PPE during phase 3 of the Omicron outbreak – update from the Ministry
Published 24 February 2022
Following a push from our President Dr Samantha Murton, the Ministry has updated its Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) guidance for personal protective equipment (PPE) selection to include the use of P2/N95 particulate respirators in the community.
The updated guidance now recommends all healthcare staff working general practice:
- wear a P2/N95 particulate respirator for all interactions with patients presenting with undifferentiated diagnosis across all phases of the Omicron outbreak
- wear P2/N95 particulate respirators in settings where there are increasing cases (Phase 2) or widespread cases (Phase 3) and both a moderate and higher risk of COVID-19 infection.
A higher risk of COVID-19 infection includes a person with:
- COVID-19 related symptoms and identified by the contact tracing service as a close contact until test results are available (if clear then care as moderate risk)
- Confirmed COVID-19 case during infectious period.
A moderate risk of COVID-19 infection includes a person with:
- COVID-19 related symptoms but not a close contact of a confirmed case
- No COVID-19 related symptoms but a close contact OR required to self-isolate.
When selecting PPE, you should also consider the local and regional variation for case numbers which may reduce or increase the risk.
Ordering P2/N95 particulate respirators
The Ministry’s PPE Portal has been updated to enable community organisations to order P2/N95 particulate respirators – this change should take effect within the next 24 hours. The Ministry will supply 9320D+ and 1870+ models of P2/N95 particulate respirators to community organisations. Both models are very similar in design, have a high fit test success rate and have at least Level 2 Fluid Resistance.
Please ensure that you place reasonable orders for the volumes you require and with consideration of current delays in the freight network. The Ministry has pre-loaded a range of organisations with P2/N95 particulate respirators. Due to the current volume of email traffic, please only follow up regarding your orders for P2/N95s and other PPE/RATs orders when they have not arrived within a reasonable timeframe, or if you have an identified emergency need such as a facility outbreak.
Fit testing and checking P2/N95 particulate respirators
With wider use of P2/N95 particulate respirators now recommended, it is critical healthcare workers are aware of how to wear them correctly.
To be most effective, P2/N95 particulate respirators need to have an effective seal to the user’s face and should be fit tested for each user. However, we understand that access to fit testing services may not always be possible. In the absence of fit testing, we recommend that fit checking/user seal checking should be done every time the user puts on a particulate respirator as described by the manufacturers’ instructions. Read further guidance.
Sessional use of P2/N95 particulate respirators
P2/N95 particulate respirators (like medical masks) can be and should be used sessionally. This means HCWs can continue working without needing to remove and replace their respirators every time a new activity is undertaken or completed.
P2/N95 particulate respirators can be worn for up to four hours at a time, providing they aren’t soiled, wet or damaged. Find out more.
The use of PPE should always be considered as one of a range of IPC measures that can reduce the risk of infection from COVID-19 when used correctly and in the appropriate context.
How to put on and take off (don and doff) PPE