14th May, 2020

What quarantine measures are required for health care workers travelling to remote communities? - Recommendations April 30, 2020

Coronavirus/COVID-19

Context

  • Health care workers (HCWs) are a substantial vector of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
  • Under the Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements for Remote Communities) Determination 2020
    • there is a general requirement for 14-day quarantine before any person enters a remote Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community (designated area)
    • HCWs are designated as essential workers and can, if certain criteria are met, be exempt from the 14-day quarantine requirement
    • any essential worker, including HCWs, entering a remote area must take reasonable steps where possible to minimise their contact with other people in the remote area
  • Although not all remote communities fall within the Biosecurity Determination 2020, all communities potentially face devastating consequences from transmission of COVID-19
  • In addition to the Biosecurity Determination 2020 there may be State & Territory, regional, local and/or community travel restrictions and requirements that need to be considered
  • Maintaining access to high quality primary health care is critical including during the period of restrictions due to social distancing requirements.

Recommendations

  • All alternatives to visiting the community should be explored including:
    • remote support to local health staff
    • cancelling non-essential visits
  • If a visit is considered absolutely necessary:
    • where possible HCWs should quarantine (eg in the closest regional centre) for 14 days before entering a remote community; HCWs may provide services via telehealth while in quarantine, where infrastructure allows
    • HCWs may be exempt from 14-day quarantine if, in the last 14 days, they:
      • have not travelled overseas; and
      • have not had fever (≥38°C), chills, and/or night sweats; and
      • have not had acute respiratory infection, including sore throat, cough, or shortness of breath; and
      • have not had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case without adequate use of PPE
    • HCWs who have experienced fever or respiratory symptoms in the last 14 days may enter a remote community if:
      • they no longer have fever or respiratory symptoms
      • they have had a negative PCR test for COVID-19 since the onset of symptoms
  • Remote communities should consider determining additional precautions for their community as guided by local needs and preferences

Related topics

Australian Department of Health guidelines on self-isolation and quarantine

What quarantine measures are required for HCWs travelling from higher prevalence areas to low prevalence areas.

Tools for assessing HCW risk of exposure CDC or WHO

The appropriate level of infection control and prevention (ICP) for visiting/returning HCWs who are exempt from quarantine - recommendations under development.

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