cost of purchasing PPE items if they receive an average of at least one hour a day of face-to-face daily living support. Previously, only participants who used PPE as a regular part of their support arrangements were able to access PPE through their NDIS funds.
Further information
 

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.
 

 

 

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. 

These include:

You can also access frequently asked questions on the use of certain medications in the context of COVID-19 including hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin
 

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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