Date published: 
13 March 2020
Type: 
News
Intended audience: 
General public

Recommendation for public gatherings and testing

AHPPC notes emerging evidence of community transmission in localised areas within Australia, current issues limiting the capacity to do widespread COVID-19 diagnostic tests and emerging international evidence that, for best effect, social distancing measures are best introduced at the earliest stages of community transmission.

AHPPC considers that, for these reasons, the time has come to put in place social distancing measures to mitigate spread, rather than a strategy based primarily on case finding. These include:

  • limiting non-essential organised gatherings to fewer than 500 people
  • limiting non-essential meetings or conferences of critical workforce eg healthcare professionals and emergency services
  • encouraging all Australians to exercise personal responsibility for social distancing measures
  • initiating measures to protect vulnerable populations, such as reducing visitors to all residential care facilities and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

These measures are of most importance for people over 60, particularly those with chronic disease.

AHPPC will meet again on 14 March to consider the implementation issues arising from these measures which AHPPC recommends should commence on Monday 16 March or as soon as practicable thereafter.

The diagnostic testing issues are related to an emerging global shortage of several reagents used by pathologists to diagnose COVID-19. A more targeted testing strategy is now necessary. The case definition is being reviewed but the current situation emphasises the need for testing to be limited to the current recommendations.