Links to COVID-19 information and resources are on this web page, informed by our regular contact with Government agencies including the Ministry of Health, ACC and Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand. For the most current and accurate information please refer to Government websites. All PNZ member emails on COVID-19 are available here.
Please note this is a summary of current guidance as we understand it and not a substitute for legal advice. Please seek advice from a lawyer should you wish to understand how the information applies to your specific circumstances.
Updated 20 May 2022
COVID-19 Protection Framework (Traffic Lights)
All of New Zealand is currently in COVID-19 Protection Framework traffic light orange. A public health order regarding the protection framework is available at legislation.govt.nz and regular government updates on covid.govt.nz.
Physiotherapists can operate through the framework at all traffic light settings, as identified in Ministry of Health (MoH) guidance from December 2021 and a flowchart for allied health professionals. Please also subscribe to the MoH Health Workforce Sector Updates to receive their information directly.
Response to Omicron
With us all in the phased response to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, MoH has provided slides, a webinar recording, table and document outlining the overall response to Omicron as well as several sector updates (available at the bottom of this webpage). MoH has also published key information for Omicron cases and contacts and Omicron Q+A documents, with the MoH website identifying that physiotherapy services are in the list of Omicron Critical Health Services and considered to be Critical Workers.
Close Contact Exemption Scheme
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) have set up a register of critical workers as part of their Close Contact Exemption Scheme, where MBIE state "during Phases Two and Three of the Omicron response, workers at registered critical services who are vaccinated and asymptomatic close contacts of a COVID-19 case will be able to continue to work, as long as they return a negative rapid antigen test prior to each day/shift they are at work during the isolation period, and follow specific health protocols." They can also access rapid antigen test kits.
Please be aware of government requirements for testing and returning to work during Omicron, with each phase of the Omicron response requiring different isolation and quarantine requirements for cases and contacts. Information on managing workers who are COVID-19 cases, contacts or have symptoms is available at business.govt.nz. If a patient informs you they are a case, contact or have symptoms, MoH have guidance for situations where healthcare workers are COVID-19 cases or contacts during Omicron as well as for workplaces that have a case of COVID-19.
The MoH are also coordinating a non-DHB Allied Health surge workforce initiative, supporting allied health professionals to work in DHB services providing care to patients (COVID and non-COVID) in primary, community and hospital settings.
Requiring vaccination certificates
The MoH guidance statement identifies “to ensure that New Zealanders can access essential health services, a more limited subset of health services are prohibited from requiring vaccination certificates or vaccination. These health services must not deny access to premises or provision of goods and services on vaccination grounds. The health services that are subject to this prohibition are health services that are partly or wholly funded by certain government entities” and include ACC.
We understand that you are able to ask vaccination status as a part of your screening for COVID symptoms and risk (please refer to the Physiotherapy Board website for more on asking the vaccination status of a patient).
COVID-19 Vaccine Booster
With the COVID-19 Health Order regarding vaccinations amended on 23 January 2022, health and disability professionals including physiotherapists covered by the Order are required to have a COVID-19 booster by 15 February 2022 if eligible or six months from the date of completion of their primary vaccination course. For more information please refer to the MoH presentation on this and health.govt.nz.
Practices co-located in premises requiring a Vaccine Pass
Clause 33 of the Health Order specifies that people need to have access to health services without being asked their vaccination status. Following ongoing advocacy from PNZ and Exercise New Zealand, MoH has provided a letter clarifying clause 33 of the COVID-19 Protection Framework. This identifies that clause 33 would “allow access to a designated premise through somewhere that is otherwise requiring CVCs to operate”, noting that “there should be reasonable systems and processes in place to ensure that it is only the designated premise being accessed”. Exercise New Zealand have also published guidance for exercise facilities operating in the traffic light system.
We’ve been working with local government on clarity for access to physiotherapy practices based in fitness facilities including Council gyms and pools. A message has gone to all local government Councils confirming that access to physiotherapy practices must be provided to all people without requiring a vaccine pass as part of the Council responsibilities. Please check with your local Council for further guidance on this.
Risk Assessment and Face Masks
MoH has guidance on Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) practices and PPE in health and disability care settings for COVID-19 available at health.govt.nz. This includes advice on patient COVID-19 IPC risk assessment.
Government face masks requirements coming into effect on 3 February identify that “workers who are mandated to be vaccinated will need to wear a medical grade mask when working in public facing roles.” Additionally the PNZ Cardio-Respiratory Special Interest Group (CRSIG) advise that particulate respirators (P2/N95) are recommended when treating an individual with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, noting that particulate masks will not be effective without a tight seal. MoH have information on masks and particulate respirators and those who need to be fit tested can find more on providers at nzohs.org.nz.
The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP) have guidance on streaming patients with symptoms suggestive of respiratory infection and principles of care for unvaccinated patients. While RNZCGP have written this information for general practitioners it may be helpful to members.
A PNZ hosted webinar on delivering physiotherapy under the COVID-19 Protection Framework with law firm Duncan Cotterill and insurance partners BMS is available here, with further guidance in our COVID-19 member emails. MBIE have general advice on managing the impact of COVID-19 cases at your business and our employment support partner Humankind have provided a COVID-19 guide to supporting and paying your employees.
Please read details of the Government COVID-19 vaccine strategy, the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order and PNZ Position Statement on COVID-19 Vaccination for Physiotherapists. Further resources and guidance from the Ministry of Health (MoH) on COVID-19 vaccines are below.
- MoH COVID-19: Mandatory vaccinations.
- MoH COVID-19: Exemptions and exceptions from mandatory vaccination.
- MoH webinar on the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order.
Research Review have also published an article on vaccine misinformation discussing how this can undermine vaccine confidence and evidence-based strategies for countering vaccine hesitancy.
Do physiotherapy employees need to be vaccinated for their work?
A COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order came into effect on 25 October 2021 requiring health, education and corrections staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19. MoH have collated a guidance document for Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) and workers about the Order, including the process for reviewing vaccination status and guidance for managing staff who are unvaccinated.
Schedule 3 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order includes a recognised list of COVID-19 vaccines, which may be of particular interest if you have workers who are vaccinated overseas. If you do have workers who have received COVID-19 vaccinations overseas they will need to contact the MoH My Covid Record team on 0800 222 478 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Two amendments to the Order came into force on 15 May 2022 to:
- Expand the recognised list of COVID-19 booster vaccines under Schedule 4, and
- Introduce a new exemption process for mandated workers who test positive for Covid-19 to be exempt from being vaccinated or receiving their booster dose for a period of 100 days after the date they receive evidence of their positive test. The new process will be administered by the PCBU (Employer) and the worker must provide evidence of their test result to their employer. The current medical advice is to wait three months before receiving your next COVID-19 vaccination (booster or second dose). This impacts some workers who are mandated or required to be vaccinated and boosted and are not able to meet these timeframes because they have had COVID-19.
Physiotherapists in schools
With the education sector vaccine mandate removed from 4 April 2022 but remaining for the health and disability sector, PNZ has asked how this impacts allied health professionals working in schools. The MoH view is that the Order is sector-agnostic and relates to the type of work being conducted, with registered health professionals still expected to comply with the health order as they are providing a health service in this case within an education setting.
How is a vaccination an exemption granted?
A suitably qualified medical practitioner or nurse practitioner (the applicant) may apply on behalf of a person that the Order applies to and who is not vaccinated. The application may only be on the grounds that the person meets the specified exemption criteria. That application is submitted to the temporary medical exemptions panel run by the Ministry of Health. Read more here and for questions please contact email@example.com.
What if I'm unable to receive a vaccination while recovering from COVID-19?
MoH made changes to the temporary medical exemption process in March 2022 for people who either have or have recently recovered from COVID-19, and as a result may be unable to receive a vaccination or booster vaccination. Covered by category 1A of the temporary medical exemption criteria, more on this change is available here.
Can physiotherapists administer COVID-19 vaccinations?
General Practitioners, nurses and pharmacists are the first vaccinators. If there is a greater need than this then recently retired GPs, nurses and pharmacists will be Tier 2. Physiotherapists may be called in as part of a surge workforce if additional capacity is required. Physiotherapists who take up this training would expected to be those who are already competent in injections, within current scope.
MoH have paid and volunteer opportunities available in various locations as part of the COVID-19 vaccination workforce, including administration, vaccination, and support and liaison roles. Applicants can specify how far they’re willing to travel for work, and the days and hours they're available, by registering at health.govt.nz.
The Physiotherapy Board has noted that being a vaccinator is within the General Scope of Practice. Therefore, you must be registered, hold a current APC and have completed the vaccinator training. There is also a position statement on New Zealand registered physiotherapists practising in a defined field outlining when a physiotherapist is deemed to be competent in an area of practice.
The vaccine rollout is being run through DHBs and Public Health Units. Our experience to date is there is much regional variation in this interpretation and we are continuing to advocate for certainty in this space. The path to become vaccinators is also delegated to DHBs and therefore variable around the country. Please check your DHB website for more information.
Will the current BMS insurance cover this modality?
BMS have confirmed that COVID vaccination is included the PNZ scope of practice, list of modalities, on the basis the physiotherapist has evidence of completing the approved COVID vaccinator training. If your employer requires evidence of you having personal indemnity insurance prior to working as a vaccinator please contact BMS on 0800 999 267 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will District Health Boards provide insurance cover for vaccinators?
If a physiotherapist is taking on a vaccinator role for the MoH or a DHB, MoH has advised that the determination of personal indemnity insurance cover will be on a DHB by DHB basis. Physiotherapy vaccinators should check with their DHB as to whether the DHB is carrying the insurance to cover vaccination staff. If your DHB does not provide indemnity insurance cover and you are required to show evidence of personal indemnity insurance prior to delivering vaccinations please contact BMS.
The latest Government information for businesses is available at business.govt.nz including a summary of financial support. A COVID-19 Business Helpline, 0800 500 362 (North Island) or 0800 505 096 (South Island), is also available to provide support and advice. PNZ has a webpage with COVID-19 Business Information and FAQs that you may find helpful and MoH has COVID-19 advice for international travellers.
Our employment support partner Humankind also hosted a webinar for PNZ members outlining employer obligations and options during COVID-19. Resources discussed in the webinar include COVID-19 considerations for employers, counselling services and the Mental Health Foundation website.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to some of our COVID-19 member queries are available at pnz.org.nz. These have been developed with the Physiotherapy Board and are intended to complement MoH guidance. World Physiotherapy have also collated COVID-19 resources at world.physio.
The Cardio-Respiratory Special Interest Group (CRSIG) have written Respiratory Physiotherapy Guidelines for Managing Patients with COVID-19 Infection and the Paediatric Special Interest Group (PSIG) have guidance for physiotherapists working in schools. The CRSIG has also provided links to Physiotherapy Management for COVID-19 in the Acute Hospital Setting and Respiratory Physiotherapy in Patients with COVID-19 Infection in Acute Setting.
Please follow MoH guidance on the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). If you are looking to purchase PPE Whiteley Allcare are long-time supporters of PNZ and the physiotherapy profession.
The covid19.govt.nz website offers advice for looking after your mental wellbeing, Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui have resources to help cope with COVID-19 and the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand have a web page on looking after mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19. This includes free call and text numbers to speak with a trained counsellor.
Older Adult Super Seven Strength and Balance Exercises
In response to COVID-19, a team of DHB clinical leaders identified a need for an exercise programme designed to be done safely at home for older adults known to community services. Collated by Liz Binns and Denise Taylor (AUT University), with input from Ricky Bell (Waikato Institute of Technology), John Parsons (The University of Auckland) and a number of DHB colleagues, the Super Seven Strength and Balance Exercises are available here.
Rehabilitative Interventions in COVID-19 Survivors
This document provides an expert-based opinion on Early and Short-Term Rehabilitative Interventions (After the Acute Hospital Setting) in COVID-19 Survivors. Please note that this is a living document published fortnightly. Information is contained in the document about how input from peers can be sent to the group.
A document from BMS on COVID-19 is available here. Please note the following advice regarding BMS insurance and telehealth services. Telehealth is an acceptable practice provided it’s considered within the scope of your individual practice. Your professional indemnity policy with BMS has a jurisdictional limitation within New Zealand. The policy terms and conditions will still apply in the event of a claim." BMS can be contacted at 0800 999 267 and email@example.com.
A number of COVID-19 online learning resources are available to physiotherapists. This includes courses and webinars through Physioplus, the Clinical Skills Development Service and Australian Physiotherapy Association.
Page updated 20 May 2022