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Provisional approval for Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine >> The Therapeutic Goods Administration has provisionally approved the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in Australia. It has been provisionally approved in Australia for people 16 years of age. Two doses will be required, administered at least 21 days apart.
More information available from the Department of Health website
Update for people travelling from Queensland and New South Wales >> From 6pm today, Greater Brisbane and regional New South Wales, with the exception of Wollongong and Blue Mountains, will change from an orange zone to a green zone. The Greater Sydney Local Government Areas of Blacktown City, Burwood, Canada Bay City, Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield City, Inner West, Liverpool City, Parramatta City and Strathfield Municipality will join the rest of Greater Sydney, Wollongong and Blue Mountains as orange zones. For now, Cumberland LGA will remain a red zone. People from Cumberland are still not permitted to travel to Victoria without an exemption, exception or essential worker permit. Those who have already applied for an exemption application will not need to reapply.
Travel from an orange zone requires people to self-isolate, get tested within 72 hours of arrival and remain in quarantine until they receive a negative result. Travel from a green zone requires people to watch and get tested if they have any symptoms at all. Travellers must also confirm they have not been in the remaining red zone of Cumberland within the past 14 days (other than for transit), have not been in close contact with a coronavirus case and do not have any symptoms.
Read the Premier’s media release
Changes to Sydney Red Zone >> The State Government announced today that, due to the reduced exposure risk and low community transmission in some areas of Greater Sydney, a number of red zone Local Government Areas (LGAs) will transition to orange – allowing Victorians in those areas to return home if they want to. As of 6pm (Victorian AEDT) Monday 18 January, the Blue Mountains, Wollongong and all Greater Sydney LGAs except for Blacktown City, Burwood, Canada Bay City, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield City, Inner West, Liverpool City, Parramatta City and Strathfield Municipality will be declared an orange zone due to the improved epidemiological conditions there. Travel from an orange zone requires people to self-isolate, get tested within 72 hours of arrival and remain in quarantine until they receive a negative result.
Read the Premier’s media release
Queensland Red Zone downgraded >> The Premier has announced that the Queensland LGA red zone areas will be declared an orange zone by the Chief Health Officer from 6pm today. The updated orange zone listing overrides the previous classification as a red zone and applies to the last 14 days. This means anyone who has been or is currently in Greater Brisbane wanting to travel to Victoria can apply for a permit from 6pm on Saturday, 16 January. Travel from an orange zone requires people to self-isolate, get tested within 72 hours of arrival and remain in isolation until they receive a negative result.
Travellers must also confirm they have not been in a currently listed red zone within the past 14 days, have not been in close contact with a coronavirus (COVID-19) case and do not have any COVID-19 symptoms.
Read the Premier’s media release
Updated advice to clinicians from DHHS >> Clinicians should be asking patients if they are from or if they have been in New South Wales or Queensland and if so, to check the areas of risk defined by the New South Wales Government and Queensland Government and recommended actions.
In addition, anyone currently in Victoria who has completed 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine in Brisbane at the Grand Chancellor hotel on or after 30 December is asked to isolate and contact the coronavirus hotline immediately.
Update from DHHS regarding people presenting for testing who are travelling from Queensland >> Victorians currently in Queensland and have visited, been in or travelled through the Brisbane City Council, Redland City Council, Ipswich City Council, Moreton Bay Regional Council or City Council area must follow the advice of Queensland Health. They cannot travel to Victoria unless an exemption applies.
Victoria has closed its borders to people who have been in these Red Zone areas in Queensland on or after 2 January 2021. Anyone who has been in the local government areas of Brisbane City Council, Moreton Bay Regional Council, Redland, Ipswich or Logan city councils on or since 2 January 2021 and are currently in Victoria, must get tested for COVID-19 immediately, even if they have no symptoms, and quarantine at home or in other accommodation until 6pm Monday 11 January 2021, when a further assessment will be made.
The New South Wales Border Crossing Permit Scheme Directions (No 8) are now in force >> These Directions have been updated to:
- amend the conditions of entry for a commercial freight worker entering Victoria under a border permit, including by removing the requirement to self-quarantine in Victoria; and
- clarify the testing requirements for a person entering Victoria under a border permit; and
- clarify the grounds for permitting a returning Victorian resident to enter Victoria without a border permit; and
- add a power of exemption to permit entry to Victoria to Victorian residents who seek to return to their ordinary place of residence in Victoria, where the resident has not travelled through an area of New South Wales since that area was deemed a red zone or a hot zone.
Read the new Permit Scheme Directions
Updated clinical guidance for transfer of patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 >> The Department of Health and Human Services has updated the following coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance documents:
- COVID-19 Transfer and transport guidance for patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19)
- COVID-19 Prehospital to hospital transfer process
COVID-19 Transfer and transport guidance for patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) provides guidance on how to ensure safe and timely transfer and handover of patients arriving by ambulance (including patient transport) to the emergency department. The guidance has been updated to reflect changes to definitions of suspected COVID-19 and bring it in alignment with updated Ambulance Victoria documents.
COVID-19 Prehospital to hospital transfer process provides guidance to support decision making when considering transporting or transferring a patient with confirmed or suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) under the Cluster planning and coordination framework. The guidance has been updated to reflect changes to definitions of suspected COVID-19.
The updated documents are available from the DHHS website under the Emergency and critical care heading: www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/clinical-guidance-and-resources-covid-19
Updated advice regarding testing at GP Respiratory Clinics >> Due to the current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in New South Wales and the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne, GP Respiratory Clinics are conducting asymptomatic testing for individuals who live in or have travelled through these areas recently and are now visiting western Victoria or have returned home. Close contacts can also be tested for coronavirus, even if they are asymptomatic.
Please direct any such patient presenting to your clinic to the closest GP Respiratory and Assessment Clinic. This has been put in place to ensure all individuals who have attended an at risk location, and are advised by public health authorities to get tested, have prompt access to testing services. Please note that bookings for testing will be required in most clinics.
Updated advice for Victorian residential aged care facilities >> Given the emerging status of active COVID cases in the Victorian community, the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria has updated its advice for all Residential Aged Care Facilities within Victoria:
“Enhanced measures are now in place for the restriction of visitors and for the screening and testing of residents from nominated geographic areas and identified exposure sites.
- Enhanced screening and testing on admission or return to facility from leave residents having lived in, or visited, Mentone, Mitcham or Hallam OR found to have visited listed exposure sites to be tested and managed as at risk COVID until results known.
- Enhanced attestations and testing of staff living in Mentone, Mitcham or Hallam.
- Those found to have visited exposure sites have access to testing.
- Enhanced measures for workforce mobility. In addition to existing measures, where practicable, staff cohorting within facilities to be implemented.
- All staff to wear surgical masks AND eye protection and all times.
- Tier 3 PPE (including N95 masks) for symptomatic or suspected COVID residents.
Additional visitor restrictions will now be in place for residential aged care facilities:
- Access to 1 visitor at any time, once per day for a maximum of 2 hours.
- Essential care persons: 1 visitor, no time limits apply
- Essential behaviour assistance person: no time limits apply
- Interpreters or informal language support: no time limits apply
- Visitor is being assisted to handover care for discharge: maximum of 2 hours
- Visitor is viewing facility as a potential site to live in: maximum of 2 hours
- End of live: 2 visitors, no time limit.
Residential aged care services may be contacted by Melbourne Pathology (Sonic) offering free, onsite asymptomatic testing. Staff are encouraged to access asymptomatic testing where available to help stop the spread.
It is anticipated geographic locations and exposure sites will be updated in coming days. Please monitor the DHHS coronavirus website for the latest information.
Updated restrictions for Victoria from 5pm today (Thursday) >> The State Government has announced the following new restrictions:
“From 5pm tonight the following restrictions will be in place in Victoria:
- The limit of people gathering in the home will be reduced to 15 from 30.
- Masks will be mandatory indoors. If you are planning to leave your home take a mask and it needs to be worn any time you are inside apart from when you’re eating or drinking.
We all need to be COVID Safe:
- Don’t go into the city unless you have a booking.
- Wear a mask indoors.
- Practice good hand hygiene.
- If you are sick, stay at home.
Anyone who has been in or visited the Blue Mountains or Wollongong regions from 27 December will have until 11.59pm tonight to enter Victoria.”
Health Alert > >The Deputy Chief Health Officer advises Ross River virus has been detected in mosquitoes in Anglesea. Recent weather and water conditions in the Surfcoast, Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula areas are favourable to mosquito biting and breeding. Read the full health alert
The Federal Government has announced that DHL and Linfox will work with the Department of Health to design and operate a national distribution network for the COVID-19 vaccine. They will support vaccination for all, including people in rural, remote and very remote areas and others who are hard to reach. At the same time, data partner Accenture will design, develop, and implement a software solution to enable “point in time” visibility of COVID-19 vaccine doses across the delivery chain. This will include receipt of the vaccine by health services, vaccination of patients, and subsequent monitoring for adverse reactions. Read the Minister for Health’s media release
headspace Geelong advises they have a new online referral option. GPs can continue to refer young people to headspace via the existing processes of direct phone contact to the centre on 5222 690, or via referral net. They have recently introduced an additional online referral option for:
- Direct referral from young person or family/friend
- Direct referral from professionals including GP’s, Education staff and health and community services
The new referral form can be found on the headspace Geelong website (hit the “see more” button to see the referral tools). You are welcome to promote this headspace website to local young people and encourage them to
consider the self-referral option at a time that works for them, particularly when they are not quite committed or ready for a GP assisted referral. The headspace Geelong website also contains a range of useful mental health information, includes regular centre updates and also provides an access pathway to eheadspace and a range of youth friendly online resources. headspace.org.au/headspace-centres/geelong/
The key parts of the service entry process include:
- Registration of referral information or direct client contact, including confirmation back to referrer –occurs on the day of referral
- Initial contact from headspace Client Entry Point Officer – to review referral information, provide orientation info to client/family and advise on assessment process that client will be offered – within 1 week of receipt of referral
- Comprehensive psychosocial assessment – hHAT headspace Holistic Assessment Tool – utilised across all Australian headspace centres – within 2 weeks of receipt of referral
- Allocation to service stream – this process includes application of the Initial Assessment and Referral Decision Tool https://iar-dst.online/#/ , to support the pathway planning process. This tool is also being utilised within the headtohelp platform resourced locally by Barwon Health.
Please note, headspace Geelong Centre will be closed from 5pm December 24 to 8.30 am on January 4, 2021.
From 1 January 2021, Tagrisso® (osimertinib) will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to help with the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. Tagrisso® is a ‘targeted therapy,’ which works on specific types of cancer cells where a specific mutation is present, to block the growth and spread of these cancer cells. Following expert medical advice, the Government is expanding access to this medicine for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, who have a certain type of mutation in the lungs, known as Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) positive.
The Commonwealth Government has released initial details on COVID-19 vaccination prioritisation. This preliminary advice covers which groups should be prioritised for the first doses for a possible COVID-19 vaccine and how these groups have been identified.
The Department of Health has developed two fact sheets to provide information to help people stay safe and minimise the risk to health from bushfire smoke. The fact sheets have been developed using latest evidence and include general information, as well as information specific to vulnerable groups who may be at increased risk due to pre-existing health conditions.
- Access the Bushfire Smoke – General Information fact sheet
- Access the Bushfire Smoke – Vulnerable groups fact sheet
PPE directives update
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has announced changes to Tier 1 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements.
Eye protection is no longer required for Tier 1 PPE. This applies to patient-facing healthcare workers who are providing care and/or treatment to patients assessed as low risk or no risk for coronavirus (COVID-19), against the clinical criteria for coronavirus (COVID-19). This advice replaces the advice in Guide to the conventional use of PPE published on 21 October 2020. Please note the Guide to the conventional use of PPE document is currently being updated.
For more details, refer to the DHHS website
Ross River Virus health warning
A Health Warning has been issued after Ross River virus has been detected in mosquitoes in the Gippsland Lakes area around Ninety Mile Beach. Residents and visitors to Victoria are being warned to protect themselves against mosquito-borne diseases such as Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus. These viruses can cause symptoms including joint pain and stiffness, headache, fever, rash and fatigue.
Doctors should consider the possibility of mosquito-borne disease in patients presenting with a compatible illness, especially after travel to rural or regional Victoria. A blood test early in the illness can indicate potential acute infection and should be repeated two weeks later for confirmation.
Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus disease must be notified by pathology services in writing within five days of diagnosis.
Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer has issued a health alert regarding a rise in outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis in interstate and Victorian childcare centres. New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have seen significantly higher numbers of reported outbreaks than usual. Outbreaks in Victoria are also increasing as childcare centres return to normal operation.
As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in Victoria, more outbreaks of gastroenteritis are being reported, with eight outbreaks in childcare centres notified to the Department of Health and Human Services since the start of November.
Visit the DHHS website for more details.
The Department of Health and Human Services is directing clinicians to currently ask patients if they have been in South Australia and if so, to check the areas of risk defined by the South Australian government and recommended actions.
There are additional testing and isolation requirements for travellers entering Victoria who have been in South Australia since 7 November 2020 due to the current outbreak in metropolitan Adelaide.
Asymptomatic freight drivers may now be tested at DHHS testing locations. Samples must be marked urgent priority P3. They are not required to self-isolate.
Urgent priority testing category P1 now includes VCE students prior to or during their exam period. Please annotate test requests with URGENT – P1.
For more information, refer to HealthPathways
A HIGH risk of epidemic thunderstorm asthma conditions has been forecast in the Mallee, Wimmera and South West weather districts for TOMORROW 11 November 2020 due to the combination of grass pollen and severe thunderstorms. There is also MODERATE risk of epidemic thunderstorm asthma conditions TODAY in adjoining weather districts for the Mallee and Wimmera.
If people have asthma or hayfever, the advice is to go inside, close doors and windows and avoid wind gusts before and during the storm. Reliever medication should be carried at all times today.
Please remain aware of current weather conditions by monitoring the Bureau of Meteorology forecast and updates and www.emergency.vic.gov.au.
If your health service sees any potential or actual impacts, it is critical that you notify your DHHS emergency management contacts early so that the department can coordinate a broader health sector response if required.
From 11.59pm tonight, restriction levels in Victoria will be further eased. For the latest on what is allowed in regional Victoria, refer to the Department of Health and Human Services website.
Health warning to gardeners using potting mix – The Department of Health and Human Services has been notified of 26 cases of Legionella longbeachae from 1 January to 30 October 2020. This bacteria is a cause of Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia.
The Federal Government has announced new items will be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from November 1. These include Mayzent® (siponimod) for treating secondary progressive multiple sclerosis; Uvadex® (methoxsalen) for treatment of patients with erythrodermic cutaneous T-cell lymphoma who have not responded to other treatments; Tecentriq® and Avastin® (atezolizumab and bevacizumab) for use in combination to treat patients with advanced unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma; and Lynparza® (olaparib) for the treatment of newly diagnosed advanced high grade epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancers.
For more details, read the Minister’s media release.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has updated its information for asymptomatic testing in public sector residential aged care services. New fact sheets are available for:
- Protecting the health of public sector residential aged care workers and residents: asymptomatic testing. Guidance and frequently asked questions
- Protecting our aged care workers: asymptomatic testing: Frequently asked questions for staff of public sector residential aged care facilities
- Aged Care Worker COVID asymptomatic testing Form and Instructions
Download the fact sheets from the DHHS website
The RACGP has today released a guide for GPs on providing care to adult patients who have previously tested positive to COVID-19 or have a history suggestive of undiagnosed COVID-19 and have – or are at risk of – post-COVID-19 conditions. Developed in collaboration with HealthPathways, the guide includes information on:
- infection control precautions and advising patients that having COVID-19 may not confer complete immunity
- collaborating with the patient to develop an individualised plan to support their recovery. This also presents a unique opportunity to optimise the management of existing chronic conditions
- providing care for specific groups recovering from the virus including those with severe COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation, older patients and people with disability
- options for enhancing support for patients including home delivery of medicines, assistance with food and meals and support lines including the Older Persons COVID-19 support line.
Visit the RACGP website for a copy of the Caring for adult patients with post-COVID-19 conditions guide
Victoria’s Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos today released the Victorian Cancer Plan 2020-2024 – the latest four-year state-wide plan to drive down the harm caused by all cancers.
The plan seeks to boost HPV vaccinations to vulnerable groups of young people and improve vaccination and screening reminders in order to eliminate cervical cancer. Alongside this, the plan will encourage the use of cervical screening self-collection tests to reach women who may be reluctant to have a conventional examination by a health professional. For more details, read the Minister’s media release
National Digital Health Skills and Training Plan Released
The Federal Government has released a national digital health skills and training plan to help the health workforce use technology and further drive the digital transformation of health services to meet community demand. For more information, read the Minister’s media release
National Cervical Screening Program Survey
The Department of Health is seeking feedback on potential changes to the National Cervical Screening Program Policy. The review follows a recommendation in 2018 from the Standing Committee on Screening to change the self-collection policy, based on evidence showing equivalent sensitivity of PCR tests on self-collected vaginal swabs versus clinician-collected cervical sample. Read more about the changes and access the survey from the Federal Government’s consultation website
New cancer treatment listed on the PBS
The Federal Government has announced that from September 1, Calquence® (acalabrutinib) will be listed on the PBS for the first time for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and small lymphocytic lymphoma. With the PBS subsidy, patients will now pay just $41 per script, or $6.60 with a concession card. Read the media release.
Funding for Primary Care Enhancement Program for people with intellectual disability
Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) welcomes this week’s announcement from the Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, that we are one of four PHNs in Australia sharing in a $5.75 million allocation to lead the development of the Primary Care Enhancement Program for people with an intellectual disability. WVPHN will receive $1.437 million of the funding over four years. See Minister Hunt’s announcement
Primary Care Mental Health Hubs Coming to Western Victoria
Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) welcomes news that two new mental health hubs will be set up in our region as part of the Federal Government’s $26.9 million commitment to creating 15 mental health response clinics in Victoria. Read more.