Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Key reminders for general practice 

  • All doctors requesting COVID-19 testing must provide a patient mobile number on the pathology slip. GPs should also indicate on the form if the patient is a health or aged care worker in order to expedite their test result. The Department of Health and Human Services is working towards automating systems as much as possible and this is an important step.
  • The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) has now confirmed that all general practice accreditation will be suspended, taking effect Thursday, 26 March.
  • It's critical to limit testing to patients who meet the  suspected case definition  and use only one swab when testing. 
  • New testing criteria came into effect Saturday 21 March. Make sure you're up to date with who can be tested.
  • Medical practitioners seeking advice about COVID-19 (outside of testing and notification procedures) can call 1300 651 160 and choose the ‘Specialist Medical Advice’ option. Pending demand, you may be asked to leave a message for return phone call.
  • The  Quick Reference Guide  and the  Guidelines for Health Services and Practitioners  download as word documents and are updated live by DHHS. Please ensure you are using the latest version. 
  • Are you using masks correctly? Read the  DOH advice.
  • Notification of suspected cases is no longer required.
  • Check the  DHHS novel coronavirus information page  regularly for updates about the novel coronavirus.  
  • Sign-up to receive DHHS health alerts and advisories  here .
  • Sign-up to receive SEMPHN’s daily COVID-19 email here

Update 29 March

  • As of 4pm, 28 March 2020, Victoria has 685 total confirmed cases, 21 people are in hospitals including three people in intensive care. Three people have died.  Almost two-thirds of cases are directly linked to overseas travel, and 21 were locally acquired with no known link to overseas travel or another confirmed case. In total,191 people have recovered.  
  • Doctors are encouraged to remind all patients that they should stay at home unless going to medical appointments or performing essential tasks.
  • This week Australia recorded 3000 cases. That is expected to increase significantly within weeks unless people stay at home.
  • If testing health care workers, doctors are reminded to clearly mark pathology slips with ‘HCW’ to ensure the swabs can be easily identified for priority testing.
  • Doctors are reminded to ensure they include a mobile contact number for patients who have been tested on pathology slips
  • From midnight 25 March, category three surgeries will not take place in public hospitals in Victoria until further notice.
  • Physical (social) distancing measures should be consistently applied, if at all possible, including clinical settings. The rule of 1 person for every 4 square metres must be maintained to ensure a safe physical distance.  

Read the full update: Coronavirus-disease (COVID-19) - Update - 28 March 2020


$1.1B package to support more mental health, medicare and domestic violence services

On 29 March, the Australian Government announced a 1.1 billion package to boost mental health services, domestic violence support, Medicare assistance for people at home and emergency food relief.

Telehealth 

  • $669 million will be provided to expand Medicare-subsidised telehealth services for all Australians, with extra incentives to GPs and other health practitioners also delivered.
  • Refer to the MBS factsheets here 
  • The MBS Online news page has tables with all items here

Domestic violence

  • An initial $150 million will be provided to support Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence due to the fallout from coronavirus.

Mental Health

  • An initial $74 million will be provided to support the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians.

Relief services for vulnerable Australians

  • An additional $200 million will be provided to support charities and other community organisations which provide emergency and food relief as demand surges as a result of coronavirus.

Read the Australian Government's media statement.


New testing criteria as of 21 March

  • People without symptoms should not be tested.
  • Patients who meet at least one clinical AND at least one epidemiological criteria should be tested. 

Clinical criteria:

  • Fever * OR  acute respiratory infection (eg, shortness of breath, cough, sore throat)

Epidemiological criteria:

  • Travellers from overseas with onset of symptoms within 14 days of return or;
  • Close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases with onset of symptoms within 14 days of last contact or;
  • Healthcare workers and residential aged care workers meeting clinical criteria or;
  • Aged and residential care residents meeting clinical criteria or; 
  • Patients who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people meeting clinical criteria  
  • * >38 degrees, without another immediately apparent cause such as urinary tract infection or cellulitis
  • The following patients should also be tested:
  • Patients admitted to hospital with acute respiratory tract infection AND fever* 

Only confirmed cases should be notified.


Advice on the use of ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories

  • International health officials are reportedly advising against the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which includes ibuprofen and aspirin.
  • There is little evidence or published studies that show taking ibuprofen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, leads to an increased risk of complications or death when taken during COVID-19 infection.
  • If any evidence emerges to support a different approach our advice will be updated.

Screening clinics

Screening clinics are up and running in Victoria.


PPE requests 

SEMPHN has not received any supplies of PPE apart from masks. 

There is an international shortage of both surgical and P2/N95 masks and SEMPHN has a limited supply.

  • As per instructions from the Federal Government, the PHN is only authorised to distribute masks to general practices, ACCHOs and community pharmacies. These practices can request some masks from SEMPHN by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please ensure you include your practice/pharmacy name, and make it clear that you are asking for surgical masks. Surgical masks are to be used for routine COVID-19 screening and testing. See DOH advice.
  • If your general practice is testing or treating people for COVID-19, you may request P2 masks which are only to be used "...for aerosol generating procedures or where there is uncontrolled coughing" (DoH directive 17 March 2020).
  • Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF) requiring PPE can request by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Department of Health will give priority where there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Include in your email request: 
    • the facility, program or service requiring PPE
    • if you have had a confirmed case of COVID-19 at your facility, program or service
    • types and quantities of PPE required – please note, only masks are available at this stage and other PPE will be provided when available
    • details of other suppliers from which you have attempted to source PPE stock.

Please be assured that SEMPHN will communicate changes/updates as soon as we have new information/updates about accessing PPE.


MBS COVID-19 Telehealth items 

Visit mbsonline.gov.au for a summary of the changes and a list of item numbers. 

Our telehealth HealthVitalIT article lists the items and requirements  (see the COVID19 section).  We are continually updating this article to add practical advice for remote consultations,  so it's a good idea to bookmark the page and check for updates every now and then. There are lots of useful tips in here. 


Infection control training module

The Department of Health has developed online training: How to protect yourself and the people you are caring for from infection with COVID–19. The module takes approximately 20-30 minutes, with a quiz at the end.

Register here to do the training. Please share the link with care workers across all sectors including health, aged care and disability.

The training module covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control (IPC) for COVID–19 including:

  • COVID–19 – what is it?
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Keeping safe – protecting yourself and others
  • Myth busting

At the end of this course you should be able to:

  • Understand the basics about the COVID–19 virus, including how it is spread
  • Describe what you can do to protect yourself and others
  • Know what to do if you develop symptoms
  • Know what to do if the person you are caring for develops symptoms
  • Tell the difference between myths and facts of COVID–19

Immunisation service delivery and COVID-19

Visit SEMPHN's immunisation service delivery and COVID-19 page.

Visit SEMPHN's immunisation page


Resources (multiple languages)

If you are a health professional or service provider who works with children or young people, a number of resources on COVID-19 are now available. These resources help explain what children need to know and how to have that conversation with them. 

Children (2-12 years)

For service providers, GPs and other health organisations Emerging Minds has developed resources that are available on their website - https://emergingminds.com.au/

For younger children, a booklet has been developed for practitioners. Download the booklet here

Young people (12-24 years)

ReachOut and headspace have digital support forums (peer-based and moderated) with spaces specific to the pandemic. Additionally, online support for parents is available through ReachOut Parents (Parent Coaching online) and eheadspace (Family and Friends support). 

For access to youth mental health support visit https://www.semphn.org.au/commissioning/mental-health/youth-mental-health.html.

Other resources

Plain English

Other languages 


We're still here to help

At SEMPHN, we are committed to keeping our people healthy so that they can continue to support the health workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

As such, our employees are now taking the responsible step of working remotely to limit the spread of the virus.  We are limiting contact, looking at alternative ways of working with stakeholders, reducing or cancelling face to face meetings and protecting our people, families and service providers to continue to conduct our business.  

Thank you for your understanding as we change our business model in the short term, in an effort to better contain the virus.

For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Health professionals can also sign-up to receive our daily COVID-19 email here

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