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Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

Keeping informed about novel coronavirus will help to protect your people and your organisation from disruption to your day to day activities.

What is the novel coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes coronaviruses as a family of viruses found in animals and humans. The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new strain first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China in 2019 and that health authorities have now identified in several other countries that include Australia. The illness may be passed from person-to-person, showing symptoms of a runny nose, sore throat and a fever. People with the illness may experience common cold symptoms or more serious respiratory diseases or not show symptoms at first. WHO has declared novel coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. Though it's not yet clear how easily the disease spreads between people, transmission can take place through the respiratory route (or coughing and spluttering).

In early February 2020, there were 20,647 confirmed cases of the virus from a total of 25 countries. More than 20,000 cases were diagnosed in China. Globally, deaths surpassed 1,000 as infections soared to more than 42,000 by mid-February. While it’s not yet a pandemic, Australia’s health authorities are taking an active and precautionary response to protect citizens at home and abroad, monitoring developments closely.

The Department of Health is working closely with international agencies to monitor what is a developing and changing situation, and countries with confirmed cases are calling for self-evaluation of individuals who may be at risk of contracting the virus and self-quarantine if necessary. Travel between China and other countries is being restricted and under ongoing revision by governments outside of China. Within China, the government has imposed restrictions to travel between cities to curb the spread of the disease.

It's important to know your responsibilities and enact WHS policies and procedures on behalf of workers, contractors, and people under your care.

Keeping informed about novel coronavirus will help to protect your people and your organisation from disruption to your day to day activities. Monitoring the epidemiology of the virus outbreak is ongoing among all affected countries. See WHO and the Australian government situation reports at: and

Some employers are asking workers and students to self-quarantine for a period, if they are considered at risk of having become infected with the virus.

Contracting the virus is a risk for:

  • People that have travelled from mainland China to Australia since 1st February 2020
  • People who have travelled to Hubei Province in the last 14 days
  • People who have been in contact with someone who has a confirmed case of the illness
It's important to remember, the virus can only be confirmed after testing in public health laboratories. Only a medical professional can confirm a diagnosis of novel coronavirus and if you think you have been in contact with the virus you should consult a doctor. 

What can I do to protect people under my care?

The Australian government has advised that people at most risk of serious infection are:

  • Those with compromised immune systems
  • Elderly people
  • Young children and babies
  • People with diagnosed heart and lung conditions
  • Aboriginal and Torres-Strait Islanders

Start taking preventative measures now.

  1. Follow DFAT travel advice for overseas travel
  2. Review travel plans for staff, volunteers, students, and residents for whom you are responsible, to avoid having people near places where the virus has spread.
  3. Stay informed and inform your people about the virus. Refer to the Australian Department of Health for updated information and advice on mitigating risks or treating suspected symptoms of novel coronavirus
  4. Encourage the practise of good hygiene for coughing and sneezing, and washing hands
  5. See a doctor if you feel unwell or have a fever
  6. Reinforce the importance of following any new protocol or processes, and why it's vital to adopt measures supporting public health.

As recommended by the Australian Government Department of Health, visit the homepage at 

Call the Public Health Information Line on 1800 004 599

Contact your state or territory Public Health Authority: 

• ACT call 02 5124 9213 during business hours or (02) 9962 4155 after hours 
• 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 call 08 9328 0553 or call your local public health unit

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