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

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) today considered the current national and international epidemiology and the advice from the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA).

It noted that:

  • COVID-19 has been contained in Australia with no new cases in the last week.
  • There is continuing growth in cases and deaths in the Hubei province of China.
  • There has been an apparent slowing in case numbers in other provinces of mainland China, suggestive of better containment.
  • Whether this slowing will continue as Chinese employees return to work after the holiday period remains unclear and requires continued surveillance and review.
  • There continues to be some growth in exported cases (including the outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship) but nearly all exported cases are related to some contact with Hubei province, including in Australia.
  • Current containment measures need continual review for proportionality.

AHPPC recommended to government that:

  • The current travel advisory should not be altered for seven days.
  • The proposed relaxation of travel restrictions for small numbers of cases, subject to the discretion of the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force and approval of State and Territory Chief Health Officers or equivalent can continue. These would include consideration of year 11 and 12 secondary school students from mainland China (excluding Hubei province).
  • Other travel restrictions should remain in place for the next seven days.
  • If case numbers do not show a material increase over the next seven days, in provinces outside of Hubei, there is a case for government to consider, at that time, a temporary relaxation of the travel restrictions to allow entry to a larger number of tertiary students, noting the following considerations:
    • if current epidemiology is maintained, this would not materially increase the current low risk of importation of cases from mainland China (outside of Hubei province);
    • the flow of students would likely be slow, given the current number of cancelled flights and the alternative pathways into Australia already undertaken in third countries;
    • if permitted entry, students would need to agree to self-isolation in Australia and universities would need to make  arrangements to support student self-isolation; and  
    • universities would need to provide appropriate advice to students and support students to access health services if symptoms develop.
  • The role of border policy in managing the risk to Australia from COVID-19 should be continually informed by expert consideration of the current global epidemiology of COVID‑19.
  • Measures to screen flights and vessels from mainland China and for people who have come from or transited through mainland China should continue.