Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) statement on large gatherings and the need for continued caution
A statement from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) about large gatherings and the need for continued caution.
AHPPC is pleased to note the continued stable low number of cases of COVID-19 in Australia. This has permitted progressive relaxation of mass gathering and physical distancing measures. But we know the virus is still present in the community in low numbers and there remains an ongoing threat of importation of new cases. Other countries with early control of COVID-19, similar to that seen Australia, have experienced significant resurgence of community outbreaks after relaxation of measures. Singapore is one such example.
It is still too early to tell whether the significant relaxation of distancing measures across the country will result in increased transmission and new significant outbreaks. We need to be very cautious about further relaxing measures until we are confident there is not a major resurgence of cases.
The most important protection for all of us, as we return to more normal activities, is for each and every Australian to show personal responsibility and always practise our new ways of interacting and hygiene. We must all practise physical distancing. We must be absolutely fastidious with hand and cough hygiene at home, at work and when out in the community. We must all remember to stay home and get tested for COVID-19 if we have even mild cold or flu-like symptoms.
AHPPC is extremely concerned about proposed large gatherings for protests over the coming weekend and beyond. Australians are reminded that in our recent past a single person infected more than 35 others. This virus is very, very infectious. It will be with us in one way or another for many months to come.
As such, it is advised that Australians follow the health advice and regulations about public gatherings, and adhere to restrictions on gathering sizes in their state or territory. COVID-19 is transmitted via close contact, and large crowds and gatherings greatly increase the risk of infection, as the ability to maintain physical distancing is reduced.
These large protests encourage mixing of people in the population who are not part of usual social networks. These types of contacts – between people who are from different social groups and geographical locations – pose a significant risk for the spread of COVID-19.
One of the main methods to contain COVID-19 is the early identification of positive cases, and the ability to quickly contact trace and quarantine close contacts. Contact tracing is made much more difficult in situations such as protests, as close contacts cannot be identified and followed up.
Although our recommendation is to not attend mass gatherings of any kind, including protests, should individuals choose to participate, they should maintain appropriate physical distancing and hand and respiratory hygiene. If you are older, immunocompromised or sick, stay at home.
As we celebrate our early success and return to some level of normal activity, the risk of complacency is great. The battle with this virus is far from over. Each and every Australian must play their part in keeping our nation in its currently enviable place.
Read previous statements from the AHPPC.