COVID-19: Aged care providers

Information and guidance on COVID-19 for aged care providers under the COVID Protection Framework.

Page last updated: 30 June 2022

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Health workers can download the Āwhina app to stay up-to-date on the latest information relevant to COVID-19 and the health and disability sector.

Guidance for testing and isolation in Aged Residential Care (ARC) facilities

This document is to provide guidance for testing and isolation in aged residential care (ARC) facilities.  It includes information for staff, residents and visitors.

Aged Residential Care guidance for acute respiratory infections (including COVID-19 and influenza) and operation under the COVID-19 Response Framework 

This document provides guidance for aged residential care (ARC) providers to manage acute respiratory infections (ARI), which includes COVID-19 and influenza). This guidance should also be used by ARC providers for operation under the Government’s COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic lights).

COVID-19 vaccination

People who are fully vaccinated can still become infected. However, they are much less likely to become very unwell and less likely to transmit the virus to others, particularly if the people around them are also fully vaccinated.

The Ministry of Heath has announced the Public Health Response (Vaccination) Amendment Order (No 3) which requires health and disability (including aged care) staff to be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022. This requirement also applies to auditors undertaking HealthCERT audits.

More information and guidance about COVID-19 vaccination requirement can be found here:

New Zealand Pandemic Response Policy for Aged Residential Care

The New Zealand Pandemic Response Policy for Aged Residential Care should underpin all pandemic planning, including COVID-19, in aged residential care.

COVID-19 Outbreak Response Toolkit for Aged Residential Care

The Ministry partnered with the sector to develop the COVID-19 Outbreak Response Toolkit for Aged Residential Care. The Toolkit outlines the practical steps the responsible person within an aged residential care facility should follow in relation to preparing, responding to, and reviewing an outbreak of COVID-19. It includes relevant links to the most up-to-date information related to COVID-19 on the Ministry’s website. There are also downloadable resources and templates for use to support aged residential care facilities respond to an outbreak of COVID-19. 

See the COVID-19 Outbreak Response Toolkit for Aged Residential Care.

Six Principles for Safe Visiting and Social Activities in Aged Residential Care 

These Six Principles for Safe Visiting and Social Activities in Aged Residential Care support ARC providers in the development of policies and procedures that enable safe visiting, social activities and outings in the context of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19.

PPE use in health care

PPE should be used correctly and safely in accordance with the Ministry of Health guidance for health and disability care settings.

Following the risk assessment questions when a person’s COVID-19 status is unknown will help determine the type of PPE to use, if any. Risk assessments include checking if visitors/attendees/staff are or have been unwell, or if they have recently been in contact with someone who has been unwell.

The Ministry of Health is continually reviewing advice and guidance on the use of PPE. Read more about the risk assessment questions, the latest advice on PPE and its use in different health care settings, and guidance for P2/N95 particulate respirators in the absence of fit testing.

Winter wellness guidance for ARC Providers

As we progress through the winter season, we have seen a rise in seasonal colds, flu and other respiratory illnesses circulating within our communities and aged residential care facilities. To protect your staff and residents from the spread of respiratory infections this winter, and recognising COVID-19 is still circulating, it is important that you follow these infection prevention measures and that you support your staff to do the same. The more of layers of protection you put in place – such as staying home if sick, vaccination, mask wearing and ventilation – the harder it will be for infections to spread.

  • Staff should stay at home if they are unwell or have symptoms of COVID-19. It is important that people have time to recover from illness and are fit for work. For health advice, encourage staff to call Healthline on 0800 611 116, or their doctor.
  • Support staff to have their vaccinations against influenza and be up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, and to get tested for COVID-19 by providing flexibility to do this in work time.
  • Encourage staff to maintain good hand hygiene by washing and drying their hands thoroughly or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser. They should perform this regularly and at key times during care as described in the five moments of hand hygiene. It is also important to enable residents to clean their hands after using the bathroom and before mealtimes, and for visitors to be able to clean their hands on arrival at your premises.
  • Ensure staff use Standard and Transmission-based Precautions for all patient and resident care. This includes prompt assessment and isolation of anyone who has a transmissible respiratory infection.
  • Support staff to choose the correct personal protective equipment to wear for any task they need to undertake by using the Ministry of Health’s Infection Prevention and Control guidance for personal protective equipment (PPE) selection and risk assessment advice.
  • Ensure your business continuity plan for winter illness is up to date and that your staff are familiar with it, so they have clear guidance on what is expected of them when they are unwell.
  • Keep shared spaces clean. Ensure regular cleaning of your premises, paying special attention to high-touch surfaces. See cleaning and disinfection advice for more information.
  • Provide visible guidance for visitors to your premises to remind them of what they can or need to do to keep their loved ones safe when they visit.
  • Remind staff of the safe behaviours and healthy habits we’ve learned through our experience of COVID-19:
    • Wear a face mask when caring for someone who is unwell, or when you are in poorly ventilated spaces and it is hard to physically distance from other people.
    • Sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue. Avoid touching your face, dispose of tissues in a waste bin immediately and wash or sanitise your hands. This will prevent the risk of spreading COVID-19 and other viruses such as the common cold or flu.
    • Keep resident’s rooms and shared spaces well ventilated. Open windows and doors to increase fresh air. If mechanical ventilation is used, ensure the ventilation system is regularly maintained. See COVID-19: Ventilation for more information.

Protecting residents from the spread of infections is important, but social connection and physical contact with whānau are also fundamental to the health and wellbeing of those in aged residential care (ARC) facilities. It is essential that you have policies in place that enable safe visiting, social activities and outings to continue, even when a viral outbreak has occurred in your facility or community transmission of a serious illness is widespread (as defined by public health). This guidance supports providers in the development of these policies and procedures: Six Principles for Safe Visiting and Social Activities in Aged Residential Care.

Independent review into clusters of COVID-19 in aged residential care

Following the classification of five clusters of COVID 19 in ARC facilities, the Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, commissioned this review to quickly learn what was effective and what needs to be improved in order to avoid or better manage any similar events in the future. Read the full report and recommendations.

The report made 19 recommendations, which were turned into an action plan with seven workstreams. These workstreams have been addressed and the action plan is now considered fulfilled. Read the action plan.

Retirement Villages

Retirement Villages operate under the same guidance as the wider community where they are based. For example if your city or region is at Orange then the Retirement Village must also operate within the Orange guidance. Find more about the Traffic Light settings.

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