Aged care homes may have to seek a special exemption if they want to ban visitors or confine residents to their rooms.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said if facilities that had gone beyond baseline coronavirus requirements did not return to that level and allow each resident two visitors a day, his government would make it mandatory.
Mr Morrison said nursing homes would have to argue why they had a “very real and serious medical reason” to need a tighter lockdown.
“It’s not my inclination to explore that sort of regulatory approach, but if it’s necessary then we’ll do it,” he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.
He said it was important family members can support their loved ones.
“The very clear medical advice that we have is that these visits are quite safe when they’re done in the right circumstances,” he said.
Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon said facility managers should be respected.
“The people best-placed to make decisions about visitation and other matters are the providers in conversation with the families,” he said.
Mr Fitzgibbon said his wife’s mother was in a NSW nursing home in lockdown.
“My wife walks out there, waves to her mum through the closed window … they don’t get to have a conversation, but her mother (is) quite comfortable with the decision of the local managers of the centre.”
Many centres were not getting adequate access to personal protective equipment and facing other practical problems, he said.