Important community updates

Last Updated: 09 Aug 2022 12:14am

    Antiviral medication

    9 August

    Some people have a higher-risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and influenza (flu) and may be eligible for medications to reduce the severity of illness and the risk of hospitalisation. These medications are referred to as antiviral medicines, or simply ‘antivirals’. Antivirals must be prescribed by a doctor.

    If you are at higher-risk and get sick with COVID-19 or flu, it is important you start taking antivirals as soon as possible.

    Find out if you’re at higher-risk from COVID-19 or flu.

    If you believe you are at high-risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or Influenza you should:

    • make a treatment plan with your GP or health care provider before you get sick
    • if you get any symptoms, contact your regular GP as soon as possible and get tested. If you get tested at a state-run PCR testing clinic you should let your GP know. Do not wait for your test result to contact your GP.
    • if you do test positive, let your GP know straight away. If you don’t have a regular GP or they are not available, doctors at GP-led Respiratory Clinics can provide guidance on how to access antivirals if you are eligible. Or, phone the COVID@homeplus team to discuss your care options. Let them know if you have any risk factors.Alternatively, the National Coronavirus Helpline 1800 020 080 can provide general guidance on antivirals or you can contact an afterhours doctors service.

    Antiviral medications may not be right for everyone, even if you are at higher risk of severe illness. Your GP, health care provider, or the COVID@homeplus team will assess you. They will consider other medical conditions you may have and other medications you are taking before prescribing antiviral medications.


    PCR testing announcement

    8 August

    From 9 August 2022, everyone who is tested at a state-run PCR clinic will be tested for COVID-19, Influenza A, Influenza B and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

    There will be no changes to how you book your test or how the test is completed – the lab will test for all four illnesses using the single swab taken from you at the testing clinic.

    If you book a test at a state-run PCR testing clinic, you will automatically be tested for all four illnesses. You cannot choose which viruses you are tested for.

    PCR testing at state-run clinics continues to be free for all Tasmanians.

    To book your test visit www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au/testing or phone the Public Health Hotline in 1800 671 738.

    Vulnerable people including older Tasmanians, young children and people who are immune suppressed or with chronic health conditions are recommended to get a PCR test. If you can’t access a PCR test, you should take a rapid antigen test to check if you have COVID-19.

    If you believe you are at high-risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or influenza it is important to get tested as soon as symptoms develop so you can quickly access antiviral medication. Find out more about antiviral medicine for COVID-19 and flu at www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au/pcr-result


    Free flu shots at GP clinics and pharmacies until 31 August 2022

    3 August

    The opportunity for all Tasmanians to get a free flu vaccine at participating GPs and pharmacies has been extended until 31 August 2022. The Department of Health are also continuing to offer free vaccines at state-run community clinics.

    Flu vaccines are available at:

    • participating GPs and state-run community clinics for all people aged 6 months and over
    • participating pharmacies for all people aged 10 years and over.

    Contact your GP or local pharmacy to book an appointment. Normal Medicare arrangements apply for GP consultations.

    To book a free flu vaccine at a state-run clinic, visit www.flu.tas.gov.au or call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

    If you are due for a COVID-19 booster dose, you can have this at the same time, or on the same day, as your flu shot.


    Changes to RAT distribution for concession card holders from 1 August

    22 July

    From August 1 pharmacies will no longer distribute free COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) for concession card holders.

    Instead, Service Tasmania will be the new distribution point to get free RATs if you are a concession card holder.

    The same eligibility and product limits apply, and please only attend at Service Tasmania if you are well.

    There are 27 service centres located around Tasmania. To find your nearest centre call 1300 13 55 13 or visit www.service.tas.gov.au

    If you don’t have a concession card or can’t get to a Service Tasmania centre, the Department of Health still provides free RATs to all Tasmanians who are symptomatic or a close contact, regardless of your concession card status. You can request RATs online by visiting www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au or by calling the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

    Eligible card holders:

    • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
    • Health Care Card
    • Low Income Health Care Card
    • Pensioner Concession Card
    • Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold, White or Orange card

    You will need to show:

    • your physical card; or
    • your digital card in the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app

    Limits – 10 RATs over a 3 month period. Maximum of 5 per month.


    Hospital visiting restrictions

    15 July

    Visitor restrictions have changed in our public hospitals.

    This is due to the current level of hospital demand and the level of COVID-19 transmission within the community.

    • Royal Hobart Hospital – one visitor per patient per day from 2pm to 6pm – 30 mins max.
    • Launceston General Hospital – one visitor per patient per day from 2pm to 6pm – 30 mins max.
    • North-West Regional Hospital – one visitor per patient per day from 2.30pm to 6pm – 1 hour max.
    • Mersey Community Hospital – one visitor per patient per day from 2pm to 6pm – 1 hour max.

    Please DO NOT visit our hospitals if you have COVID-19 symptoms or you are unwell – unless you require urgent medical assistance.

    All visitors must complete COVID-19 screening checks before entering and wear a face mask while on site.

    Exemptions to these visitor times are at the discretion of the nurse-in-charge.


    Better access to COVID-19 antiviral treatments

    12 July

    COVID-19 antiviral treatments are now available to more people who are at risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

    People who have a higher chance of getting very sick from COVID-19 and are eligible for treatment include:

    • anyone aged 70 years or older
    • anyone aged 50 years or older who has two or more risk factors
    • anyone aged 30 years or older and is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander who have two or more risk factors
    • anyone who is over 18 and is immunocompromised.

    Oral antiviral medicines for COVID-19 treatment must be given within five days of symptoms starting. You should discuss antiviral treatment options with your doctor or health care professional before you get sick, so you have a plan to access these treatments quickly if you do test positive.

    Even if you have a higher chance of severe illness from COVID-19, antiviral medicines may not be right for you. Your doctor will make an assessment as to whether antiviral medicines are needed and are safe for you to take. They will also consider other medical conditions you may have and any other medications you are taking.

    It is important to remember that although antivirals help prevent COVID-19 infection from becoming severe, they are not a replacement for vaccination or COVID-safe behaviours.

    See more about COVID-19 antiviral treatments, including the risk factors


    Free flu shots at GP clinics and pharmacies until 31 July 2022

    11 July

    The opportunity for all Tasmanians to get a free flu vaccine at participating GPs and pharmacies has been extended until 31 July 2022. The Department of Health are also continuing to offer free vaccines at state-run community clinics.

    Flu vaccines are available at:

    • participating GPs and state-run community clinics for all people aged 6 months and over
    • participating pharmacies for all people aged 10 years and over.

    Contact your GP or local pharmacy to book an appointment. Normal Medicare arrangements apply for GP consultations.

    To book a free flu vaccine at a state-run clinic, visit www.flu.tas.gov.au or call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.

    If you are due for a COVID-19 booster dose, you can have this at the same time, or on the same day, as your flu shot.


    Change to reinfection period

    8 July

    The Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are now being seen as the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Tasmania and Australia wide. These variants are more transmissible and have more chance of immune escape.

    Because of this, we are likely to see increased numbers of reinfections among those who have previously had COVID-19.

    Given reinfections with the BA.4/BA.5 variants may occur as early as 28 days after recovery from a previous COVID-19 infection, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has advised that the reinfection period has been reduced from 12 weeks to 28 days.

    People who have symptoms of COVID-19 more than 28 days following their release from isolation should stay at home, test and, isolate for at least 7 days if they test positive.

    Read the AHPPC statement.


    ATAGI expands COVID-19 winter dose recommendation

    8 July

    More people are now eligible for an additional COVID-19 booster vaccine (winter dose). The winter dose is also now available three months after a first booster dose rather than four.

    The recommendation from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) was made on 7 July 2022.

    ATAGI has updated its recommendations to help reduce severe disease from the emerging surge of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariant infections, and to reduce the burden on Australian hospitals and the healthcare system in coming months.

    People aged 50 to 64 years are now recommended to receive a winter booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Adults aged 30 to 49 years can receive a winter booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, however the benefit for people in this age group is less certain.

    ATAGI emphasises that people previously eligible for a winter booster dose remain at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and should receive a winter booster dose as soon as possible.

    Those at risk include people aged 65 years and older, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 50 years and older, people aged 16 years and older who are immunocompromised, and residents 16 years and older of aged care or disability care facilities.

    Influenza (flu) vaccine can be administered at the same time as the booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine. However, if a person is not yet due for their additional booster dose, flu vaccine could be given ahead of the booster dose.


    Public Health Emergency Declaration to end

    30 June

    The Public Health Emergency Declaration in response to COVID-19 will end in Tasmania from 12.01am Friday 1 July 2022.

    Although the Emergency Declaration will end, it is important to be aware that COVID-19 is still present in the Tasmanian community meaning that COVID-19 safe behaviours from individuals, businesses and workplaces remain just as important.

    Everyone should take an active role in assessing their own risk of COVID-19 and what they can do to reduce that risk.

    Although many COVID-19 restrictions and requirements have already been lifted, some measures will remain in place through Public Health Orders under the Public Health Act 1997.

    Measures that remain in place from 1 July 2022:

    • positive cases are still required to isolate for at least 7 days
    • close contacts are still required to follow close contact rules, including testing daily if leaving their home and wearing a mask when outside their home
    • anyone with symptoms, even mild, should still stay at home, get tested and report a positive RAT. The Department of Health will continue providing testing for COVID-19 including access to PCR testing and RATs.
    • workplaces need to continue to include COVID-19 as part of workplace health and safety practices and consider what they can do to reduce risks .
    • masks are no longer mandated in most settings but are still recommended.
    • COVID-safe behaviours are still recommended, including physical distancing and wearing a mask where it is not possible or where there are individuals who are at risk of severe illness

    Measures that are changing from 01 July 2022:

    • Public Health no longer require vaccination for certain workers, but individual workplaces may require vaccination as part of their workplace health and safety practices.
    • some settings, as part of their workplace health and safety risk assessments may keep requirements for some COVID-19 safety measures to protect those who are at risk from respiratory diseases such as COVID-19 and flu.
    • The current wastewater surveillance program will be stood down as it is most useful as an early warning for outbreaks during low community transmission. The program capability in Tasmania will be maintained to allow it to be recommenced if needed.


    Face mask changes

    23 June

    From 12:01 on Saturday 25 June 2022, face masks will no longer be required in schools, early childhood centres or on public transport (including the Spirit of Tasmania vessel and its terminals).

    Some public transport providers, schools and child care centres may still require face masks to be worn based on their individual risk assessment.

    Although wearing face masks will no longer be required in these settings, individuals can choose to continue wearing masks if they wish.

    From 1 July 2022, the requirement to wear face masks in all remaining settings, such as hospitals, residential aged care facilities, disability providers and correctional facilities, will be based on individual risk assessments for each of these settings.

    Close contacts will still be required to wear face masks when they are in indoor settings outside the home.

    Face masks, along with other COVID-safe behaviours, remain an important way to help reduce the risk of COVID-19. Although not mandatory, mask wearing is still strongly recommended in public places, especially where physical distancing is not possible.


    New operating hours for the Burnie COVID-19 Testing Clinic

    20 June

    From Saturday, 25 June 2022 the Burnie COVID-19 Testing Clinic will open from 9am-1pm, seven days a week, for PCR testing and distribution of Rapid Antigen Tests.

    Due to a decrease in demand for Rapid Antigen Tests, collection outside of these hours will no longer be available.

    To make a booking for a PCR Test or to organise collection of a Rapid Antigen Test please call the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738 or visit testing for COVID-19.


    Face masks recommended but not required at airports from Saturday 18 June 2022

    15 June

    Wearing of face masks in Tasmania’s airport terminals will no longer be required from 12:01am on Saturday 18 June 2022.

    Wearing of facemasks will still be required on board all aircraft across Australia. Airline passengers should continue to carry masks with them at all times when travelling.

    Masks will also not be required in schools, early childhood centres, on public transport or on the Spirit of Tasmania vessel or in its terminals from 12.01am on Saturday 25 June 2022.  However, some public transport providers and child care centres (staff and parents only) may still require them based on individual risk assessments for those settings.

    From 1 July 2022, the requirement to wear face masks in all other remaining settings such as hospitals, residential aged care facilities, disability providers and correctional facilities will be based on individual organisational risk assessments for each of these settings.

    Facemasks will still be required to be worn by close contacts when they are in indoor settings outside the home.

    Face masks, along with other COVID-safe behaviours, remain an important way to help reduce the risk of COVID-19. Although not mandatory, mask wearing is still strongly recommended in airport terminals and other indoor settings, especially where physical distancing is not possible.


    New protocols for operating cruise ships in Tasmania

    15 June

    New protocols for Tasmania are in place to guide the operation of cruise ships in relation to COVID-19 when the season restarts in October this year.

    The Tasmanian protocols include best practice measures around COVID-19 vaccination, testing, mask wearing, outbreak management and communications, and are closely aligned with the Eastern Seaboard Cruise Protocols.

    Entry of all cruise ships to Tasmania was paused in March 2020 and visits by small, domestic cruise ships with fewer than 100 passengers resumed in December 2021. The national ban on international cruising was lifted in April 2022 and most Australian jurisdictions have since announced plans to support the return of cruise ships.

    Read the Tasmanian cruise protocols.