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

Recommendations by the AHPPC with regard to public events

As of 8th March 2020, the AHPPC advises that the risk to the general Australian population from COVID-19 is low, with the majority of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia in returned travellers.

At this time the AHPPC consider that public events should proceed, but strongly recommend that people that are unwell with cough or fever or other respiratory symptoms should not attend public events or gatherings. This is particularly so for people who have recently travelled from overseas.

People who have been a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, or who returned from or transited through a listed higher risk country (www.health.gov.au/covid19-countries), must not attend public gatherings until 14 days after leaving the country or having contact with a confirmed case even if they are completely symptom free. Those undergoing COVID-19 testing also must not attend public gatherings until they have received their results.

It is difficult to predict how the outbreak will evolve in Australia and the situation may change rapidly. When significant community transmission is occurring, social distancing measures such as cancellation of public gatherings will be considered. Australia does not have evidence of significant transmission currently, therefore cancellation of public gatherings – at this time - would not be proportionate nor particularly effective.

The AHPPC is closely monitoring the situation and further advice regarding public events will be provided when necessary.

Recommendations by the AHPPC with regard to release of personal information of COVID-19 patients and their close contacts

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) is aware of media requests to release the names, addresses and recent movement of people with COVID-19.

Australia has very strong privacy laws which do not allow the release of individual personal and health information to the public.

The release of such personal details contradicts public health ethical principles.

Contact tracing and laboratory testing to identify and isolate cases of COVID-19 are done using standard public health protocols which have proven to be effective here and internationally.

The release of personal details could increase the likelihood of people not cooperating with contact tracing and laboratory testing to identify and isolate cases of COVID-19.

This would increase the risk to the community and individuals with the disease with the potential to cause unnecessary community anxiety and bring stigma and harm to affected individuals and their families.

For these reasons, the AHPPC, which is chaired by the Australian Government Chief Medical Officer and all state and territory Chief Health Officers, does not in any way support the public release of personal information of people found to have COVID-19 or those who may have been close contacts with patients.