SSBA Newsletter Issue 30 - August 2020

Security Sensitive Biological Agents Regulatory Scheme Newsletter.

Page last updated: 25 August 2020

PDF printable version of SSBA Newsletter Issue 30 - August 2020 (PDF 499 KB)

Update on SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)

The Australian Government Department of Health continues to coordinate the national health sector emergency response to COVID-19, under direction of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and its expert standing committees. For up-to-date information, please visit the Department of Health website.

Situation in Australia

As at 21 August 2020, there has been 24,407 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, including 472 deaths. There has also been over 5.5 million tests conducted with a national cumulative percent positivity of approximately 0.4%.

Situation Worldwide

Across the world there have been more than 22 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 793,000 deaths.

SARS-CoV-2 and the SSBA Regulatory Scheme

The Department of Health has conducted an impact risk assessment with experts from the health, agriculture, gene technology and Australian intelligence sectors to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 should be included on the List of SSBAs (the List). This recent assessment recommended that SARS-CoV-2 should not be included on the List at this point in time. The SSBA Regulatory Scheme will continue to monitor the risk associated with SARS-CoV-2 as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, with a view to conducting regular SSBA risk assessments on the agent.

If your facility is handling viable, infectious and pathogenic 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. The Public Health Laboratory Network (PHLN) guidance on laboratory testing for SARS-CoV-2 provides guidance on testing approaches and specimen handling.

Should the status of SARS-CoV-2 under the SSBA Regulatory Scheme change in future, all stakeholders will be notified and given sufficient lead time to meet any changed requirements.

SARS coronavirus (the virus that caused the 2002-03 outbreak) is listed as a Tier 1 SSBA, SARS-CoV-2 is not.

The Evolving COVID-19 Situation

The evolving COVID-19 pandemic situation has caused significant uncertainty and pressures for the Australian laboratory community. The SSBA Regulatory Scheme will continue to maintain regular contact with the Responsible Officers of each registered facility to understand existing and emerging COVID-19 impacts that may affect operational capability. In addition, registered facilities scheduled to undergo an inspection this calendar year are being actively contacted by SSBA Inspectors to discuss 2020 monitoring and compliance arrangements.

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