New variants of SARS-CoV-2 and implications for infection prevention and control practices

A statement from the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) on transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Date published:
Health sector

The Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG) notes the new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, emerging in countries around the world. 

ICEG regularly reviews emerging evidence around COVID-19. Following recent information on new, more transmissible variants, ICEG has reviewed their guidance on infection prevention and control measures. This includes use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

ICEG recommends that all jurisdictions review, reinforce and continue to monitor the full range of existing infection prevention and control measures and guidance.

No specific changes to current guidance are recommended at this time.

This guidance encompasses the full hierarchy of infection prevention and control measures namely:

  • Hazard elimination. The most effective measures are border control and quarantine of overseas travellers. Additional measures have recently been added to strengthen these measures including:
    • pre-flight testing of international travellers
    • routine use of masks by passengers and crew in airports and on flights.
  • Hazard/source controls. These include:
    • physical distancing and limits on room occupancy;
    • cough/respiratory etiquette;
    • frequent hand hygiene;
    • enhanced cleaning of premises and transport vehicles; and
    • isolation of COVID-19 cases and close contact
    • particular care during movement of returning travellers to and within quarantine facilities.
  • Engineering controls. This includes monitoring direction of airflow and ventilation to reduce potential indoor exposure from an unrecognised source.
  • Administrative controls.  These include:
    • the governance of infection prevention and control programs to ensure appropriate training
    • continued monitoring of staff practices and the environment.
  • Appropriate use of PPE as well as implementing all necessary higher-level controls. Appropriate PPE should be used, based on the perceived level of risk in the local environment, when physical distancing is not feasible.

Using the full hierarchy of controls, including appropriate use of PPE, based on the local context, will provide optimal protection for workers in contact with travellers infected with SARS-CoV-2, including new variants of concern.

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