Date published: 
29 February 2020
Type: 
News
Intended audience: 
General public

Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC): Recommendation on travellers from Iran and the risk of COVID-19 Importation

AHPPC noted the following evidence that suggests that the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran may be one of the largest outside of the Hubei province in China:

  • Iran has the largest reported number of deaths outside of Hubei province
  • Iran has already exported cases of COVID-19 to a number of countries including now Australia and New Zealand, despite the absence of direct flights and relatively low travel volumes from Iran to these countries
  • There are reports of government officials with infections in Iran
  • It is almost certain that there is material under-reporting of case numbers.

AHPPC believes that, in general, border measures can no longer prevent importation of COVID-19 and does not support the further widespread application of travel restrictions to an increasing number of countries that have community transmission.

AHPPC favours measures that could materially slow the importation of COVID-19 cases into Australia to enable preparatory measures to continue and to enable a public health response to the initial cases.

In this regard, AHPPC believes that travellers from Iran represent, at this time, a materially greater risk of COVID-19 importation than any other country outside mainland China. AHPPC also believes that the current travel restrictions regarding mainland China continue to be successful in reducing the volume of travel from mainland China.

AHPPC recommends to the Australian Government that, effective 1 March 2020:

  • The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade increase travel advisory to level 4 – do not travel to Iran
  • All travellers arriving from Iran be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days
  • Whilst preventing entry to Australia for travellers from Iran (who are not citizens or permanent residents) could be considered by government and would assist in compliance with self-isolation, AHPPC was concerned that further travel restrictions may set an unrealistic expectation that such measures are of ongoing value for further countries.

AHPPC noted that any special measures for Iran should be communicated to the community as a specific temporising measure for an unusually high-risk country at this time.

AHPPC noted that New Zealand introduced travel restrictions from Iran on 28 February.