Department of Health

COVID-19 case definitions

People who have or have had COVID-19 may have their case status defined as confirmed, high-risk suspected, low-risk suspected or negative. The table provides more detail around these definitions.

The appropriate level of PPE can be determined from the table and by referring to A guide to the conventional use of personal protective equipment (PPE) - COVID-19 (Word).

Confirmed COVID-19 cases

A person who tests positive to a validated SARS-CoV-2 test.

High-risk suspected COVID-19 (high-risk SCOVID) cases

  1. A person in quarantine for any reason, including being a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, or a returned traveller from overseas or an interstate area with outbreaks (as defined by public health in the previous 14 days) with or without a compatible clinical illness. This group is also referred to as 'at-risk'.

    People who have been released from a quarantine facility (in the previous 14 days) but have not undertaken any post-quarantine testing (on days 17 and 21) should be tested and Tier 3 PPE should be used by healthcare workers until their negative status is confirmed.
  2. A person with a compatible clinical illness who meets one or more of the following epidemiological risk factors in the 14 days prior to illness onset:
    • contact with a confirmed case or an exposure site as defined by public health
    • worked in an area where there is an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission, for example:
      • hotel quarantine workers or any workers at ports of entry
      • aged care workers/ healthcare workers in a location where there is an active outbreak
      • other high-risk industries (such as abattoirs) where there are known cases or high levels of community transmission
    • lived in or visited a geographically localised area at higher risk as determined by public health
    • has been released from a quarantine facility.

Low-risk suspected COVID-19 (low-risk SCOVID) cases

A person who has symptoms that could be consistent with COVID-19 (for example, cough, sore throat, fever, shortness of breath or runny nose) but no epidemiological risk factors as listed in the high-risk SCOVID definition.

Where a patient's history cannot be obtained, they should be considered as a low-risk suspected case until further screening information can be obtained, at which point a revised diagnosis of the patient's condition can be made and appropriate changes to PPE implemented.

Negative COVID-19 cases

  1. A person who tests negative to a validated SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid test
  2. A person who is a cleared case
  3. A person who screens negative and/or has no clinical or epidemiological risk factors for COVID-19

This guidance has been updated to align eye protection advice with the Victorian Health Service Guidance and Response to COVID-19 Risks (VHSGR) and to amend the high-risk suspected (SCOVID) definition to include people who have been released from a quarantine facility (in the previous 14 days).

Personal protective equipment supply data

This weekly personal protective equipment (PPE) supply update (PPT) for the health services sector provides current information about stock availability, weeks of cover at current and peak use, and an overview of the supply of each of the models of P2/N95 respirators.

For health service PPE supply enquiries, please contact the following:

Service type Primary source of PPE
NDIS Australian Government Department of Health:
Private aged care services Australian Government Department of Health:
Private hospitals Private suppliers

Public hospitals can request PPE through the Zycus online ordering portal. Other Department of Health-funded services can request PPE through

P2/N95 respirators

Healthcare workers must wear a N95/P2 respirator:

  • at all times when providing care to high-risk suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases, regardless of the amount of time in contact
  • when undertaking an aerosol-generating procedure (AGP) on a person assessed as low-risk suspected, high-risk suspected or a confirmed COVID-19 case
  • when providing care to a person assessed as low-risk suspected, high-risk suspected or a confirmed COVID-19 case and there is a risk of aerosol-generating behaviours.
  • when closely interacting with returned travellers at ports of entry or hotel quarantine locations, including performing testing for COVID-19
  • when providing care to low-risk suspected COVID-19 cases if the risk of community transmission is increased in line with the Victorian Health Service Guidance and Response to COVID-19 Risks (VHSGR) COVID Active and COVID Peak stages.

Use of N95/P2 respirators is not required for healthcare workers:

  • undertaking surgery or AGPs on patients who are not low-risk suspected, high-risk suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases (with Tier 1 PPE precautions)
  • undertaking testing for COVID-19 at a community testing site (with Tier 2 PPE precautions)
    Note: If the risk of community transmission increases, in line with the VHSGR COVID Active and COVID Peak stages, Tier 3 PPE is recommended for staff undertaking testing for COVID-19 at community testing sites
  • working with patients with aerosol-generating behaviours who are not confirmed or assessed as low or high-risk suspected COVID-19 cases (with Tier 1 PPE precautions).

If the risk of bodily fluid splash is low, staff may wear a non-fluid-resistant P2/N95 respirator with a face shield.

Do not use P2/N95 respirators with a valve. The air you exhale may expose other healthcare workers and patients.

Transition between 3M Aura respirators

Advice has been circulated by the Department of Health regarding the State Supply Chain transition from the 3M Aura 9320A+ to the 3M Aura 1870+ respirator in stock from August 2021.

The 1870+ is the same shape and a very similar design to the 9320A+ and has been performing well in fit testing with Victorian healthcare workers. Compared to the 9320A+, the 1870+ respirator:

  • is specifically designed for healthcare use
  • is considered a surgical respirator by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
  • has superior fluid resistance (level 3).

Guidance on the use of respirators and order for fit testing will be issued to the sector, which will reaffirm that the 1870+ and other models should be used to fit test health care workers instead of the 9320A+.

For any new staff not yet fit tested, fit testing should be conducted as per the revised guidance.

For staff that have already been fit tested to one or more of the respirators that are no longer included on the list of respirators for testing (that is, Aura 9320+, Detmold and Honeywell), health services will need to re-test these staff over time to ensure they are fit tested to at least 3 of the available respirators.

How and when to use PPE

The Guide to the conventional use of PPE (Word) describes the appropriate use of PPE for the Victorian healthcare sector during the COVID-19 pandemic response.

This guidance is supported by the current COVID risk status described by the Victorian Health Service Guidance and Response to COVID-19 Risks (VHSGR).

Further advice can be found in the current infection prevention and control resources. Infection control posters and signage for workplaces are also available.

Extended use of PPE

Unless damp or soiled, staff may wear a surgical mask, P2/N95 respirator for up to four hours.

Isolation gowns may be used for extended periods in specific cohorting environments.

Single-use goggles and face shields can be worn for an entire shift. However, eye protection must be replaced after assisting with an aerosol-generating procedure.

Where single-use face masks, face shields or goggles are used for extended periods, good hand hygiene and sanitising should be maintained.

For reusable face shields a process should be in place to ensure appropriate decontamination.

Remove and dispose of all items before going on a break and replace before resuming work.

Change gloves between every patient interaction.

Further advice can be found in the current infection prevention and control resources.

Employers and individuals should consider strategies to minimise the impact of heat and heat stress, particularly during the warmer months. Controlling heat stress in health and human services is a guide for employers and their staff to prevent heat related illness at work, when wearing PPE.

Single-use and reusable PPE

The use of some PPE can be extended for sessions such as swabbing multiple people in a testing clinic; for example, masks, protective eye wear and gowns.

Gloves must be changed and hand hygiene performed between each patient. Masks may be worn for up to 4 hours, unless damp or soiled. Goggles and gowns may be used for a similar period but must be replaced if they become soiled.

When single-use PPE is removed it must be disposed of and not reused. If reusable, it must be cleaned and disinfected before reuse.

Further advice, including posters with the correct technique for how to put on (don) and take off (doff) PPE, PPE spotter guidance, use of eye protection, disposal of clinical waste, and the airborne and contact precautions to take when removing gown and gloves separately and together can be found at infection prevention and control resources.

This video created by Melbourne Health demonstrates the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for contact and droplet precautions.

Reviewed 01 November 2021

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