10 June 2021
Throughout the pandemic, a key focus for governments and their health officials has been to protect healthcare workers from contracting COVID-19.
The Department of Health, the Infection Control Expert Group and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee have constantly reviewed the medical evidence and regularly updated their advice which has been adopted by governments across the country.
In this context, experts from across a diverse range of fields have worked very closely together to continually update guidelines relating to the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) – including surgical face masks, respirators and eye protection.
Updated advice on infection prevention and control published today is the result of a significant body of work and reflects a balanced risk approach to protecting healthcare workers from COVID-19. It is based on the combined experience and expertise of everyone involved in updating the advice – and relates to healthcare workers in all settings, including hotel quarantine.
The Australian Government and its health officials have followed the emerging evidence and acknowledge aerosols play a role in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. If there is a risk a person might contract or spread COVID-19, the use of appropriate PPE is one of a range of important measures to prevent and control infection.
However, it is very important people understand PPE should be considered the last line of defence against infection within a broader framework of protection measures. Such a framework should include measures to minimise the risk of the virus spreading, including isolating cases and ensuring workplace practices are COVID-safe.
It is also vital healthcare workers are properly trained in how to use and correctly fit PPE – and that they ensure the equipment continues to be worn appropriately to provide the appropriate level of protection.
The updated guidelines are designed to supplement additional, detailed guidance available at the state, territory and institutional level.
We thank the members of the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) and the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce for their hard work and collaboration to update the earlier ICEG recommendations.