There is growing concern amongst our community around the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Awareness is the key to remaining safe.

This is a rapidly evolving situation, which the Higher Education sector needs to continue to monitor. It is important to proactively communicate with staff and students to explain the ways to prevent infection.

Many Universities will have pandemic plans in place, and safety professionals are likely to have a role to play.

If you have not already been asked to contribute to your University preparedness arrangements, AUSA suggest that you identify who is leading the response and contact them.

For resources, we recommend that AUSA members use this association to stay informed of how all Universities are managing the preparedness and planning.

Current situation in Australia

Currently, there have been a small number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases reported in Australia. At the time of writing, there are 4 known cases in NSW and 2 in Victoria. We are not aware of any connection to Universities. There will be members of the University community who have recently travelled (or are currently travelling) internationally. With that in mind, monitoring the situation closely will ensure University community members stay healthy and safe. 

Follow the official advice from the Department of Health in your state or territory in relation to the novel coronavirus.  

Guidelines for those who have returned from affected areas (including those who are currently well). 

If you develop a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath (other early symptoms to watch for are chills, body aches, headache and runny nose, muscle pain or diarrhoea) within 14 days of exposure, you should: 

  • Immediately isolate yourself from other people
  • Wear a mask (if available)
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible, preferably at the local Emergency Department – ideally you should phone ahead to speak to the doctor in the emergency department so that appropriate arrangements can be made to protect others.

Guidelines for those who were in close contact with a person who tested positive for the novel coronavirus

It is important that you remain at home until 14 days after you were last in close contact with a person who tested positive for the novel coronavirus when that person was infectious (even if you remain healthy during this time).

A close contact is someone who has been face-to-face for at least 15 minutes, or in the same closed space for at least 2 hours, with someone who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus when that person was infectious.

Informing  students and staff who have been travelling 

Prepare communications to all staff and students. Contact staff and students who are travelling in affected areas directly. 

Take precautions and practise simple hygiene measures 

Just like in winter flu season, it is important to practise simple hygiene measures to reduce infection risk:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are obviously sick.
  • Wash your hands with soapy water frequently, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environments.
  • Avoid close contact with farm and wild animals, whether these are alive or dead.
  • If you’re sick, practise cough etiquette:
    • Maintain distance with others
    • Cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing
    • Wash your hands with soapy water frequently.

People wearing masks may be taking extra preventative measures or protecting themselves from air pollution/smoke from bushfires. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are sick. 

UPDATE: 29/1/2020
There has been a change of advice around isolation from the Australian Federal Government about the novel coronavirus, based on the latest medical advice.

People who have been in contact with confirmed novel coronavirus cases must be isolated in their home for 14 days after exposure.

Returned travellers who have been in Hubei Province of China must be isolated in their home for 14 days after leaving Hubei Province other than for seeking individual medical care.

On 29 January 2020, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) raised the level of travel advice for China to ‘level 3 – reconsider your need to travel’.

On 24 January, it raised the level of travel advice for ​​​​​​ Wuhan and Hubei Province in China to ‘level 4 – do not travel’.

Any health workers, healthcare staff, healthcare students or staff/students working with children will need to follow new advice.

Links to various federal, state and territory Health Departments:

Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Information for universities and vocational education facilities

Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Information for university and vocational education students and staff arriving from Hubei Province, China


New Zealand

World Health Organisation

Coronavirus cases reported World Wide

Leave a Reply