Managing COVID exposure in practices

Updated 12 February 2022

Guidance for managing COVID-19 healthcare staff exposures at work

  • Where service continuity is not at risk, health workers who are not deemed as critical can follow the standard guidance below. People who test positive for COVID-19 (cases) will need to self-isolate for 10 days. 
  • Household contacts of cases will isolate for 10 days, unless they themselves test positive, and they need to get a test on days 3 and 8.
  • Close contacts will need to self-isolate for 7 days and get a test on day 5.

View the details: 

Where a healthcare service is at risk of service continuity, there is guidance for critical health workers as summarised below.

Definition of ‘critical workers’ and ‘critical health services’ in the context of the Omicron response

Within the health and disability settings, a ‘critical worker’ is somebody who works for a critical health service, in a role that:

  • must be performed in person at the workplace; and
  • requires a person with particular skills; and 
  • must continue to be performed to:
    • prevent an immediate risk of death or serious injury to a person or animal; or
    • prevent serious harm (social, economic or physical) to significant numbers in the community. 

Critical health workers who are COVID-19 cases or probable cases

  • can isolate for a shorter period and use rapid antigen tests to ensure they can return to work more quickly once they’ve produced a negative test.
  • must be asymptomatic, or mildly symptomatic and improving to qualify for testing to return to work. If more than mildly symptomatic case, workers must continue to remain isolating at home.

Steps for the worker to return to work  

  1. Stand down for 5 days
  2. Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) on day 5
  3. If negative, RAT test day 6 prior to shift
  4. If negative, return to work on day 6
  5. If day 5 RAT is positive, continue RAT testing until negative, then return to work the following day, following a further negative RAT test prior to shift
  6. If day 10 and asymptomatic, worker may return to work without requiring a negative RAT test.
  7. Worker to adhere to measures on return to work.

View the details: Guidance for critical health services during an Omicron outbreak

Critical health care workers who are close contacts/exposed to a COVID-19 case in a higher risk setting

  • Close contacts and household contacts can return to work during their isolation period with daily RATs but must self-isolate for the standard period of time when they are not at work.
  • must be asymptomatic.

Steps for worker to return to work

  1. Negative day 1 RAT test before presenting to continue working
  2. Negative RAT test required before each shift for 7 days post last exposure OR if you are a household contact a negative RAT test required before each shift for the 10 days of your household's isolation
  3. Workers to adhere to Measures on Return to Work 

View the details: Guidance for critical health services during an Omicron outbreak

Key information for organisations

  • Practices may be advised of a case (by the case) in their workplace prior to contact tracing advising them.
  • Practices should initiate contact tracing immediately when being notified of a case in their practice. 
  • Where healthcare workers are critical to service continuity, the guidance for use during Omicron can be applied.
  • For healthcare workers who are identified as close/higher level contacts in the community or while at work, return to work can be managed using a ‘Test-to-Return’ approach under the Omicron guidance.
  • Healthcare workers who are COVID-19 cases or probable cases must be stood down for at least 5 days, and then return to work can be managed using a ‘Test-to-Return’ approach providing they are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic (and improving).
  • The current Section 70 does not cover cases or probable cases returning to work; this is in the process of being updated. In the meantime, the situation should be discussed with a Medical Officer of Health.
  • General practices do not need to don’t need to apply to the Critical Services Register.

Key information for individual healthcare workers

  • Ensure you engage with your employer or occupational health team at work to let them know if you have been identified as a case or a contact of COVID-19.
  • You must self-isolate at your usual place of residence when not at work (where you are not working from your usual place of residence).
  • If you have been identified as a case or close contact, your employer will be able to work with you to support your health and safety. Where you have been identified as a critical part of the health team to keep services going, a safe return to work can be managed through a ‘Test-to-return’ approach.
  • Outside of your workplace setting, you will need to continue to follow the public health advice for community cases or close contacts.
  • The ’test to return’ is only for the purposes of carrying out your critical work functions but as a close contact, you need to follow the public health advice to minimise the risk to others in the community.