COVID-19 Update – January 2024

Community transmission of COVID-19 is increasing. Recent weeks have seen a rapid increase in hospitalisation of COVID-19 cases in some parts of the country.

This increase in community transmission is linked to a new variant, JN.1, which is causing similar impacts internationally. During this time, it is especially important that those at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 are protected against catching COVID-19 – this includes people aged 65 and above, people with a disability or chronic medical condition and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

These six steps can help you stay ahead of COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask: a high-quality and well-fitted mask can protect you and others from the virus.
  • Get vaccinated: stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccine. There are new monovalent vaccines available that are highly effective at preventing severe disease. You should get a booster if you are over 75 and haven’t had one for six months. Vaccines are available at your GP or local pharmacy.
  • Let fresh air in: open windows and doors when you can – it reduces the spread of the virus. Meet outside when possible.
  • Get tested: if you have symptoms, take a rapid antigen test. If you test positive and are eligible for antivirals, take them as soon as possible.
  • Stay at home: if you have COVID-19, you should stay at home for at least five days and until you have no symptoms. Speak to your GP if symptoms worsen.
  • Take antivirals if eligible: if you are at risk of falling very sick, you may be eligible for COVID-19 antiviral medicines. You must take these within five days of developing symptoms - the sooner the better. See your GP for more information.

The Department of Health will continue to monitor surveillance indicators and keep the public informed of when COVID-19 transmission returns to a low level of activity.

OTA encourages clinicians to consider practising via telehealth where this is an option.

If you work in an aged care facility or work with older people, you may find these guides helpful:

The Federal Dept of Health and Aged Care is encouraging older people to have a vaccination update if it’s been six months since receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or a confirmed COVID-19 infection. They also recommend people aged 65 and older have the monovalent Omicron XBB.1.5 vaccines. Click here for more information.

Aged care peak body and consumer advocacy organisations have released an Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes. The code provides a nationally consistent approach that ensures residents can have visitors while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19. Residential aged care facilities are required; however, to continue to follow the directions of their state or territory government.

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