Victoria

Open for routine careMasks for optometrists and staffMasks for patients over 12Mandatory Vaccination
YesYes*YesCOVID-19 Mandatory Vaccine+ mandatory booster within 1 mtnh of eligibility

Update 14-07-2022

Yesterday the new Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas announced some changes to the COVID-19 pandemic orders for the state, which came into effect at 11.59pm last night.

There are no announcements for South Australia at this stage. We continue to closely monitor the situation and liaise with the South Australian government and will provide members with updates if there are any changes.

The announcements for Victoria include:

  • changes to the period when someone is considered a recently confirmed case and therefore exempt from testing and isolation/quarantine requirements, has been revised to four weeks, down from 12 weeks;
  • no change to the mask requirements for allied health practices, including optometry, however now mask wearing in indoor and crowded settings is strongly recommended for the public to protect themselves and vulnerable Victorians through winter;
  • an announcement that another round of the Victorian government’s Small Business Ventilation Grant Program will be opened, to help businesses invest in equipment that will keep their workers and customers safe in indoor settings. Details will be available shortly on the Business Victoria grants and programs webpage;
  • updated advice on improving ventilation and air flow, in English and eight key community languages;
  • workplaces must continue to comply with mandatory requirements such as maintaining COVIDSafe Plans and complying with vaccination mandates;
  •  a new Victorian government Stay Well in Winter public health campaign will encourage the community to take up third and fourth COVID-19 vaccination doses, flu vaccination, the benefits of wearing a mask and maximising ventilation indoors.

Update 21-6-2022

In Victoria, there will be changes to pandemic orders that will come into effect from 11.59pm Friday 24 June.

Mask Requirements

In Victoria, mask requirements in optometry settings remain unchanged. Masks are still required in all allied health settings, including optometry for everyone aged eight years and above.

Mandatory Vaccinations

While government imposed third dose mandates in some sectors will be lifted in Victoria, this does not apply to healthcare. You must have already received three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine (or have an exemption) to be able to work in an optometry setting.

Update 26-5-2022

Victorian update on mask requirements

The Victorian government’s COVID-19 website confirms that face masks are mandatory for everyone aged 8 years and above “while visiting a hospital, care facility or any other indoor space that is a publicly accessible area in a healthcare setting, including allied health settings.”

This means that all optometrists, front of house staff and patients must continue to wear a face mask in the practice.

Practice posters and resources

Optometry Australia has produced a range of COVID-19 posters and social media tiles for members to use in practices to promote and remind patients and staff of current COVID-19 requirements.

The mask poster is fully editable allowing you to tailor the message to your practice and community.

The webpage also includes links to Victorian government signs and posters.

Compliance visits

We understand that the Victorian government is continuing to undertake compliance visits with a range of businesses, including optometry practices. Compliance officers will usually email first to advise when they plan to attend, and to remind practices about current requirements before attending, including the ongoing requirement for all business (including optometry practices) to have a COVIDSafe Plan.

Infection control procedures

Infection control continues to remain important. Optometry Australia’s infection control guidelines and resources provide useful and practice information regarding effective infection control strategies.

Small business ventilation program

The Victorian government’s Small Business Ventilation Program provides matched grants from $1000 to $5000 to enable public facing small businesses who employ staff to invest in larger projects such as building works, engaging professional services or purchase equipment to improve ventilation in areas accessible to customers.

The program is now open and applications close 24 June 2022.

Update 28-04-2022

Please note that the Victorian Government website has been updated to clarify that:

Face masks are mandatory for everyone aged 8 years and above in the following settings:

  • In an indoor space that is a publicly accessible area of a healthcare facility, including at an allied health facility.

We appreciate the recent further relaxation of the mask mandate continues to cause issues with patient compliance with mask wearing (particularly for members with optometry practices within retail centres where masks are otherwise not required).  Many members have reported patients assume the standard / Vic Government signage in store requesting mask wear is out of date or simply hasn’t been taken down.  To assist members, new (fully editable) signage posters have been designed to highlight that masks are STILL required in this practice as it is a healthcare facility. These are available here .

Update 26-02-2022

Masks required in Victorian optometry private practices

The office of the Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer (VCAHO) confirmed late last night that as of 11:59pm on Friday 25 February, masks “are required in publicly accessible areas of a healthcare premises. This requirement extends to patients/clients, clinical staff and administrative staff.”

The definition of healthcare premises includes (but is not limited to) “a health clinic, including medical specialist and/or allied health professional operated clinics”.

Unfortunately the Victorian Government’s COVID-19 webpage for health and community services has not yet been updated, but the above advice is expected to be uploaded to the page in coming days.

Close contact furlough exemption for Victorian optometrists and optometry practice staff

In addition to this the VCAHO also confirmed yesterday that AHPRA registered allied health practitioners and their administrative/ancillary staff who are close contacts of a COVID-19 case are exempt from furlough requirements if they cannot work from home, and:

  • The worker does not have any COVID-19 symptoms. 
  • They notify their employer that they are a close contact.
  • Their employer requests and consents to their return to the workplace to prevent significant risk to safe service delivery.
  • The worker consents to return to the workplace during their self-quarantine period.
  • They travel directly to and from their home to their workplace, minimising contact with others. Whilst in direct transit, they may only leave their vehicle to access toilet and bathroom facilities, pay for fuel or purchase takeaway food or drink.
  • If they are not a healthcare worker, they wear a face covering (at minimum, a surgical mask) at all times when at, or travelling to and from, work. If they are a healthcare worker, they must wear a face covering (an N95/P2 respirator) at all times when at work, and wear a face covering (at minimum, a surgical mask) at all times when travelling to and from work.
  • The face covering requirement does not apply if the person is escaping harm or the risk of harm, is riding a bike or motorbike, is taking medicine, or eating or drinking, is smoking while stationary, for emergency purposes or when required or authorised by law.
  • They only access shared break areas at the same time as other exempted close contacts.
  • They do not share facilities or amenities with other staff, where practicable.
  • They take daily COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests and return a negative result prior to starting work, for 5 days after they have been defined as a close contact. 
  • They do not use carpooling and where possible avoid public transport when travelling to and from the workplace.
  • They immediately advise all their employers if at any point they are no longer eligible for the exemption (e.g. if they develop COVID-19 symptoms or test positive to a Rapid Antigen Test).

Random COVID Safe compliance checks of Victorian practices

The Victorian Department of Health are currently undertaking COVID Safe compliance checks, including optometry practices.

The compliance officers are generally calling ahead to advise that they will be carrying out an inspection, and are sending a reminder by email of what is required in order to meet the COVID Safe requirements. This includes:

The inspectors further advise that the inspection is required under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Act) in order to eliminate or reduce the risk to public health and ensure businesses are following the current Pandemic Orders. Penalties apply for not complying with the Pandemic Orders.

Update 24-02-2022

* New mask rules are now in effect, with mask wear mandatory at ‘care facilities’. As written on the https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/face-masks-when-wear-face-mask website the new rules are unfortunately open to interpretation.

We have reached out to the Vic Chief Allied Health officer as well as representatives from the Department of Jobs Precinct and Regions and they are unable to  confirm specific definitions as where optometry/allied health falls. They have advised us they will update us as soon as they are able to get any clarification.

Mask wear is still strongly recommended if you cannot physically distance indoors or outdoors and the Vic Health guide to use of PPE still lists wearing a surgical mask as a minimum for health workers.

For now OV/SA would suggest that while it may be harder to implement masks in the retail component for patrons browsing frames, you encourage patients in the consultation room wear a mask due to the close proximity and inability to social distance. When we receive clarification as to whether this is still “required”, we will send out a furtherCOVID-19 update.

Update 17-02-2022

The Victorian government this morning announced that from 6pm Friday 18 February, QR code check-in requirements will no longer be in place at a range of locations, including optometry practices. Employees also won’t have to QR code check-in at their workplace.

Further details on these and other COVID-19 related changes (related largely to hospitality and entertainment venues only) have now been published on the Victorian government’s COVID-19 website.

For the latest optometry-related COVID information, including the extension of timelines for mandatory third dose vaccination for Victorian optometrists and practice staff, and updates to Victorian PPE requirements, visit the Optometry Australia website.

Update 14-02-2022

The Victorian Government has announced that the deadline for workers in key sectors (including optometry) to have received their COVID-19 third dose vaccination has been extended by four weeks.

By 12 March 2022, all optometrists and staff members who work in optometry settings are required to provide evidence of their COVID-19 third dose vaccination or a medical exemption by an authorised medical practitioner to be able to come to work.

If workers had not received a third dose by 12 February 2022, they must be able to provide evidence of a booking to receive their COVID-19 third dose before 12 March 2022, otherwise they cannot work.

If workers were not eligible to receive their third dose COVID-19 vaccine by 12 January 2022, they will be required to receive their COVID-19 third dose vaccine by 29 March 2022.

Employers are required to confirm the worker has received their third dose and keep a record of workers’ third dose vaccination status.

Update 10-02-2022

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Guideline Updates
We have been advised by the Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer (CAHO) that a major review of the PPE guidance was recently conducted. In the most updated version which was sent to us this afternoon, it is now only a “minimumrecommendation” (previously “minimum requirement”) that optometrists in Victoria wear eye protection as a standard precaution. Optometrists must continue to wear a disposable, surgical mask (at a minimum) when directly treating patients. Non-clinical staff who have public-facing roles (i.e. have direct contact and interactions with patients) must wear a surgical mask. This is irrespective of the use of a face shield or glass partitions in public facing areas. Cloth masks are not to be used. In the context of allied health private practice, non-clinical staff includes, but is not limited to, reception staff and practice managers.

Upload of this guidance document is currently pending, but will shortly be available on the Business Victoria Website.

Furlough Exemption Clarification
We are aware that the National Cabinet recently suggested changes to furlough arrangements to a number of sectors including health. We would like to advise our members that National Cabinet changes are not automatically adopted by each state and territory. We have subsequently re-confirmed with both SA and VIC Chief Allied Health Officers that optometrists in private practise are not included in the furlough exemptions where close contact essential workers can return to work before their designated isolation periods end.

Update 7-02-2022

Mandatory COVID-19 Third Dose (Booster) Vaccination for Healthcare Settings Reminder

Mandatory third dose (booster) requirements for all optometrists and staff members in healthcare settings are in effect  Victoria. Currently, you are eligible for a booster dose three months after your second primary dose. Eligibility criteria is frequently updated so we suggest that you regularly review the COVID-19 booster advice. The mandatory vaccination requirements for both states do not apply to those who have a valid medical exemption.

Under VIC pandemic orders, as of 11:59pm on Wednesday 12 January 2022, Victorian workers in the healthcare sector are required to get their third dose before being permitted to work onsite.

In Victoria, a healthcare worker is defined as a person (including a volunteer or student) who is employed or engaged as a contractor, to perform work at a health setting. This includes all optometrists and ancillary roles.

If you were eligible for a third dose on or before Wednesday 12 January you have to get your third dose before Saturday 12 February. If you weren’t eligible, you have until 29 March 2022 to get your third dose.

The Victorian Government website explained that if you can’t provide your employer with evidence that you meet the vaccination requirements, then your employer cannot allow you to enter the work premises (i.e. come on-site).

Government Financial Support

Rent relief for small and family businesses
The Victorian Government has introduced new regulations to the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme to include small and family businesses experiencing financial hardship due to the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible commercial tenants must have an annual turnover of $10 million or less and a decline in turnover of at least 30 per cent due to COVID-19. As part of the Scheme, tenants seeking rent relief will need to make a written request to their landlord with evidence of their eligibility by 15 March 2022. Eligible commercial landlords who provide rent relief under the Scheme will continue to receive support through the Commercial Landlord Hardship Fund, while their tenants are eligible for the Scheme.

More information, including detailed eligible criteria, is available on the Victorian Small Business Commission website.

Close Contact Testing Requirements Update

There have been no changes to testing requirements in Victoria. We remain in close communication with the Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer and will update the membership with any changes.

Update 14-01-2022

Correspondence received from the Vic Department of Health on Healthcare worker update – COVID-19 third dose vaccination reporting requirements

Update 10-01-2022

Mandatory Third Dose (booster) Requirements for Healthcare Workers
Under new pandemic orders coming into place at 11:59pm Wednesday 12 January, Victorian workers in the healthcare sector who are already required to be fully vaccinated, must get their third dose before being permitted to work onsite.

Workplaces must sight and record proof of vaccination.

Optometrists and all practice staff eligible for a third dose on or before Wednesday 12 January will have until Saturday 12 February to get their third dose. Those not yet eligible for a third dose will be required to get it within three months and two weeks of the deadline to receive their second mandatory dose.

This means all optometrists and practice staff must receive their third dose by 29 March 2022.

The mandatory vaccination requirement will not apply to workers who have a valid medical exemption.

Household or Household-like Contacts
As a reminder for Victorians, from 11:59pm 30 December 2021, COVID-19 contacts are now only required to quarantine if you are a household, or household-like contact. You are a household or household-like contact if you have spent more than four hours with someone who has COVID-19 inside a house, accommodation or care facility.

If you are a household or household-like contact, you must quarantine seven days from the date the case took the COVID-19 test which confirmed they had COVID-19. You are also required to get tested and receive negative COVID-19 results on day one (or as soon as possible) and again on day six of your quarantine period. For these tests, use a rapid antigen test or get a PCR test if you can’t access a rapid antigen test.

We have also received many questions regarding the requirements if more than one person in your household tests positive. If another person in your household tests positive during your seven day quarantine period as a household contact (in addition to the initial case) your seven day period does not start again.

You can complete the rest of that seven day quarantine period, and you are cleared from quarantine if you have a negative result from a test taken on day six. However, if you test positive on day six (or on any day of your seven day quarantine period) your quarantine period will start again, because you are now infectious with the virus. You must isolate for another seven days following your positive result.

There are different types of contacts and different rules apply. For more information visit the Coronavirus Victoria Government website.

Expanded Point of Care COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing
As of 7 January 2022, the TGA has now allowed optometrists in all states to be able to test their patients using COVID-19 rapid antigen Point of Care tests. Point of Care rapid antigen tests are designed for larger-scale professional testing and require user training. They are not the same as COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests (home use tests), but are often less expensive.

Until this date, only medical practitioners and paramedics were able to test patients. This means that point of care tests can now be legally supplied under specific conditions for use by trained health practitioners (including optometrists) and trained staff under their supervision.

Point of Care rapid antigen tests are designed for larger-scale professional testing and require user training. They are not the same as COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests (home use tests). If optometrists wish to test patients using Point of Care tests, you are responsible for sourcing the test kits yourself. Optometrists can charge patients a reasonable amount as a privately billed service to recoup costs of testing.

As part of these changes, optometrists are not permitted to provide a general testing service for members of the public (i.e. for people who are not their patients).

A list of approved tests with their local Australian sponsors (suppliers) is available on the TGA website. To find approved Point of Care rapid antigen tests, select ‘Point-of-Care test’ under ‘show only’ and sort by ‘Point of Care test’.

Update 31-12-2021

JanThe Victorian Government has announced new isolation and testing requirements for COVID-19 cases and contacts as recommended by National Cabinet yesterday, with new pandemic orders taking effect from 11:59pm on Thursday 30 December 2021.

The orders are an extension of Victoria’s current settings with a close contact defined as:

  • someone who lives with a confirmed COVID-19 case, or
  • someone who has spent four or more hours with them in a house, care facility or accommodation.

Under the new orders Victorians who test positive to COVID-19 must isolate for seven days from the date of their test. This is reduced from ten days.

PCR tests in Victoria will now be available for anyone who has symptoms and anyone who has tested positive to a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT).

Please refer to the Checklist for COVID contacts for more information.

COVIDSafe settings still apply:

  • face masks must be worn in all indoor settings (except in the home) by people aged eight and over
  • customers and workers must check-in everywhere, every time
  • review and update your COVIDSafe Plan regularly and always keep a copy onsite
  • work from home if possible.

Improving indoor air quality can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.

If you have natural ventilation available:

  • Open windows and leave doors open in hallways and corridors to increase outdoor airflow into the space.
  • Place a fan away from openable windows or door to increase air circulation within a space.

If you have mechanical ventilation available:

  • Maximise the amount of air being provided into the space by disabling any control systems that vary the amount of fresh air based on occupancy.
  • Change the settings to increase the proportion of outdoor air.
  • Install a higher-grade filter within the air handling unit.

All Victorians who are eligible for a booster are urged to book an appointment as soon as possible. You can get a COVID-19 booster dose from a GP or pharmacy, or a Victorian vaccination centre.

For more information, please go to coronavirus.vic.gov.au.

Update 20-12-2021

Mask requirements
The current restrictions for optometry practices have not changed, and practice staff, patients and customers should continue to wear masks unless they have a medical exemption.

Mask settings in retail also remain unchanged, and masks will still be required for workers and customers in indoor retail (including optometry settings), and for visitors and select workers in hospitals.

Booster shots
All Victorians who are eligible for a booster five months after their second shot are urged to book an appointment as soon as possible – especially those at higher risk of contracting the virus, such as healthcare workers.

Vaccination requirements
It is useful to note that the mandatory vaccination requirement will be removed for all customers in retail. Throughout the pandemic we have strongly advocated that the retail side of optometry is ‘essential’, and as such this means there is no requirement for members of the public entering an optometry practice to be vaccinated.

The removal of this mandate means that essential and non-essential retail are now aligned in NOT requiring customers to be fully vaccinated.

We have also received many questions surrounding the issue of whether you can refuse entry to a patient who has not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Unfortunately, the answer to this is not straightforward. Avant, our professional indemnity insurance provider, has provided guidance (scroll down to COVID-19 vaccinations: Practice management) on managing unvaccinated patients that may be useful.

Exposure site requirements
Workplaces exposed to a positive coronavirus case will no longer need to be deep cleaned, after mounting international evidence that coronavirus is an airborne or droplet-borne disease and the likelihood of becoming infected by touching a surface is very low risk.

Update 14-12-2021

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements for optometrists

The Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer (CAHO) has advised that with the transition to Phase D restrictions as of 11.59pm Thursday 18 November 2021, PPE and COVIDSafe requirements for optometry remain ongoing. That is, a minimum requirement for eye protection (goggles or face shield) and surgical masks. This information is available on the Victorian Government website.

OV/SA have been advised that although the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Allied Health in Private Practice Settings document review is dated back to 13 September 2021, it is a document that is regularly reviewed and amended. There have not been any amendments since 13 September 2021.

Mask requirements for patrons

Masks are still required for all patrons, in optometry settings, except those with lawful exemptions.

The Victorian Government states that while a medical certificate stating the lawful reason for not wearing a face mask is not required, if an individual is stopped by police in a setting where face masks are mandatory, they will be asked to confirm the lawful reason for not wearing a face mask.

Vaccination requirements for patrons

The Victorian Government has also clarified that there is no vaccination requirement for patrons in optometry settings. The Open Premises Direction (No 7) issued on 25 November 2021 clarifies that premises that are used wholly or predominantly for the provision of health services (including optometry) are not considered general retail premises. These Directions are regularly updated and available via this link .

We have also received many questions surrounding the issue of whether you can refuse entry to a patient who has not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Unfortunately, the answer to this is not straightforward. Avant, our professional indemnity insurance provider has provided guidance on managing unvaccinated patients. Look under ‘Can your practice refuse entry to a patient who has not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19?’

Update 22-11-2021

The Department of Health has issued updated contact assessment and management guidance regarding furlough requirements now that Victoria has entered Phase D of The Roadmap. This document is slightly different to previous iterations and we strongly recommend you take the time to review the document and understand the implications.

Update 18-11-2021

As you may be aware, the Victorian Premier has announced that Victoria will enter Phase D of the Roadmap from 11.59pm tonight, 18 November, as it’s anticipated that 90 per cent of Victorians (12+ years) will be fully vaccinated within the next few days. This means that businesses including optometry practices, no longer have capacity and density limits, subject to COVIDSafe measures being in place.

As always, we have been liaising closely with the Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer about what this means for you and your practice.

Mask requirements
Masks will still be required for workers and customers in indoor retail (including optometry settings), and for visitors and select workers in hospitals. The current restrictions for optometry practices have not changed, and practice staff, patients and customers should continue to wear masks unless they have a medical exemption.

Unless there is a significant jump in hospitalisations, it is expected that retail customers will no longer need to wear masks after 15 December.

Minimum PPE requirements
We are in close communication with Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer (VCAHO) who has advised that at the time of writing there has been no change to the current minimum PPE requirement for optometrists, which comprises a surgical mask and eye protection. The VCAHO has also advised that this document is reviewed regularly and we will be notified if there are any changes.

We are also currently seeking advice from the VCAHO as to how the changes to quarantine requirements align with the current furlough arrangements for health care professionals, and we will provide further advice as soon as this clarification is provided.

Vaccination requirements
We have been in contact with Business Victoria today, who have acknowledged that as optometry is unique in its settings, with a combination of retail and clinical care, there are no specific guidelines as to whether patrons are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic we have strongly advocated that the retail side of optometry was ‘essential’, and as such we believe this means that there will not be a requirement for members of the public entering an optometry practice to be vaccinated. We have further meetings scheduled with Victorian Government branches tomorrow and will update members if any change to this advice is received.

We realise that individual circumstances may vary and would advise you to manage this depending on your situation. Avant, our professional indemnity insurance provider have some provided some guidance on managing unvaccinated patients.

Quarantine
Self-quarantine obligations have been reduced across the board for COVID-19 cases and fully-vaccinated contacts. The vast majority of people who come into contact with a confirmed positive case outside their home won’t have to self-quarantine. These contacts will be required to get a standard (PCR) test and isolate until they get a negative result.

This means exposure in your practise won’t automatically result in quarantine for the patrons or staff, who previously would have been designated Primary Close Contacts at Tier 1 exposure sites.

In addition, people diagnosed with COVID-19 are now required to notify their workplace about their positive result.  Employers will also have to identify and notify employees and sub-contractors – but not patrons – who were exposed to advise them to get tested.

Update 21-10-2021

Retail and Browsing
While clinical optometry in metropolitan Melbourne returns to routine care after 11:59pm Thursday 21 October 2021, general retail is open only for contactless click and collect. This means optometry practices will not be open to general browsers not associated with the clinical service.

Update 20-10-2021

Update 19-10-2021

Further to yesterday’s announcement that optometry in metropolitan Melbourne will be returning to routine care after 11:59pm Thursday 21 October 2021, we would like to reassure all Optometry Victoria South Australia members that we continue to work behind the scenes to ensure further disruptions are minimised and members remain safe as we  return to routine care against the backdrop of ‘living with’ COVID-19 community transmission.

Unvaccinated Patients

Unlike in NSW, the Victorian Government has not indicated that they will restrict access to optometry services based on a patient’s vaccination status, and it is not mandatory to check this for each patient.

At this stage (if they wish to), optometrists do have a right to ask people if they’re vaccinated. It is then reasonable to make suitable alternative arrangements if they are unvaccinated if it presents a risk to the individual provider or employee of that provider (eg if someone in the practice is immunocompromised).

Suitable alternative arrangements may include seeing unvaccinated patients at the end of the day or when people at most risk aren’t there, or referring the patient on for care. Optometry providers must also comply with anti-discrimination and privacy obligations and we recommend documenting conversations held with the patient on this topic.  We are currently seeking further legal advice to clarify this matter.

For those that are considering seeing vaccinated only patients the other option may be asking unvaccinated patients to undergo a Rapid Antigen Test prior to appointment. These tests are currently available to optometrists from Good Optical and medical retailers.

Furlough advice

Furlough is one of several tools than can be utilised to ensure our health services remain safe places to give and receive care. We are looking to better understand the furlough guidance if an optometrist or any team member is exposed to COVID-19 while working in an optometry setting.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

As OV/SA have previously advised, optometrists in private practice settings are directed by the Victorian Department of Health to have a minimum PPE requirement of surgical masks and goggles or face shields.  However, we are also aware that using P2/N95 respirators instead of surgical masks may mean that, if a COVID-19 exposure was to occur, the Public Health Team may determine that the risk of transmission is lower and reduce time required to furlough. Comprehensive advice on this area for GP’s has recently been released and we are seeking to clarify this for optometry.

Fit testing

Fit testing is a validated method to independently determine whether a specific make, model and size of respirator achieves a proper fit to an individual’s face.  Fit testing is recommended in order to get the maximal protection from a P2/N95 respirator. External testers can be accessed either through mask manufacturers, or potentially through other health services, either through a partnership or commercial arrangement. The Department of Health and Human Services lists preferred providers of this service online.

Update 18-10-2021

Metropolitan Melbourne to return to routine care
Following the Victorian Premier’s announcement on Sunday of further easing of restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne, aligned to achievement of 70 per cent full vaccination, we have been advised by the Department of Health that effective of 11.59pm Thursday 21 October 2021, private practice optometry services will be able to resume routine care with COVIDSafe requirements in place.

This includes having a COVIDSafe Plan in place and complying with requirements on record keeping, density quotients of one person per 4 square metres, PPE and cleaning.

This means that from Friday the services that all Victorian optometry practices can provide will be aligned, with routine care available to patients across the entire state.

OV/SA has been strongly advocating to the Victorian Minister for Health, the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, and Chief Health Officer of the important role that optometry plays in the eye care of the community, and we warmly welcome this announcement.

We have been advised that the Department of Health’s COVID-19 website will be updated in the coming days to reflect these changes.

Update 14-10-2021

Information about the HR implications of mandatory vaccinations for Victorian optometrists and practice staff has been provided by Industry Legal Group, to support members navigating these requirements.

Update 24-09-2021

As of 24 September,  health workers (including optometrists and clinical-facing ancillary staff) in cross-border contexts who enter Victoria under  a specified worker (multiple entry) permit, must carry evidence of full or partial vaccination, vaccination booking by 7 October or carry evidence of an exemption. More information

Update 09-09-2021

Regional Victoria:

The Victoria Government has announced that from 11:59pm on Thursday 9th September, lockdown restrictions will be lifted in regional and rural Victoria, except for Greater Shepparton. However, the Chief Allied Health Officer (CAHO) has confirmed that allied health practitioners, including optometrists in regional Victoria (excluding Greater Shepparton) may return only to face to face essential care. There is no change to current restrictions for optometrists in metro Melbourne.

We remain concerned that routine care is not permitted and are in discussions with Chief Allied Health Officer (CAHO) to review these directions as a matter of priority. We will continue to advocate to the CAHO that optometrists have an excellent track record of practising in a COVID-safe way, and that delays in seeing patients is detrimental to community eye health outcomes.

Essential clinical care is defined as care/services:
•           to prevent a significant change/deterioration in functional independence which would result in an escalation of care needs (e.g. an increase in frequency of treatment needed, an increased need for prescription medication due to a significant increase in pain, requirement for specialist input or review, an increase in care needs, and/or a substantial increase to anticipated recovery time associated with a delay in receiving services)
•           to provide assessment and diagnostic services to clients / patients whose care have been delayed as a result of previous restrictions, with any further delay likely to result in deterioration in functional independence or adverse health outcomes (including access to diagnostic imaging services or assessment for prescription of assistive equipment and technology)
•           to provide services that are essential as part of a broader plan of care with a medical practitioner (e.g. fitting a brace post-surgery)
•           to provide services that are part of a conservative management plan to avoid or delay elective surgery (as agreed with treating team)
•           to provide services immediately following elective surgery that prevent secondary complications or aid functional recovery (as agreed with treating team).

Density:
Density quotients still apply in all of Victoria to all venues and spaces that are accessible to the public (and in closed workplaces, to shared spaces such as lunchrooms) – 1 to 4m

Mandatory vaccinations for aged care workers:
Victoria has released its public health direction on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of residential aged care workers. The direction, which officially came into effect on 11:59pm 7th September 2021, makes provision for the introduction of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of workers, from 17th September 2021, in residential aged care in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Mask advice:
Face masks must be carried at all times and be worn outdoors, indoors, except if at home, or if an exemption applies.

We’ve received many enquiries about how to handle situations where a patient refuses to wear a face mask (often without any valid reason). We recognise that these conversations can be difficult and would encourage members to read this Mask FAQ with practical tips. Please contact our Optometrist advisor help desk if you need support.

Update 21-08-2021

REGIONAL VICTORIA MEMBERS

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews this morning announced that from 1pm today, Saturday 21 August until 11:59pm, Thursday 2 September, all metropolitan Melbourne restrictions – except for the daily 9pm to 5am curfew – will be implemented across regional Victoria. Restrictions have not changed in South Australia.

The Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer (CAHO) has confirmed to OV/SA that allied health professionals in regional Victoria can now only deliver urgent care (which, as outlined below, differs from ‘essential care’).

The definition of urgent clinical care is:

Direct clinical care (and other clinical support activity necessary to support direct clinical care) that prevents a significant change/deterioration in functional independence necessitating escalation of care OR is required as an adjunct to other urgent medical/surgical interventions.

For example, urgent clinical care;

  • that avoids a potential hospital admission or emergency department presentation
  • that avoids serious acute consequences or acute deterioration
  • that presents/delays the need for further specialist medical or surgical intervention
  • that prevents an increase in care needs that would necessitate additional carer supports or change in accommodation needs
  • that limits secondary complications post-surgery
  • where deferral would lead to long term adverse consequences (i.e.. delays to child development)

We’re aware that Victoria Police are monitoring the compliance of allied health practices with the public health directions, with the potential for fines to be issued if breaches have occurred.
We’ve also received a number of queries from members as to whether particular clinical situations fit within the definition of urgent care. Some of these we’ve been able to address and for some, we’re seeking further clarification.

We have been advised by the CAHO that the new public health orders are intentionally more restrictive and are more like the hard lockdowns experienced in 2020.

In relation to replacement or repair of broken spectacles and contact lenses without a current script, please ensure that this can be clinically justified within the parameters of the above definition, and will support a patient’s functional independence including for example the ability to drive, read medicine bottles, cooking safely, and avoiding trips and falls.

We’ll communicate any additional relevant changes or advice if this occurs.

Authorised worker permits

In addition, authorised workers including allied health professionals, will be required to carry permits like their metropolitan Melbourne counterparts when working, and when travelling for work from 11:59pm Monday 23 August. The permit is required to be certified by an employer. Authorised allied health workforces include:

  • Allied health services provided by allied health professionals working as authorised workers in hospitals, in residential care facilities providing critical clinical care or as directed by the hospital; or
  • Allied health professionals working in private or public community services, whether clinic-based or home-based, providing urgent clinical care. Note: face to face appointments should only occur for urgent clinical care that cannot be deferred – routine face to face care is not permitted but may be provided via Telehealth; or
  • Allied health services provided by allied health professionals working in private practice providing care through telehealth and other virtual care options;
  • Medical/nursing/midwifery/allied health students on placement providing authorised care in hospitals or in residential care facilities, or through telehealth.

Financial assistance

There were no announcements from the Victorian government today regarding additional financial assistance for businesses who are affected by the new restrictions. We will monitor the Business Grants and Support page on the Victorian government’s coronavirus page, and we will provide updates as soon as any announcements are available.

Update 17-08-2021

METROPOLITAN MELBOURNE MEMBERS

Amendment to the definition of urgent care

Further to the Victorian Premier’s announcement yesterday about tightened restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne, and advice that allied health professionals in in those areas can now only deliver urgent rather than essential care, the Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer (CAHO) has advised this morning of an addition to the definition of urgent care, highlighted in pink below.

The definition of urgent clinical care for this purpose is:

Direct clinical care (and other clinical support activity necessary to support direct clinical care) that prevents a significant change/deterioration in functional independence necessitating escalation of care OR is required as an adjunct to other urgent medical/surgical interventions.

For example, urgent clinical care;

  • that avoids a potential hospital admission or emergency department presentation
  • that avoids serious acute consequences or acute deterioration
  • that presents/delays the need for further specialist medical or surgical intervention
  • that prevents an increase in care needs that would necessitate additional carer supports or change in accommodation needs
  • that limits secondary complications post-surgery
  • where deferral would lead to long term adverse consequences (i.e.. delays to child development)

We’re aware that Victoria Police are monitoring the compliance of allied health practices with the public health directions, with the potential for fines to be issued if breaches have occurred.

We’ve also received a number of queries from members as to whether particular clinical situations fit within the definition of urgent care. Some of these we’ve been able to address and for some, we’re seeking further clarification.

We have been advised by the CAHO that the new public health orders are intentionally more restrictive than last week, and are more like the hard lockdowns we experienced last year.

In relation to replacement or repair of broken spectacles and contact lenses without a current script, please ensure that this can be clinically justified within the parameters of the above definition, and will support a patient’s functional independence including for example the ability to drive, read medicine bottles, cooking safely, and avoiding trips and falls.

We’ll communicate any additional relevant changes or advice if this occurs.

The Victorian government coronavirus website is still being updated to reflect the change from essential care to urgent care. The ‘authorised health services’ section on this page has been updated to include allied health services providing urgent care only. However the ‘authorised workers’ section still includes the previous definition for allied health workers. We have been assured by the Chief Allied Health Officer that this will be updated today to reflect the new urgent care requirements.

Authorised worker permits

The authorised worker permit template is now available on the Victorian government’s coronavirus website. From 11:59pm tonight all authorised workers are required to carry the permit when working, and when travelling to and from work.

Financial assistance

Unfortunately there were no announcements from the Victorian government today regarding additional financial assistance for businesses in metropolitan Melbourne who are affected by the extension of the lockdown. Keep an eye on the Business Grants and Support page on the Victorian government’s coronavirus page, and we will provide updates as soon as any announcements are available.

Updated 16-08-2021

METROPOLITAN MELBOURNE UPDATE

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews this morning announced an extension to the current lockdown for metropolitan Melbourne of two weeks to 11:59pm Thursday 2 September. A curfew from 9pm-5am has been introduced, as well as changes to the current public health directions for metropolitan Melbourne. There is no change to the current settings for regional Victoria or South Australia.

Following the Victorian Premier’s announcement OV/SA received specific advice from the Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer that highlights changes to the provision of care by allied health professionals, including optometrists, under these changed public health directions.

As of 11:59pm tonight Monday 16 August, allied health professionals including optometrists are still considered authorised workers, but can only provide urgent clinical care, instead of essential care that is currently allowed (see definition below).

This is a subtle but important difference. Routine face-to-face care is still not permitted.

In addition authorised workers including allied health professionals, will be required to carry permits when working, and when travelling for work, from 11:59pm on Tuesday August 17. The permits need to be certified by an employer. Permits will be available on the Victorian Government’s coronavirus website before these directions come into effect. As of the time of writing this email, permits are not currently on the website, but are expected to be uploaded soon.

Authorised allied health workforces include:

  • Allied health services provided by allied health professionals working as authorised workers in hospitals, in residential care facilities providing critical clinical care or as directed by the hospital; or
  • Allied health professionals working in private or public community services, whether clinic-based or home-based, providing urgent clinical careNote: face to face appointments should only occur for urgent clinical care that cannot be deferred – routine face to face care is not permitted but may be provided via Telehealth; or
  • Allied health services provided by allied health professionals working in private practice providing care through telehealth and other virtual care options;
  • Medical/nursing/midwifery/allied health students on placement providing authorised care in hospitals or in residential care facilities, or through telehealth.

Urgent clinical care is defined as:
Direct clinical care (and other clinical support activity necessary to support direct clinical care) that prevents a significant change/deterioration in functional independence necessitating escalation of care OR is required as an adjunct to other urgent medical/surgical interventions.

For example, urgent clinical care:

  • that avoids a potential hospital admission or emergency department presentation
  • that prevents/delays the need for further specialist medical or surgical intervention
  • that prevents an increase in care needs that would necessitate additional carer supports or change in accommodation needs
  • that limits secondary complications post-surgery
  • where deferral would lead to long term adverse consequences (ie. delays to child development)

Stringent infection control procedures remain critically important, particularly in the context of the high transmissibility of the current Delta COVID-19 variant.

Updated 11-08-2021

VICTORIAN METROPOLITAN MELBOURNE MEMBERS

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews this morning announced that the current lockdown for metropolitan Melbourne will be extended to 11:59pm on Thursday 19 August.

This means that optometrists must continue to provide essential care only to patients. Routine care is not permitted under the current lockdown public health orders.

We’ve been advised that police are conducting random compliance checks on practices to ensure compliance with these public health orders.

Wherever practical, individuals should work at a single practice/clinic. Movement between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria is allowed for authorised work only, as required.

We’ve also had some enquiries about whether patients can travel to regional Victoria from metropolitan Melbourne for eye care.

We’ve been advised by the Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer that patients in metropolitan Melbourne can only receive essential care/services within a 5km radius, unless there is an established relationship with a provider (outside of the 5km radius) or the service is not available within a 5km radius. If it is the later, the expectation is that the patient would seek care from the next closest available provider.

We’re also aware that some patients may refuse to wear a mask, and we have some information that may help members navigate this tricky situation.

As always, a strong focus on stringent infection control procedures in the practice is critical, as is ensuring that any patients and staff attending the practice check-in using the free Victorian Government’s QR Code system.

Additional announcements regarding financial support for Victorian businesses affected by the lockdown are expected on Thursday 11 August.

The Department of Health has advised that all Victorian registered health practitioners are now eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, regardless of age. Health practitioners who have not yet had their first dose, are being encouraged to book in for their COVID-19 vaccination.

Updated 09-08-2021

REGIONAL VICTORIA ONLY

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today announced that regional Victoria will exit lockdown from 11:59pm tonight, Monday 9 August.

This means that the five reasons to leave home will be removed, with no limit on the distance that regional Victorians can travel from home.

Optometry practices will be able to return to routine care where this cannot be provided by telehealth. Delivery via telehealth should be preferenced wherever clinically appropriate.

However masks MUST continue to be carried at all times, and MUST worn indoors and outdoors, except when at home or if an exception applies.

We’ve received many enquiries about how to handle situations where a patient refuses to wear a face mask (often without any valid reason). Further information can be found here.

Density quotients of one person per four square metres also still apply for optometry practices.

Regional Victorians will only be able to travel to Melbourne for a permitted reason and MUST follow Melbourne restrictions while there. For residents of Melbourne, movement between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria is permitted only as required for authorised work. Wherever practical, individuals should work at a single practice or location.

All businesses and workplaces must ensure all workers and visitors check in using the free Victorian Government QR Code Service. Please also note that members have reported compliance checks in metro Melbourne to ensure routine care is not being undertaken.

As always, a strong focus on infection control procedures remains critically important.

Finally the Department of Health has advised that all Victorian registered health practitioners are now eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, regardless of age. Health practitioners who have not yet had their first dose, are being encouraged to book in for their COVID-19 vaccination.

The National Cabinet has also recently mandated vaccinations for allied health professionals employed by Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACF). For allied health professionals not employed by the RACF but who provide services within these facilities, vaccination is strongly encouraged.

Victoria’s Chief Allied Health Officer has provided clarification to OVic/SA on whether patients can travel from metro Melb to regional Vic for eyecare, particularly where they’re an existing patient of the practice: “Patients in metro Melbourne can only receive essential care/services within a 5km radius, unless there is an established relationship with a provider (outside of the 5km radius) or the service is not available within a 5km radius.  If it is the later, the expectation is that the patient would seek care from the next closest available provider”.

Updated 05-08-2021

Late this afternoon the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that Victoria will enter a seven-day, statewide lockdown from 8pm tonight, Thursday 5 August.

The Premier noted in the press conference that the same settings will apply as for the previous lockdown. There are only five reasons to leave home:

  • shopping for necessary goods and services (one person per household, once per day, a support person can accompany if required) within 5km of your home or nearest location;
  • exercising for up to two hours (with one other person or members of your household) within 5km of your home;
  • caregiving or compassionate reasons;
  • authorised work or permitted education or work interstate and,
  • getting vaccinated.

The Acting Victorian Chief Allied Health Officer has confirmed that allied health professionals including optometrists, are recognised as an authorised workforce for the following services:

  • Allied health services provided by allied health professionals working as authorised workers in hospitals or in residential care facilities providing critical clinical care or as directed by the hospital; or
  • Allied health workers professionals working in private or public community services, whether clinic-based or home-based, providing essential clinical care where telehealth services are not clinically appropriate; or
  • Allied health services provided by allied health professionals working in private practice providing care through telehealth and other virtual care options; or
  • Allied health students on placement providing authorised care in hospitals or in residential care facilities, or through telehealth.

Essential clinical care is defined as:

• to prevent a significant change/deterioration in functional independence which would result in an escalation of care needs (e.g. an increase in frequency of treatment needed, an increased need for prescription medication due to a significant increase in pain, requirement for specialist input or review, an increase in care needs, and/or a substantial increase to anticipated recovery time associated with a delay in receiving services)
• to provide assessment and diagnostic services to clients / patients whose care have been delayed as a result of previous restrictions, with any further delay likely to result in deterioration in functional independence or adverse health outcomes (including access to diagnostic imaging services or assessment for prescription of assistive equipment and technology)
• to provide services that are essential as part of a broader plan of care with a medical practitioner (e.g. fitting a brace post-surgery)
• to provide services that are part of a conservative management plan to avoid or delay elective surgery (as agreed with treating team)
• to provide services immediately following elective surgery that prevent secondary complications or aid functional recovery (as agreed with treating team).

Routine care is not permitted. Essential care can only be provided if this care cannot be delivered via telehealth.

This is the same level of care that was allowed during the most recent Victorian lockdowns in May/June and July this year.

In addition, the Acting Chief Allied Health Officer has highlighted that wherever practical, individuals should work at a single practice/clinic, and that movement between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria is allowed for authorised work only, as required.

Face masks MUST be carried at all times and MUST be worn indoors except if at home, or if an exemption applies, and MUST also be worn outdoors.

We’ve received many enquiries about how to handle situations where a patient refuses to wear a face mask (often without any valid reason). Further information can be found here.

A density quotient of 1 person per 4 square metres applies to all areas in the practice that are accessible to the public, and in closed workplaces and shared spaces such as lunchrooms.

All businesses and workplaces must ensure all workers and visitors check in using the free Victorian Government QR Code Service.

As always, a strong focus on infection control procedures remains critically important.

We know that for Victorians, experiencing a sixth lockdown can be incredibly challenging. We encourage you to seek support as you need it, including through the Resilience Box (now available for members as an app for your phone) and other mental health and wellbeing supports.

Financial assistance

The Minister for Industry Support and Recovery Martin Pakula is expected to make an announcement on Friday 6 August regarding financial support for businesses affected by the lockdown.

We will provide advice on the availability of income assistance from the Federal Government as it becomes available.

Vaccine update

Please note the Department of Health has advised that all Victorian registered health practitioners are now eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, regardless of age. Health practitioners who have not yet had their first dose, are being encouraged to book in for their COVID-19 vaccination.

Updated 27-07-2021

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews this morning announced that the Victorian Lockdown restrictions will be eased from 11.59pm Tuesday 27 July.

Under the eased restrictions the Victorian Acting Chief Allied Health Officer has confirmed that Victorian optometrists can return to routine care, where this cannot be provided by telehealth.

Telehealth remains the preferred service delivery model where clinically appropriate.

  • Masks must be carried at all times and worn indoors including in optometry practices by optometrists, practice staff, patients and any visitors to the practice. Masks musts also be worn outdoors.
  • Density limits of one person per four square meters are required.
  • The five reasons to leave home no longer apply. The five-kilometre limit on travel no longer applies. No visitors are allowed to people’s home.
  • Further easing of restrictions are expected to be announced in the next two weeks.

Financial assistance for SA and Victoria

Applications can still be made for income support through the Federal Government Covid-19 Disaster Payment for the lockdown periods. Applications must be made through the Services Australia website.

The following time periods for applications are outlined below.

Location Lockdown dates Claims open Claims close
Victoria 16 July to 22 July 2021 23 July 2021 12 August 2021
Victoria 23 July to 27 July 2021 25 July 2021 19 August 2021
South Australia 20 July to 27 July 2021 28 July 2021 16 August 2021

Optometry practices that are not registered for GST or sole trader locums not registered for GST can also apply for these payments. Some eligibility requirements do apply.

Victorian practices who have previously received a business support payment will automatically receive an additional payment. Practices who have not previously applied, or were not previously successful can contact Business Victoria for additional information and advice

Updated 21-07-2021

The Victorian Minister for Industry Support and Recovery Martin Pakula today announced additional financial support for businesses as a result of the extended lockdown. Payments will be automatically made to businesses who have previously successfully applied for assistance.

Businesses who have not previously applied for support or who were previously determined to be ineligible, and have since become eligible, can apply to Business Victoria for support for the whole of the July lockdown.

 Other important information

 In the context of these current outbreaks of the Delta variant strong infection control proceduresremain of the utmost importance.

You can also refer to the following guidance:

Need more information?
If you require further COVID-19 clarification or advice, please don’t hesitate to contact the Optometry Australia Optometry Advisor Helpdesk on 03 9668 8500 or at national@optometry.org.au

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