Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) coronavirus (COVID-19) statement on 12 March 2020
A statement from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) about coronavirus (COVID-19).
Recommendation on testing and work restriction for health and aged care workers
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), on the advice of the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA), considered the threshold for COVID-19 testing of healthcare* workers (HCW) who provide care to patients or residents – including aged and primary care workers –and any restrictions related to the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
HCW with direct contact with patients are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19. Early detection of COVID-19 in HCW is an important protective mechanism for the higher risk population that may come in contact with them.
HCW testing is a method of early detection of transmission of COVID-19 in the community and an extra protective mechanism for the vulnerable people they treat in clinical practice.
Recommendation for testing
In addition to the other suspect case criteria:
- Any HCW who provides direct care AND who has a fever (≥37.5) AND an acute respiratory infection (e.g. shortness of breath, cough, coryza, and/or sore throat), are classified as a suspect case and should be tested for COVID-19.
Recommendation for exclusion from work
HCW who are close contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19 either in the community or at work should self-quarantine at home AND must not work for 14 days after the last possible contact with the confirmed case.
HCW with influenza like illness should not work while they are symptomatic.
HCW who return from higher risk countries and work in hospital and aged care settings should not return to work for 14 days after leaving that higher risk country.
HCW who are a suspect case (as above) must self-isolate until they receive a negative test result for COVID-19.
There is no work restriction on HCW who are casual contacts of COVID-19 cases and are well, including those who have provided direct care for confirmed cases with adequate personal protective equipment. In this instance, HCW are advised to self-monitor for symptoms and self-isolate if they become unwell until COVID-19 is excluded.
The AHPPC recognises that the temporary exclusion of HCW may place strain on both the individuals and services. In settings where the temporary exclusion will have a significant impact on a service, an individual risk assessment should be conducted in collaboration with the jurisdictional or local Public Health Unit.
*Health care worker (HCW) in this context means anyone working in the health and aged care sectors that has direct contact with patients or residents.