Updated advice for students and staff about coronavirus

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Updated advice for students and staff about coronavirus

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24 February 2020

USC is continuing to follow developments relating to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and taking advice from Queensland Health.

The information below, updated to 24 February 2020, is to advise USC students and staff about the University's response to the coronavirus and to provide a general reminder of health precautions.

On 1 February 2020, the Australian Government introduced enhanced border control measures for all travellers arriving from any part of mainland China, to be reviewed after two weeks. These travel restrictions have since been extended until 29 February. See FAQs below.

Important information

The novel coronavirus, which originated in China's Hubei province, has symptoms that include (but are not limited to):

  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms such as a cough, sore throat or headache
  • Difficulty breathing.

Anyone with the above symptoms who has travelled to or through China in the past 14 days should visit a GP immediately. Please call ahead and advise of your symptoms and recent travel before your appointment so the clinic can take necessary precautions.

Anyone who has had contact with a confirmed novel coronavirus case must self-isolate for 14 days following exposure. Self-isolation means staying at home and not accepting visitors. However, if symptoms appear, contact Queensland Health on 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) immediately.

Returned travellers who have visited Hubei Province of China need to self-isolate for 14 days after leaving Hubei Province.

Returned travellers who have visited mainland China or Hong Kong should not attend university teaching or research sites, other university facilities, or university-related activities (placements, fieldwork, etc) for 14 days after leaving China or Hong Kong.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Saturday 1 February issued a level four travel advice warning, which advises Australians not to travel to China.

General health precautions

Please take precautions as advised by public health experts, including:

  • Frequently wash hands by using alcohol-based hand sanitiser or soap and water
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or a tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and share your previous travel history with your health care provider
  • Please observe and comply with health-related signage around the University.

Further information

Further advice and information about the novel coronavirus has been published online by Queensland Health, the Australian Government Department of Health and the World Health Organization.

USC students can phone Student Central on +61 7 5430 2890 for more information if required. USC staff who believe they need to self-isolate can contact Human Resources on +61 7 5430 2830.

The University will continue to provide you with updates as new information becomes available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the novel coronavirus. It is important to also check the latest information from the Queensland Department of Health and the Australian Department of Health.

What is the novel coronavirus and what are the symptoms?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses similar to the common cold and more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The 2019-nCoV strain of coronavirus that originated in the Wuhan region of the Chinese province of Hubei is new and has not been previously identified in humans. Symptoms include (but are not limited to): fever; flu-like symptoms such as cough, sore throat or headache; and difficulty breathing.

How is the novel coronavirus spreading?

It is likely that the virus originally came from an animal, and there is evidence that it can now spread from person to person in close proximity, similar to other respiratory illnesses such as the flu.

Who is at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus?

In Australia, those at highest risk of contracting the coronavirus are those who have:

  • travelled from mainland China or Hong Kong recently; or
  • been in close contact with someone who has had a confirmed case of coronavirus.

Preliminary information suggests that those with underlying medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease and the elderly, are at greater risk of more severe disease if infected. At this stage it is believed that symptoms occur within 14 days of exposure.

How can I help protect myself from being infected with coronavirus?

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses include:

  • Cleaning hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
  • Covering you mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. Wash your hands immediately afterwards and dispose of tissues immediately
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough
Should I wear a facemask?

Health authorities do not recommend facemasks for use by healthy members of the public for the prevention of infections like novel coronavirus. However, if you suspect you have been exposed to someone with coronavirus or are showing symptoms, you may be advised by your health practitioner to wear a mask to limit spread of the virus.

What should I do if I am feeling unwell?

If you are showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, including a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, contact your general practitioner or Queensland Health on 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) immediately. It is suggested to phone ahead to explain your symptoms, travel history, and possible contact with someone who might have had the novel coronavirus.

Who can I contact at USC with questions about coronavirus?

USC students who require advice relating to the coronavirus can contact USC’s Student Wellbeing at +61 7 5430 1226 or studentwellbeing@usc.edu.au. Staff can contact Human Resources on +61 7 5430 2830 or uscstaff@usc.edu.au.

What restrictions apply to travellers arriving from China?

The Australian Government announced that as of 1 February 2020, all travellers arriving from any part of mainland China, regardless of nationality, will be subject to enhanced border control measures. Australia will deny entry to anyone who has left or transited mainland China from 1 February, with the exception of: Australian citizens, permanent residents and the immediate family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents including spouses, minor dependents and legal guardians. The Australian Government announced on 20 February that existing travel restrictions for people travelling to Australia from mainland China will be extended to 29 February.

Who is required to self-isolate?
Anyone who has had contact with a confirmed novel coronavirus case must self-isolate for 14 days following exposure. The Australian Government requires anyone who has been to mainland China to self-isolate for 14 days after their return to Australia. The Queensland Government has an additional requirement of anyone who has been to Hong Kong to self-isolate for the same period of time.

NOTE: Those who have travelled to Australia without visiting China or Hong Kong, and have not been in contact with a confirmed novel coronavirus case, are not required to self-isolate.

What does self-isolation involve?

Self-isolation means staying at home, and not go to work, university, school or anywhere public for 14 days. 14 days is considered to be the maximum incubation period of the virus, so any symptoms would develop in this time.

The key is to avoid contact with others, which also means not accepting visitors to your home. People should also avoid going to the shops, and to instead arrange food deliveries to their homes or contact Student Wellbeing for assistance to arrange this.

Self-isolation has been described by public health experts as the same measures that you would take if you have the flu, to avoid spreading the virus, which is transmitted by droplets from coughs and sneezes, and possibly transferred by contact with shared surfaces.

USC students with further questions about self-isolation can contact Student Wellbeing at +61 7 5430 1226 or studentwellbeing@usc.edu.au.

USC staff with queries about self-isolation and/or believe that they should self-isolate can contact USC’s Human Resources on +61 7 5430 2830 or uscstaff@usc.edu.au.

What do I do if I get sick while in self-isolation?

If symptoms appear during a period of self-isolation, contact your general practitioner or Queensland Health on 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) immediately.

Will self-isolation affect my accommodation arrangements?

USC is in regular contact with nearby student accommodation providers. If you have any questions or concerns about self-isolation requirements, or require support regarding accommodation, contact Student Wellbeing at +61 7 5430 1226 or studentwellbeing@usc.edu.au

Can I still travel to China for work or study?

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on Saturday 1 February issued a level four travel advice warning, which advises Australians not to travel to China. In addition, a number of airlines have suspended services in and out of China. There will be no USC travel to mainland China until further notice.

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