This is my latest update on COVID-19 that includes new precautionary measures. It includes information on:
I know we are all closely following the evolving coronavirus situation. Here in the ACT, we had the first confirmed case of COVID-19 yesterday. ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman says the community can be reassured that there is no risk to the general community from the territory’s first case. And while the World Health Organization has characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic, the University’s current status has not fundamentally changed. However, it is now appropriate that ANU take measures to ensure our campus and community remain as safe as possible.
We have decided to implement the following precautionary personal and campus-wide measures immediately. These measures are based on the advice of our expert panel. By all of us taking these simple measures, we can help protect our own health, that of those in our community and minimise the risk of widespread infection on our campus and beyond.
I also recommend you take a look at this very accessible paper on social distancing co-authored by our colleagues in the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health.
Things you need to do
Health and hygiene
Stay home if you become unwell. This includes if you develop fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, body aches, sore throat, runny nose, or muscle pain. Call your GP and seek medical advice. If you are due to work at ANU but cannot attend because you are required to self-isolate you will not be financially penalised.
· Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently and use an alcohol handwash where possible.
· Avoid touching your face, including rubbing eyes.
· Avoid handshaking, hugging, air kissing, touching or group selfies.
· Sneeze into a tissue and cough into your elbow.
· Disinfect high touch surfaces regularly and keep your desk, keyboard and mouse clean and tidy.
Food and drink
· Don’t share food or drink.
· Eat lunch at your desk or in your room in preference to using common rooms.
For Staff - Workplace etiquette
· Where possible meet outside or use video or teleconferencing for meetings.
· Where possible, keep a reasonable distance away from others (1.5 metres is recommended).
· Limit the length of in person meetings to 2 hours at the most where participants can be appropriately separate and no more than 15 minutes where space is more confined.
The Australian Government has this afternoon asked all Australians to reconsider non-essential travel. Travel on university business, both domestic and international, is strongly discouraged except under exceptional circumstances. I have already cancelled all my upcoming international trips through until the end of June, as well as my current domestic travel.
If you have recently returned from overseas, you can consider the optional additional precaution of working from home.
If you are planning to travel, even for personal travel, make sure you know the risks you are taking, both from a health and logistics point of view. You can find advice on travel here.
As a precautionary measure and based upon the advice from our expert panel, we will cancel all public and social events from Monday 16 March until the end of semester one, Saturday 20 June. This is a precautionary measure that we know will be disappointing for many, but our aim is to reduce opportunities for the virus to spread by limiting activity on campus without disrupting our essential teaching and research activities.
Cancellation and postponement will extend to all discretionary events including ticketed and non-ticketed public events, public lectures and concerts.
If you have events planned beyond the end of semester one, you are encouraged to start planning for alternative arrangements should they be needed. More information about event cancellations can be found here.
Essential activities related to teaching and research, including tutorials, lectures, staff meetings and community services like childcare and cafes will continue as normal at this stage.
Additional precautionary measures
While the risk remains very low, we will next week be introducing some additional precautionary measures for classes, the work environment and for our residential halls. We are planning and acting now to help manage the future, not because of imminent threat.
As always, go to our website for up-to-date information and FAQs which we will update regularly.
For up-to-date health advice and information, please follow ACT Health and the Department of Health for more information.
The World Health Organization also provides advice on how we can prevent the spread of COVID-19.
With the situation continuing to evolve, we are increasing the frequency of our communications to ensure our community is up-to-date with what we are doing. To assist, I encourage you to update your emergency contact details to ensure we can reach you. This is also a good opportunity to download the ANUOK app as we are providing regular text updates.
Paul’s update earlier this week provided us with details on what we can be doing within our teams to help support our University-wide COVID-19 action plan and ensure we can maintain safe and effective continuity of University activities. You can read more about our planning here.
If you or someone you know is ill
If you are showing symptoms and want to seek medical advice, first call the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. The Minister for Health has advised that anyone with flu-like symptoms may wish to be tested. The ACT Government prefers that people go to Weston Creek Walk-In Centre to be assessed for testing.
Please remember, taking the test or self-isolating does not mean someone has COVID-19, it means people are doing the right thing to keep us all safe. In line with the Health Minister’s advice, we can expect more members of the ANU community to be tested. So remember to be kind to people doing the right thing and don’t panic, show compassion and understanding, and treat them as you want to be treated in the same situation.
Looking after ourselves and each other
This is a challenging time for all of us. Many of us have friends and families who are being impacted both here and overseas, and the uncertainty of the future is particularly hard to cope with. Please know the thoughts of our community are with you. The University will do what it takes to support every member of our community during these hard times.
Staff and their family members can access free support and counselling through the Employee Assistance program which can be reached on 1800 808 374 (this number operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week)
More details can be found at https://services.anu.edu.au/human-resources/wellbeing/employee-assistance-program
Students can access support via the ANU Crisis Support Line on 1300 050 327 or via SMS Text message service on 0488 884 170.
More details can be found here.
It’s important that we take care of each other and to reach out if we need support. It’s been an incredibly tough year and I am proud to be part of such a resilient community. You can find more information about the support available to you and our community here.