COVID-19 Update for Massage Therapists & Practitioners– Permitted Services in States and Territories

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01 September, 2020

COVID-19 Update for Massage Therapists & Practitioners– Permitted Services in States and Territories

In this blog we seek to clarify the various Government Directions and advice issued across the States and Territories on the closure of non-essential businesses and services, and non-essential gatherings, as they relate to massage and manual therapy practice.

We have broken this post into two sections:  Section 1 contains general advice to all practitioners of manual therapy and massage services; Section 2 is a State-by-State breakdown which aims to provide further clarification on which services may be provided in each State and Territory, and under what circumstances.

This is a summary of the various directions currently in force as they relate to massage and manual therapists only, to our best understanding at the time of writing.  It does not aim to replace the Directions and advice issued by authorities in each jurisdiction. You must read and follow the Directions currently in force in your State or Territory and satisfy yourself that you are permitted to practice before doing so.  If you are in any doubt as to whether you are permitted to practice you should seek further clarification from your State or Territory health authority.

 
 

Section 1:


Massage and manual therapy services fall into one of three distinct groups depending on the type of treatment or modality and/or the qualifications of the therapist. These groups are treated differently under the Directions:
 
 
1) Health services provided by health practitioners registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.  This group includes chiropractors, physiotherapists, osteopaths and occupational therapists.  It also includes registered Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists with Protected Titles under the Scheme. 

Practitioners in Victoria please read the important update in section 2.



Currently, these services are regarded as essential in all States and Territories, except under specific circumstances in the Melbourne metropolitan area.  Directions on physical distancing and non-essential gatherings and record keeping still apply, as do the directions around prohibited businesses and places.  For further detail on the directions that apply in your jurisdiction, see the summary for your State or Territory below.



2) Professional massage services that are therapeutic or remedial and provided as a healthcare service (as distinct from a personal service such as relaxation massage).  The exact wording used to describe this group of services varies between jurisdictions.  These services are permitted in all states and territories, but only under very specific circumstances in the Melbourne metropolitan area, subject to the directives and clarifications issued by authorities in each jurisdiction.

Directions on physical distancing and non-essential gatherings still apply to the extent possible, as do the other directions on closure of non-essential businesses and places. For further detail on the specific directions that apply in your jurisdiction, see the summary for your State or Territory below.


3) Relaxation massage and other types of non-therapeutic massage.  These types of massage are currently permitted in all states and territories except Queensland and Victoria, subject to the directives and clarifications issued by authorities in each jurisdiction.


Directions on physical distancing and non-essential gatherings still apply to the extent possible, as do the other directions on closure of non-essential businesses and places. For further detail on the specific directions that apply in your jurisdiction, see the summary for your State or Territory below.

It is not our position to advise you on whether or not to practice in the current circumstances.  If you are permitted to practice, it is still your choice whether to remain open or closed, and you must decide for yourself whether the services you provide are essential at this time.  

If you do decide to practice, you should undertake a thorough risk assessment and management strategy for your practice with particular consideration to:  

 
• Patient and practitioner screening for COVID-19 infection risk and co-morbidity risk
• Scheduling strategies and waiting room procedures to ensure physical distancing requirements are adhered to
• Cleaning and disinfection of surfaces including waiting room surfaces
• Cleaning and disinfection of massage and treatment tables and equipment after each client
• The potential use of PPE (face masks and/or shields)
• Regular and thorough washing of hands and arms before and after each client

Massage & Myotherapy Australia’s Q&A with Dr. Norman Swan has some excellent information to help massage therapists minimise the risks to themselves and their clients.
 
 

Section 2:

For a more detailed summary specific to your state or territory, please see below:
 

 

Australian Capital Territory


The Public Health (Closure of Non-Essential Business or Undertaking) Emergency Direction 2020 (No 5) specifically exempts “massage services provided by or for allied health services, such as remedial, sports, and lymphatic massage” from the list of businesses that must close.  
 
From 12 noon on Friday 19 June 2020, beauty therapy providers, tattoo parlours, nail salons and spa and massage parlours can now operate with a maximum of 100 people (including staff) per indoor space or one person per 4 square metres, whichever is lesser.


• All venues need a COVID Safety Plan.
• Venues are required to ask all clients for their first name and phone number, and record it along with the date and time they attended the venue.  Details can be safely destroyed after 28 days.
• Venues should carefully manage the entry, exit and flow of clients through their premises.
• Increase cleaning of high touch areas and restroom facilities.
• Clients should maintain physical distancing of 1.5m from each other.
 

New South Wales


NSW Public Health Orders includes “remedial or therapeutic massage services” among the healthcare services that may remain open.

Beauty, nail, waxing and tanning salons, tattoo and massage parlours, and spas can also reopen from June 13.


• Capacity must not exceed 20 customers or one customer per 4 square metres (including staff members) on the premises, whichever is the lesser.
• Operators must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan.
 
 
 

 

Northern Territory


The Directions to Close Public Places specifically exempts “massage services that are provided as allied health services… Examples: Remedial massage, sports massage, lymphatic massage” from the list of businesses that must close.

Relaxation massage is also now permitted.  Businesses must complete and submit a COVID-19 Safety Plan to demonstrate how they will meet the required physical distancing and hygiene rules.
 
In the Northern Territory, "All operating businesses must have no more than one person per four square metres".

 

 

Queensland

 
As of 16 June, the Restrictions on Businesses, Activities and Undertakings Direction (No. 2) only permits “massage therapy for the management or prevention of a disease, injury or condition, provided by a qualified massage therapist.


Personal services businesses must operate in compliance with a COVID SAFE checklist.

 
 

 

 

South Australia

 
Beauty, nail, tattoo, massage and similar activities may take place as long as they adhere to maximum occupancy and density requirements (1 person per 4 square metres).

The person providing the service must make and retain contact tracing records of customers.
 
 
 

 

 

Tasmania

 
All therapeutic, remedial and relaxation massage, beauty and personal care services are now permitted - one person per four square metre rule applies.


 

 

 

Victoria

 

 

Update for Melbourne metropolitan area

From 11.59pm on Sunday 2 August, residents and businesses in the Melbourne metropolitan area will be subject to stage 4 restrictions.  

Melbourne residents may not leave their ordinary place of residence other than in specified circumstances outlined here. Additionally, masks must be worn at all times when outside the home, and a curfew is in operation from 8pm to 5am each day.

Clinical and allied health services including physiotherapy, osteopathy and remedial massage therapy may only operate based on a referral from a registered medical practitioner (general practitioner and/or medical specialist).



Update for regional Victoria

From 11:59pm on Wednesday 5 August, Stage 3 Stay At Home restrictions apply in regional Victoria.

Victorian residents may not leave their ordinary place of residence other than in specified circumstances outlined here. Additionally, masks must be worn at all times when outside the home.

Clinical and allied health services including remedial massage therapy provided as a health service by a qualified practitioner may continue to operate, subject to the four square metre rule.  Practitioners and patients must both wear a mask to the extent possible, and patients’ first names and telephone numbers must be recorded and retained for at least 28 days for contact tracing.

Practitioners are encouraged to carefully consider whether the services they provide are essential at this time.

 
 

 

 

Western Australia

All remedial, therapeutic and relaxation massage services, wellness centres and spas are now permitted.


The 4 square metre rule has been revised to 2 square metres per person.  


WA businesses must submit a COVID Safety Plan prior to reopening, to ensure they mitigate the risk of COVID-19, in line with health advice.