Recent Updates

Keep up to date with what's happening in Victoria and what this means for your practice.

This page was last updated 18 Oct 2021.

Here we have compiled the current information about COVID-19, any applicable restrictions and what they mean for your practice. We encourage ADAVB members and authorised practice managers to check their email inboxes for the full member updates.To continue receiving all member updates, please ensure you have renewed your ADAVB membership, which was due on 1 July 2021. Non-members find out more and join the ADAVB to be kept up to date and supported with member-only services and resources.

Dental restrictions lifted

Lockdown restrictions have now been lifted across Victoria. The Authorised Worker list no longer applies which means that dental practices can return to pre-lockdown settings with no restrictions on patient access to care. 

Dental practices will be required to have a COVIDSafe plan and maintain a density limit of one person per four square metres.

We continue to see exposure events involving dental practices. For this reason, it is important to screen patients prior to attendance at the dental clinic. Patients should be screened for possible COVID-19 symptoms, and possible attendance at any exposure sites. You should continue to defer all non-urgent dental care for patients who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or who have been at an exposure site.

Guidelines to manage exposures and isolation are currently being updated, and we will advise members of these changes when they become available.

Roadmap

The Victorian Government has released the roadmap for reopening, which has been developed based on expert modelling from the Burnet Institute taking into account COVID-19 thresholds for hospitalisation rates and the vaccination targets set out in the National Plan.

The roadmap maintains the authorised worker list for all businesses until Victoria reaches the target of 70% of the 16+ years old population is fully vaccinated – which is expected to be 26 October 2021. From there the authorised worker list will be removed and businesses will be able to operate with a COVIDSafe plan and density limits with no restrictions on dental practice. This means that the current restrictions on dental practice in areas of lockdown will continue until Victoria reaches the 70% vaccination threshold.

Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination

The Victorian Government also made an announcement that all healthcare workers would be required to have had at least their first vaccination dose by 15 October. More information on the requirements can be found here.

It is therefore important for all members and their staff to get vaccinated in order to comply with this requirement. View information on how to book your COVID-19 vaccine appointment here.

Victoria/NSW cross-border communities (updated 4 September)

From 11.59pm on Thursday 2 September six Victorian local government areas (LGAs) including Greater Bendigo, Greater Shepparton, City of Benalla, Buloke, Loddon, Yarriambiack and two NSW LGAs - Broken Hill and Edward River - are no longer included as a cross border community.

This means residents in those LGAs will no longer be eligible for a Cross-border Extreme Risk Zone permit to enter Victoria or return from NSW. There are no changes to other border bubble communities. People who are entering Victoria from outside the cross-border area (including in a local government area that has been removed from the cross-border area) are no longer eligible to obtain the cross border community - Extreme Risk Zone permit. These people will need another valid permit, exemption or exception to enter Victoria. For more information, visit the Travel Permit System page.

Residents of the cross-border communities are required to obtain a permit to cross between Victoria and NSW. The permit will improve the ability to track who is entering Victoria from NSW to make it easier to rapidly get information to contact tracers and to monitor for compliance. The reasons for cross border residents to cross the Victorian-NSW border still include:

  • Necessary goods and services, including health care (including dental care)
  • Care or other compassionate reasons
  • Work (whether paid or voluntary, including for charitable or religious purposes)
  • Education (including childcare or early childhood services) 
  • Receiving a COVID-19 vaccination
  • Organised/community sport and exercise connected to or organised by a club or facility.

Residents can apply for a permit at the Service Victoria website and via the Service Victoria app.

Face masks

Masks continue to be required everywhere indoors and outdoors (except private residences), unless an exception applies. All staff must wear a face mask in all areas of the dental practice (not just when treating patients) and patients must wear a face mask in the reception area. The face mask requirement applies to everyone aged 12 years and older unless an exemption applies. It is recommended that primary school age children wear masks indoors and outdoors, except at home or if an exception applies.

HR advice

Find information on how to manage your workforce during lockdowns here.

Financial support

Businesses and workers may be eligible for funding support from the Victorian and Federal Governments relating to the current lockdown. More information on the various support packages is available here.

QR Code Service

All businesses are required to use the free Victorian Government QR Code Service unless an exception applies. Dental practices are not listed as an exception from this requirement, and had to be compliant by 11:59pm 24 June 2021.

Anyone attending a workplace must check in, regardless of how long they spend at the venue. This includes staff, patients and support people or family members, contractors and delivery people.

For patients or visitors without a smart phone, businesses can set-up a kiosk check-in service in the Services Victoria app. This allows businesses to use their own smart phone, tablet or computer to check-in visitors, making it easier to capture their details so that contact tracers can contact people quickly if an outbreak occurs.

If a business that is required to keep electronic records is found without the free Victorian Government QR Code Service in place, or is not requiring customers to check in, they may be issued with a $1652 on-the-spot fine for non-compliance. An improvement notice may be issued at the same time to ensure the non-compliance is rectified.

Screening

Practices should continue to screen patients for symptoms and if they have been at any of the potential exposure sites. Practices near Tier 1 and Tier 2 exposure sites need to be on alert for staff and patients who may have inadvertently crossed paths with potential carriers. You should defer treatment for anyone reporting symptoms or anyone who has been at one of the exposure sites.

Screening patients prior to presenting for treatment remains our first line in helping to reduce the risk of exposure in our practices. Remaining abreast of the exposure sites is challenging and the following strategy may assist practices who use SMS appointment confirmation methods. The links to Department of Health updates permit access to the most up-to-date information for symptoms and exposure sites. You may choose to adapt this to suit your needs. In addition, staff should continue to attest their symptom free status and ensure they are not implicated by exposure sites prior to commencing work.

SMS confirmation: Incorporating COVID screening

[Name] your next appointment is on [day, date and time] with Dr [Name]

Please contact us before attending your appointment if any of the following apply. You:

These questions are relevant to anyone accompanying you on the day.

Confirm YES if these do not apply

Masks [are]/[are not] required to be worn in our facility. [Lawful exceptions apply]

We are happy to answer any questions you have. Contact us on [03] ……..

[Your practice name]

Density requirements

A density quotient of one person per four square metres applies to all premises and spaces that are accessible to the public (and in closed workplaces, to shared spaces such as lunchrooms). Staff who share these publicly accessible spaces are counted in the density quotient.

COVIDSafe plans

Every employer in Victoria is required to have a COVIDSafe Plan in place for their workplace. Key messages for employers:

  • Every employer must have a COVIDSafe Plan, including employers within the healthcare and social assistance sectors
  • Workplaces do not have to lodge their COVIDSafe Plan with the Victorian Government; however, you may be required to provide your COVID Safe Plan to DHHS or WorkSafe upon request or in the event of a confirmed positive case at your workplace
  • The COVID Safe Plan template and guidance on creating a COVID Safe workplace can be found here (Note: you are required to use the COVIDSafe Plan template supplied by Business Victoria) 
  • The ADA also has a COVID Safe Plan (member only) available on its website, under Practice Policies.

WorkSafe notifications

Employers must notify WorkSafe immediately on becoming aware that an employee, an independent contractor or a contractor's employee has received a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis and has attended the workplace during the infectious period (14 days prior to the onset of symptoms or a confirmed diagnosis until the day on which they receive clearance from isolation from the Department of Health). Self-employed persons are also required to directly inform WorkSafe immediately on receiving a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis if they have attended the workplace during the infectious period.

Failing to notify WorkSafe under section 38 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) can lead to fines of up to $43,617 for an individual or $218,088 for a body corporate. The new regulations came into force on 28 July 2020 and were to remain in place for 12 months. They were extended for another 12 months on 27 July 2021. 

Information about notifying WorkSafe Victoria is available on its website.

Urgent dental treatment for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases or those in quarantine

Dental Health Services Victoria advises that urgent treatment for confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases should be managed in an acute hospital with an OMFS registrar. These include The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Austin Hospital, Dandenong Hospital, Monash Medical Centre, St Vincent’s Hospital, University Hospital Geelong – Barwon, Footscray Hospital – Western Health, and The Royal Children’s Hospital. Learn more here.

COVID-19 transmission

It is important to communicate to all members of the dental team the fundamental measures to take outside of the dental practice to stay safe:

  • Maintain physical distancing of at least 1.5m from others
  • Practice good hygiene, including hand-washing and sanitising, particularly when shopping or in external environments
  • Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette – cough or sneeze into a flexed elbow, and wash your hands after using a tissue
  • If you are feeling unwell, get tested, stay home and avoid contact with others
  • Encourage your staff members to pass this advice on to their family and friends.

Dental practice setting

Any member of the dental team could contract COVID-19 and bring it into the dental practice while they are asymptomatic, and risk spreading it to other members of the team. To reduce the risks of spreading COVID-19:

  • Ensure that team members always maintain adequate distancing where possible, including when they are wearing face masks
  • Consider staggering meal breaks to minimise the number of staff in common areas
  • Do not share drink bottles, and avoid sharing glasses, crockery or cutlery in the workplace unless they are cleaned in a dishwasher on a high heat setting. If there is no dishwasher, ensure that staff can wash and dry their own items
  • Review processes where members of the team may share or touch the same item in the practice, e.g. telephones, keyboards, photocopiers and EFTPOS machines, and minimise shared items where possible. Ensure that staff maintain good hand hygiene in these situations
  • Provide a physical barrier between patients and reception staff
  • Ask practice staff to wear a mask when they are unable to keep 1.5m distance from others, in line with the Victorian Government’s recommendation.

Healthcare worker infections

The Victorian Government publishes information and data on healthcare worker infections.

During the second wave, 42 per cent of infections occurred in aged care settings, and 32 per cent were in hospitals, with nurses (41 per cent) and aged/disability care workers (41 per cent) having the highest number of infections. Dental practitioners were grouped in the 13 per cent of other healthcare workers who have contracted the virus.

If you or any member of your team has tested positive for COVID-19, please call our Community Relations team on 8825 4600 for a confidential discussion.

Following government directives and ADAVB recommendations

There are several risks that members expose themselves to by not following government directives or recommendations, or our recommendations to practice under restrictions where applicable. Risks include:

  • You, a staff member or patient may contract COVID-19 in the workplace
  • You may not be meeting your occupational health and safety obligations. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic), employers are required to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of their employees in the workplace. Continuing to practice outside what is specified by the Government or recommended by us exposes employers to the potential for liability if one of their staff members contracts COVID-19 in the workplace
  • Potential professional indemnity exposure. Guild has advised that practitioners should comply with all published professional and/or government protocols and standards, and this would include the ADAVB dental practice recommendations.

The Dental Board of Australia has said that dental practitioners have a duty to make the care of patients or clients their first concern, and to practise safely and effectively, noting that the risk of transmission may increase due to an outbreak or hot spot of COVID-19.

Further information

Previous updates