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Major update: No limits on unvaccinated staff and patients in NSW practices

Government-imposed limitations on unvaccinated patients and staff in New South Wales optometry practices have been lifted, with operators no longer needing to check the vax status of visitors.

Optometry NSW/ACT announced the major relaxation of rules late Tuesday 16 November, which came into immediate effect, seeing a near full return to normality for the state’s more than 2,000 practising optometrists.

It comes after density limits were relaxed on 8 November, now allowing businesses to have to one person per 2sqm.

In a message to optometrists, Optometry NSW/ACT confirmed practices can now:

  • See both vaccinated and unvaccinated patients without limitation.
  • There is no need to check vaccination status of anyone entering the practice.
  • Unvaccinated patients may browse without limitation.
  • Unvaccinated staff, both optometrists and front-of-house staff, may work without limitation.

Optometry NSW/ACT CEO Mr Andrew McKinnon said the situation did not change the right of practice owners to decide whether they accepted unvaccinated patients or to insist staff were vaccinated.

Andrew McKinnon.

“It simply means that there is no government compulsion to accept or reject patients or staff on the basis of their vaccination status,” he said.

With NSW reaching the 90% vaccination mark, McKinnon said the organisation received the updated advice from the COVID-19 Policy Co-Ordination Unit within NSW Treasury. This is the unit working with the various industry bodies on the rules as they apply to the various sectors.

The previous limitations on unvaccinated people in NSW were expected to remain in place until 15 December or 95% fully vaccinated, however when NSW reached the 80% fully vaccinated milestone, the health department advised it was looking at changes for health professionals to enable easier access to care.

Prior to this latest round of relaxed rules, staff who are not double vaccinated, or who do not hold a medical exemption, were not permitted to work and needed to take paid or unpaid leave, if the practice had returned to routine care.

Restrictions were also placed on unvaccinated patients who were not allowed to conduct general retail browsing in optometry practices, and could only be seen for essential eyecare and for related essential retail.

Other states 

Elsewhere, in Queensland on 11 November, the state government introduced mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all private healthcare staff, including the state’s 1,250 optometrists and their practice staff. The direction means everyone working in healthcare must be vaccinated by 15 December 2021, including private health workers.

In Victoria, which has almost 1,700 practising optometrists, routine care recommenced on 21 October. Optometrists and practice staff are required to be vaccinated under mandated rules. All general retail settings, including front-of-house areas re-opened on 29 October.

Optometry Victoria South Australia has also confirmed there is no requirement for patrons of general retail settings, including browsers in optometry retail settings, to be vaccinated.

The Victorian Premier this week flagged a further easing of restrictions will be announced towards the end of this week, in line with an anticipated 90% of the Victorian community being fully vaccinated.

A state-by-state breakdown of vaccination rules can be found on the Optometry Australia website.

More reading

Rules for the vaccinated and unvaccinated in NSW optometry practices from 11 October

Victorian optometrists to administer COVID-19 vaccines

ECPs can offer COVID-19 vaccine incentives, TGA says