Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) coronavirus (COVID-19) statement on 4 March 2020
A statement from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) about coronavirus (COVID-19).
Recommendation on international travellers and the risk of COVID-19 Importation
At this time, AHPPC recommends (1) that the Government direct primary focus toward domestic containment and preparedness for COVID-19, alongside (2) maintaining enhanced border measures and travel restrictions at their current level for a further 7 days.
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 the large number of countries that have community transmission. COVID-19 transmission is well established in several geographical regions globally.
The AHPPC considers that the following evidence supports the continuation of border measures at their current levels:
- At present, case fatality rates in Hubei (4.2%) and Iran (3.3%) continue to significantly exceed the global case fatality rate (1.2%), as well as the fatality rates in Italy (2.5%), Japan (2.1%), the Republic of Korea (0.58%), and Singapore (0%).
- The high level of burden on health systems in Hubei and Iran has necessitated the prioritisation of more severe cases of illness. This causes those locations to under-report cases of mild and asymptomatic illness, as there is limited capability to test and treat mild and suspected cases.
- Those countries not subject to Australian travel restrictions have strong public health systems, including systems of case surveillance and reporting that are highly developed.
- Detailed modelling has shown that Australia’s border measures have helped to delay entry of the virus and buy time for health sector and societal preparedness. However, their extension to two other countries in the ‘high risk’ category is not anticipated to materially delay the risk of importation of COVID-19 to Australia. We note that countries with substantial community transmission or other risks are already subject to self-isolation on arrival into Australia.
The AHPPC further considers that, given the information available about new cases reported within Australia in the past week, effective containment within Australia is now primarily dependant on health system response and community cooperation to limit spread.