SSBA Newsletter - Special Issue March 2020 - Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Security Sensitive Biological Agents Regulatory Scheme Newsletter.

Page last updated: 04 March 2020

PDF printable version of SSBA Newsletter - Special Issue March 2020 - Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (PDF 426 KB)

The Australian Government Department of Health is undertaking national coordination of the health sector emergency response to COVID-19, under direction of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). COVID-19 was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan City in Hubei Province, China. For up to date information visit Health’s website here.

On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and on 11 February 2020 named the disease coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19. The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses has formally named the virus that causes COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2 due to its genetic relatedness to the virus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003.

In brief:

Situation in Australia

As at 16:00 hrs on 3 March 2020, there have been 38 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, including one death.

Situation Overseas

Internationally, as at 16:00 hrs on 3 March 2020, approximately 90,846 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,115 deaths have been reported.

SSBA Regulatory Scheme - List of SSBAs

As SARS coronavirus is listed as a Tier 1 agent on the List of SSBAs, the SSBA Regulatory Scheme has received a number of enquiries about whether SARS-CoV-2 is also considered to be a Tier 1 SSBA. At this point in time there is insufficient evidence about the novel virus to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 should be included on the List of SSBAs. As the outbreak evolves, further reviews will be undertaken. For now, if your facility is involved in handling live and viable SARS-CoV-2, it is recommended that accurate records of specimen movements and handling activities are maintained, and that appropriate biosafety and biosecurity precautions are observed. Public Health Laboratory Network guidance on laboratory testing for SARS-CoV-2 may be found here.

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