About the Virus: Fast Facts
What it is
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe infections such as pneumonia. Members of the Coronavirus family are also responsible for the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory syndrome (MERS) that have occurred in the recent past.
The provisional name for this new Coronavirus was previously labelled 2019-nCoV but has now been determined to a strain of the type of coronavirus that caused SARS. To reflect this, it has now been classified as SARS-CoV-2.
On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) named this disease (not the virus) as COVID-19.
The incubation period varies but the majority of cases develop from 2 – 14 days after exposure.
Peak infectivity is still being clarified however it is generally believed that people with symptomatic COVID-19 are most infectious 2 days prior to developing symptoms and 72 hours after symptoms end.
• Flu-like symptoms such as – cough, sore throat, headaches
• Difficulty Breathing
• Respiratory Failure
• Kidney failure
- Respiratory – sneezing, coughing – i.e. aerosol route via droplets
- Touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
- Person-to-person spread
Preliminary data on people infected with COVID 19 shows a low fatality rate in those without any current medical conditions. Increased mortality has been demonstrated in:
- Elderly people
And in those with medical co-morbid conditions such as:
- Chronic respiratory disease
- Cardiovascular disease
Personal Preventative Measures are essential in reducing the risk of contracting the illness and in minimising spread of disease – see in detail below.
Major studies and trials are being undertaken on medication to treat COVID-19 and some medication – such as the anti-viral drug remdesivir – have been shown to be of limited effectiveness in severe cases of COVID 19.
At present there is no single drug, or drug regime, prescribed for management of COVID-19 and supportive treatment remains a main stay of management.
|Australia Government Contact details
Twitter Account: @healthgovau
Australian Government and Public Health Agency Contact list
Public Health Information Line on 1800 044 599.
|Discuss any questions you have with the relevant Public Health Agency.
Contact for state or territory public health agencies:
• ACT call 02 5124 9213
• NSW call 1300 066 055
• NT call 08 8922 8044
• Qld call 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84)
• SA call 1300 232 272
• Tas call 1800 671 738
• Vic call 1300 651 160
• WA visit https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/
The Centre for Systems, Science and Engineering at John Hopkins have built a tool aggregating data from the WHO as well as centres for disease control in the USA, China and Europe. It has all Coronavirus confirmed, suspected and recovered patient statistics and deaths associated with the disease. It provides a convenient overview of consolidated reporting but links are provided below to WHO and CDC sites that also provides statistics.
WHO Situation reports:
The definition of what constitutes a Confirmed, Probable and Suspected case of COVID-19 varies from country to country and these criteria change with increased understanding of COVID-19 characteristics, emerging disease patterns and the stage of the pandemic and success of control measures within each jurisdiction.
The following criteria are representative of the case definitions utilised in Australia:
|A “Confirmed” case
A person who tests positive to a validated specific SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid test or has the virus identified by electron microscopy or viral culture or has an appropriately documented serological rise or seroconversion.
A “Probable” case
A person who:
has not been tested, with fever (≥37.5°C)2 or history of fever (e.g. night sweats, chills) OR acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, sore throat) AND is a household contact of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19;
has detection of SARS-CoV-2 neutralising or IgG antibody AND has had a compatible clinical illness AND is a close contact of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.
|A “Suspect” case
Clinical and public health judgement should be used to determine the need for testing in hospitalised patients and patients who do not meet the clinical or epidemiological criteria.
A person who meets the following clinical AND epidemiological criteria:
Fever (≥37.5°C) or history of fever (e.g. night sweats, chills) OR acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, shortness of breath, sore throat).
In the 14 days prior to illness onset:
Hospitalised patients, where no other clinical focus of infection or alternate explanation of the patient’s illness is evident.
Personal Preventative Measures (PPM)
Prevent yourself from getting sick
Prevent yourself from getting sick
- “Wet Markets” are markets which sell both live and dead animals (as opposed to “Dry Markets” which sell goods like electronics and clothing).
- They are so named because of the practice of large quantities of water being used to wash down the floors of the market.
- This allows the mixture of bodily fluids and blood from live, wild creatures to mix with the blood from slaughtered animals thereby providing an ideal medium for bacteria and viruses to flourish.
- It is believed that the novel coronavirus originated in a wet market in Wuhan, China though this is still being investigated.
Prevent yourself from getting sick
Wash hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand gel
Aerosol transmission by covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough with a tissue – discard tissue immediately and wash hands as per above
Consider avoiding others with cough and fever and wet markets
Masks and Respirators
|A face mask is a loose-fitting disposable device whose purpose is to create a physical barrier between the wearer’s mouth and nose and potential contaminants in the immediate surrounds. They come in different thicknesses and may help block large-particle droplets as well as sprays and splatter that may contain bacteria and viruses. They also help prevent your saliva from contaminating others.
Does wearing a surgical face mask help reduce the risk of Coronavirus infection?
The use of face masks in asymptomatic people is a controversial one and the official guidance varies from country to country. Some countries, such as the USA, now recommend the use of face masks in public for all people whereas the advice in Australia, at present, is that the routine use of masks in the community is currently not recommended, while the rate of community transmission of COVID-19 is low.
A mask is not a substitute for other precautions to prevent spread of COVID-19:
|Reasons to possibly wear face masks:
Reasons to not wear face masks:
P2/N95 Masks (Respirators)
Enquiries have been received about the potential use of P2/N95 respirators in preventing infection.
A N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device which is generally used in the healthcare setting by healthcare professionals who require a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. They are not designed for children or those with facial hair.
The “N95” designation refers to the fact that at least 95% of very small particles (0.3 microns) are blocked by the respirator. They do, however, need to be properly fitted but even then, they do not completely eliminate the risk of illness as coronaviruses are generally smaller than 0.3 microns. Different manufacturers have different ‘collection efficiencies’ below this 0.3 micron cut-off so provide varying protection to filtering coronaviruses.
It has been noted however that the coronavirus transmission is often on larger particles (e.g. droplets) thereby making it easier to filter.
Fit checking involves a quick check – each time the N95 mask is put on – to ensure that the respirator is properly applied, that a good seal is achieved over the bridge of the nose and mouth and there are no gaps between the respirator and face. Fit checking is the appropriate minimum standard at the point of use for any person using P2/N95 respirators.
A presentation of how to perform this is provided in the following link:
Travel Advice to FHA Clients
The Australian Government travel advice remains at ‘Level 4: do not travel’ for all overseas travel – the highest level.
On 24 March 2020, the Prime Minister of Australia announced a ban on Australians travelling overseas under the Biosecurity Act 2015. This has been enacted to help prevent travellers returning to Australia with COVID-19.
There are limited exceptions, for example to allow people to return home if their normal place of residence is overseas. This process is managed by the Department of Home Affairs.
Australians Returning from Overseas
Australians overseas may face difficulties getting flights home. There are fewer international flights available as countries have introduced travel restrictions and closed key transit hubs.
If you wish to return to Australia and there are still commercial flights available, the advice is to take them as soon as possible.
The government has made special arrangements to help Australians return home, including a partnership with Qantas and Virgin Australia and facilitated flights from several destinations.
An updated flight schedule and other relevant details can be viewed, and is updated, on the following Australian Government COVID-19 – Helping Australians to return home page.
Travel regulations are changing at short notice.
If you’ve decided to return to Australia:
- check your route carefully and stay in touch with your airline or travel agent
- follow official announcements from your transit airports and governing authorities
- contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the countries you’re transiting through if you have any queries about their entry or exit requirements
Transit through Dubai and Abu Dhabi: From 21 May, you’ll be able to transit through Dubai and Abu Dhabi when travelling to Australia from the UK.
When you arrive back in Australia you must undertake a mandatory quarantine period of 14 days at your first port of arrival in Australia.
You will be provided with suitable accommodation to stay in during this period. You won’t be able to travel domestically (including to your home) or continue on any domestic flight connections until the 14-day mandatory quarantine period has been completed. This quarantine period is necessary to protect spread of COVID-19 within Australia.
Travellers who have a compassionate or compelling reason to travel to Australia will need to have an exemption from the Australian Border Force Commissioner.
All travellers arriving in Australia must undertake a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated facilities (for example, a hotel), in their port of arrival.
Travel restrictions are subject to change. Some exemptions are in place. Please check back regularly.
The Commissioner of the Australian Border Force (ABF) may consider an additional exemption in relation to the travel restrictions currently in place for:
- foreign nationals travelling at the invitation of the Australian Commonwealth Government for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 response or whose entry would be in the national interest
- critical medical services, including air ambulance and delivery of supplies, that regularly arrive into Australia from international ports
- people with critical skills (for example, medical specialists, engineers, marine pilots and crews) by exception
- diplomats accredited to Australia and currently resident in Australia, and their immediate family
- case-by-case exceptions for humanitarian or compassionate reasons.
Exemptions must be granted prior to travelling to Australia.
The request for an exemption through Commissioner’s Discretion must be accompanied by:
- passenger details: name, DOB, visa type and number, passport number, Australian residential address, Australian telephone number)
- case information: why this case should be considered for Commissioner discretion/exemption
- supporting statement: the request should be accompanied by a statement and evidence of how the individual meets one of the grounds for an exemption or excise of the Commissioner’s discretion listed above.
It is important that all travellers provide evidence that they meet one of the exemptions above before travelling.
Depending on your reason for requesting exemption, evidence must be provided and could include:
- proof of ID
- marriage certificates
- birth certificates
- death certificates
- proof of relationship (for example, shared tenancy agreement, joint bank account etc.)
- visa status
- letter from a doctor or hospital indicating why the travel is necessary
- letter from an employer indicating why the travel is necessary or the work undertaken is critical
- letter from a related business or company
- any other proof you may have to support your claims.
All evidence supporting a travel exemption claim needs to be officially translated into English.
Foreign nationals transiting through Australia to another country don’t need to apply for an exemption to travel restrictions if they are booked on a connecting flight from the same airport and they are not going to leave the airport.
If you plan to leave the airport before boarding your connecting flight, you will need to apply to the Commissioner of the ABF for a travel exemption.
Please follow this link to apply online.
Transit visa requirements
To transit through Australia, you must either hold a valid visa or be from an eligible country.
Please follow this link to ascertain eligible countries – Transit Without a Visa (TWOV).
If you don’t have a visa or are not eligible to TWOV that allows you lawful entry into Australia, you can apply for a Transit visa (subclass 771) which allows you to transit through Australia for up to 72 hours while you wait for your onwards flight. This visa doesn’t allow you to stay in Australia longer. If you need to stay longer, you should apply for a different visa.
Eligible New Zealand citizens can transit through Australia on a Special Category visa (Subclass 444).
I am a New Zealander or Pacific Islander transiting to Australia
If you are a New Zealander, citizen of a Pacific Island Forum country, Timor Leste citizen or resident of New Caledonia or French Polynesia transiting though Australia on your way to or from New Zealand or a Pacific Island Forum Country, you do not need a transit exemption if you have booked a connecting flight to depart Australia within 72 hours of your arriving flight.
Due to domestic travel restrictions, your outbound connecting flight must be departing from the same airport in Australia as your arrival flight, unless an exemption has been granted.
If your connecting flight means you will spend longer than 72 hours, you are not considered to be transiting Australia and will need to apply online to the Commissioner of the ABF for an exemption from the travel restrictions.
Transit quarantine arrangements
If you cannot remain in the airport before your connecting flight departs, you will need a valid visa, or be eligible to TWOV, and you must follow the quarantine and isolation requirements in the state or territory that you have arrived in. You must do this, even if you have an exemption from the ABF Commissioner.
State and territory authorities will consider exemptions to the mandatory 14 day quarantine period on a case by case basis. To find out more about how quarantine works in your state or territory, or to ask about someone you know who has been quarantined, contact your state or territory government health department.
Preventative measures when flying
The risk of sitting next to someone infected with COVID-19 is low but some general sanitary principles recommended by aviation authorities and the CDC to be used with travelling and flying include:
|1||Washing of hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
This remains the single most important infection control measure. Use alcohol-based hand rub (containing at least 60% alcohol) if soap and water are not available.
|2||Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer
(the CDC recommends at least 60% alcohol in case water isn’t nearby).
|3||Do NOT fly if you feel sick or have symptoms.|
The best preventative measure in-flight is not to sit within one to two rows of a sick traveller however this is hard to determine in advance and often impossible to change seats. Other general in-flight measures you can use to minimise the risk of contact with unwell passengers are:
|1||Ask for a window seat.
One study which modelled the behaviour of airline passengers found the window seat provided the least contact with other people;
|2||Turn on your air vent.
This could help reduce the risk from airborne pathogens. Turn the air vent on low or medium and direct the air to your lap;
|3||Wipe down your tray table, armrest and seat with hand wipes.
These have been found to harbour some of the highest concentrations of germs;
|4||Avoid in-flight magazines, blankets and pillows,
as there is no guarantee that they have been recently cleaned and also harbour high concentrations of germs.