30 January 2020

Novel Coronavirus Information for Primary Health Workers

Australian governments are closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Current situation

  • There has been an outbreak of a novel (new) coronavirus (2019-nCoV) originating in Wuhan, China.
  • There is some evidence of human-to-human transmission and some hospital workers have been infected.
  • There is not enough information yet to determine the incubation period, the rate of infection or the animal source of the virus.
  • On 30 January 2020, the outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Key points

  • Consider novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection in patients with fever and respiratory symptoms who recently travelled to anywhere in China but in particular Wuhan, China.
  • Investigate and manage patients for respiratory illness using standard practices.
  • For severe respiratory illness, transfer patients to public hospital emergency departments for investigation.
  • Contact your state/territory public health unit or communicable disease branch for advice on suspected cases including diagnostic testing and specimen collection (for contact details visit www.health.gov.au or see state/territory health departments below).

Information for Primary Health Workers

Download the Australian Government Novel Coronavirus Information Sheet for Primary and Community Health Workers 26 January 2020 (Version 2)

For more information

Visit the following websites:

Australian Government Department of Health Download fact sheet
ACT Health Download fact sheet
NSW Health Download fact sheet
NT Health
QLD HealthDownload fact sheet
SA Health
TAS Department of Health
VIC Department of HealthDownload quick reference guide
WA HealthDownload fact sheet

Work (Occupational) Health and Safety

In light of the recent decision by the World Health Organization to declare the coronavirus a Global Health Emergency, the ACA HR Service wishes to notify members of some important Work (Occupational) Health and Safety (WHS) considerations during this time.

Within practices, there is a WHS obligation to do everything reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of anyone who enters the workplace (this includes workers, volunteers, customers etc.). This includes limiting the spread of illness (including coronavirus) wherever reasonably possible. Preventative measures to limit the spread of the virus (as provided by the Department of Health) include:

  • washing your hands often with soap and water before and after eating as well as after attending the toilet;
  • avoiding contact with others (including touching, kissing, hugging, and other intimate contact); and
  • coughing or sneezing into your elbow.

You may also consider disinfecting items such as communal computers/phones, reception desks, waiting areas, etc.

If you have a staff member/s who has/have travelled to Wuhan, Hubei province, China in the past two weeks, it may be prudent to require them to obtain medical clearance from a doctor before returning to the workplace, particularly if they are experiencing any symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, fever or sore throat OR if they came in close contact with anyone with those symptoms. If a staff member/s has/have travelled to mainland China (but not the Hubei province) in the past 2 weeks, you may still require that they obtain medical clearance if they are experiencing those symptoms or if they came in close contact with anyone with those symptoms.

The ACA HR Service stresses that you cannot act in a manner that is discriminatory and any action taken must be reasonable to fulfil your WHS obligations.

As in normal circumstances, if any of your employees are noticeably unwell (i.e. not fit for work) they should remain at home until they are fit to return to work (with medical clearance).

For more information on your WHS obligations during this time, contact the ACA HR Service on 02 8448 3211.