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COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Alert Bulletin

Updated Wednesday 25th March 2020

Overview

The following update is designed to provide you with important information regarding the current COVID-19 (aka 2019-nCoV) outbreak. Information is sourced from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Australian Government information sources. Further updates will be issued as new information becomes available. The WHO has officially declared this to be a pandemic on 12 March 2020.

Current Situation

  • 417,966 confirmed infections and 18,615 deaths have been reported from 169 countries or regions. 3,287 deaths are in China and 15,328 deaths are from other countries1. The number of infections has increased by almost 150% and deaths have increased by over 200% in the past week.
  • 336,375 confirmed cases of transmission have now been reported outside of China, up from 81,591 a week ago1.
  • An average global mortality rate of 4.45% is being observed. Italy continues to have the highest mortality rate at 9.8% followed by Iran at 7.7% and Spain 7.0%. The mortality rate has increased substantially for all three countries and continues to track well above the global rate. Despite this, the majority of deaths continue to be across high-risk groups. One explanation for the high mortality rates in these countries is the possibility that many mild cases are not being tested for or being reported.
  • Infections in Australia continue to increase exponentially with 2,252 confirmed infections and 8 fatalities2. This is up from 198 infections last Monday. 189 cases have been confirmed in New Zealand, up from 8 cases. In both countries, the majority of cases can be traced back to persons arriving back in country from overseas. Notwithstanding this, there are definite clusters of local human-to-human transmission occurring in Australia.
  • The Australian Government has now implemented a blanket ban on anyone travelling overseas.

Restrictions

Australia:

The Australian Government announced stage 2 restrictions last night. Stage one restrictions included limits on indoor and outdoor public gatherings, the closure of all pubs, clubs, bars, places of worship, gyms and indoor sporting venues, as well as limiting cafes and restaurants to take-way service.

Stage 2 restrictions include all of the above, as well as new bans on:

  • Galleries, museums, libraries, auction houses, open houses, organised meetings for social, educational or recreational purposes, health clubs and associated venues, amusement parks, arcades and play centres, gambling venues, beauty therapists, spas, massage venues and associated businesses.
  • Outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.
  • Weddings of more than 5 people and funerals of more than 10 people.

Additional requirements are in place for hairdressers and recommendations have been made to restrict gatherings at private residences. For all permitted activities, social distancing protocols must be observed.

It is important to note that other non-essential businesses may continue to trade, and schools and Universities have not been closed. To this end, many schools and Universities have already transitioned to remote learning. It is anticipated that Stage 3 restrictions will be announced later this week, which will force the closure of all other non-essential businesses.

New Zealand:

On Monday, the New Zealand Government announced a move to Alert Level 4 and a full national lockdown. This lockdown came into effect today and coincided with the declaration of a national State of Emergency. The full lockdown requires all non-essential businesses and organisations to close. Essential services that are permitted to continue include:

  • The health sector
  • Any entity involved in the Covid-19 response
  • Key public services
  • Transport providers including KiwiRail, NZ Post, courier drivers and freight drivers
  • Teachers
  • Public safety and national security staff
  • Building and construction workers
  • Utilities and communications personnel including news media and supply chains
  • Supermarket and pharmacies
  • Social services
  • Financial services
  • Food producers, biosecurity and animal health staff

Management Phase

Australia and New Zealand are now in a critical phase of managing the COVID-19 outbreak, with major restrictions in place to limit person-to-person contact. Despite these measures, the infection rate and cases of local community transmission continue to increase rapidly. According to medical experts, it will take at least a week to see if these measures are effective at slowing the rate of transmission.

Many organisations have now either voluntarily moved to a physically distanced workplace, been forced into doing this or elected to close down operations. Due to the rapid change in events, we are now moving from the preparedness stage to the management stage of the outbreak.

Once a business has made the difficult transition away from normal business operations, it is imperative that they start to look at how they plan to continue to operate their organisation in a remote capacity. Key issues for consideration include:

  • Managing employee welfare including issues with social isolation, trauma and productivity.
  • Maintaining effective contact with customers and other key stakeholders.
  • Managing supply chain disruptions caused by domestic and international COVID impacts.
  • Managing financial pressures caused by significant reductions in revenue.
  • Maintaining continuity of operations for an extended period of time, including managing IT functionality and access to the Internet.
  • Managing pre-existing threats including cyber and natural disasters. Many organisations will now be more susceptible to these threats and have less capacity to respond and recover from them.

There are also a number of essential services and business that continue to maintain staff at their locations, including the heath and security sectors, allied health services, aged care facilities, disability services, supermarkets, transport and manufacturing and produce entities.

For these businesses, it is important to provide clear requirements for access to site, health declarations and notification of illness, infection control protocols, reporting and tracing of identified close contacts and triggers for environmental cleaning and disinfection.

For organisations that have not yet successfully transitioned to a remote work environment, there is a small window left to prepare before operational and financial impacts start to cause major issues.

For all other businesses, the priority should now be to implement actions that help move the business into a new operational rhythm or temporary business-as-usual state.

1. John Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard 16/03/20 9.30pm ESDT
2. Federal Government Department of Health
3. DFAT SmartTraveller website