Government eases elective surgery restrictions

The Australian Government will gradually ease restrictions on elective surgery from Tuesday 28 April 2020.

Elective surgery

National Cabinet received up-to-date data on the stock of personnel protective equipment (PPE) in the National Medical Stockpile, and PPE held by state and territory health systems.

The National Medical Stockpile has dispatched over 22 million masks primarily to state and territories, GP’s, Community Pharmacy, ACHHOS and aged care, with a further 11.5 million being dispatched this week.

Unnecessarily delaying elective surgeries can worsen health outcomes, increase anxiety and reduce social and economic productivity. 

As result of Australia’s success in flattening the curve, our low rates of COVID-19 related hospitalization and new data on stocks of PPE, National Cabinet agreed that from 27 April 2020, category 2 and some important category 3 procedures can recommence across the public and private hospital sectors. 

National Cabinet further agreed that the following procedures can recommence from 27 April 2020:

  • IVF.

  • Screening programs (cancer and other diseases).

  • Post cancer reconstruction procedures (such as breast reconstruction).

  • Procedures for children under 18 years of age.

  • Joint replacements (incl knees, hips, shoulders).

  • Cataracts and eye procedures.

  • Endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures.

PPE stocks for these elective surgeries and procedures will not be taken from the National Medical Stockpile.

It is estimated that a gradual restart of elective surgeries will see 1 in 4 closed elective surgery operating lists reopen, with flexibility for states to determine the appropriate levels of elective surgery within this general framework.

Reintroduction of elective surgery in a staged manner balances the ongoing need for the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, while allowing our hospitals to treat elective surgery patients.

These arrangements will be reviewed by 11 May 2020, to determine if other elective surgeries and procedures can recommence and volumes increased.

Aged Care Response

National Cabinet discussed the lessons learned from recent COVID-19 outbreaks in residential aged care facilities and acknowledged the critical importance of adequate infection prevention and control measures in minimizing the spread of COVID-19.

It is not acceptable, fair or compassionate for any residential aged care facilities to ban visits from carers and families.

Infection prevention and control measures must be balanced against the needs and best interests of residents. Aged care providers are best placed to make these assessments on a case by case basis.

National Cabinet also reiterated that the following visitors and staff (including visiting workers) should not be permitted to enter the aged care facilities:

  • Those who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days;

  • Those who have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days;

  • Those with fever or any (even mild) symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath);

  • Those who have not been vaccinated against influenza (after 1 May).

All Governments are committed to protecting and supporting elderly and vulnerable.

Australians and are working together, with aged care providers, to manage infection control. This extends to supporting health and aged care workers to be safe and healthy while at work, including appropriate use of PPE and screening of staff.

Family members who may be concerned about the care being provided to loved ones in residential aged care facilities are encouraged to contact the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.


National Cabinet re-emphasized that the one person per four square metres rule does not apply in school classrooms. Schools should consult the most recent AHPPC advice, issued on 16 April 2020.


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