The COVID-19 situation and response has continued to evolve over this weekend, and I know there remains some worry and confusion in our community. So, I want to keep you up to date with what ANU is doing and why we are taking the approach we are taking. This email covers:
The Community Wellbeing group will provide on-the-ground support in response to current and emerging COVID-19 situations. The group will provide customised, timely and agile support and care to all staff, students and visitors, including:
Information on current travel restrictions and assistance with changing travel plans;
Advice regarding the current public health measures in place including the need to attend a doctor or a testing clinic;
Support to establish and maintain self-isolation (when required);
Providing practical, logistical support for self-isolation to members of the community with limited outside support;
Facilitated work or study from home arrangements (where possible); and
Accessing assistance and support, and anything else that will assist our community wellbeing during this time.
The team can be contacted on email at CommunityWellbeing@anu.edu.au, by calling +612 6125 3346 (option 1) during business hours, or calling ANU Security outside of business hours.
For urgent or life-threatening situations, please continue to call 000 in the first instance, and then ANU Security on +612 6125 2249.
Over the weekend, the Australian Government announced updated travel restrictions for entry into Australia. These restrictions took effect from midnight Sunday 15 March. All arrivals from overseas are required to complete 14 days of self-isolation to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
The University has also made the decision to recall all staff and students currently overseas on University travel. This includes all students undertaking exchange programs and other University approved travel - students are being contacted with information on what to do next and the support we can provide to return home as soon as possible.
Staff who are currently overseas on University travel will be contacted and be provided support to return home.
For members of our community returning to Australia, we'll support you to undergo self-isolation in your home or at university accommodation. Please contact your supervisor and the Community Wellbeing team CommunityWellbeing@anu.edu.au, or phone +61 2 6125 3346 (option 1) during business hours.
The University has also suspended all future international travel until further notice.
We strongly recommend you reconsider any upcoming domestic travel. Domestic travel on university business is actively discouraged and requires the approval of the relevant Research School Director or equivalent Level D3 delegate in non-College areas.
More information about travel can be found here.
There are many hundreds of staff working on this across our campus. This is being coordinated by our Critical Response team, led by our Chief Operating Officer Paul Duldig. The team consists of seven groups, each with a specific focus and under the leadership of a senior ANU staff member. These groups are Community Safety, Teaching Continuity, Community Leadership, Research Continuity, Operational Continuity, Community Engagement and the Incident Coordination team.
The principals upon which our response is based are to limit community transmission and to ensure safe university continuity through a positive and engaged community. We are guided by the principal that our decisions be evidence-based, proportionate, calm, safe and transparent.
People should attempt to keep a distance of 1.5 metres between themselves and other people where possible, for example when they are out and about in public place. You should also maintain this distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. We have a range of social distancing measures in place, all of which can be found on our website.
What to do if you're sick
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.
You can call the National Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080 for more information.
Mental Health Care
We're all feeling the physical and mental health effects of this year. It's important we all care for one another and each other and draw together as a supportive community. Please don't be afraid to seek support.
Students can access support via ANU Crisis Support Line on 1300 050 327 or via SMS Text message service on 0488 884 170.
Counselling is available for staff and family members through Assure - 1800 808 374 (this number operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week) and Relationships Australia - 02 6122 7100. Appointments can be taken in person or over the phone.
COVID-19 infections will exponentially increase if left unchecked. We have seen, however, in places like Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, strong public health measures including social distancing, attention to personal hygiene, and contact tracing make it possible to continue with some form of normality while also containing the spread of the virus.
We also know that if the disease does break out, it can be controlled by large scale shutdown of activity, as demonstrated in China and Korea. The risk is then that spread may happen again unless subsequent measures are enough to stop its spread.
We want to find a balance - a balance where we can do most of our activities - but where COVID-19 spread is prevented, so we can avoid the exponential breakout that will require us to cease most of our activity for potentially long periods of time.
We all have a role to play. The better we do at containing the disease by our actions - the less draconian measures we'll need to take in the future, and the safer our community will be. So, pay attention to personal hygiene and social distancing. And keep washing those hands!
We're putting in place measures that will limit the spread of the disease if or when it does come into our community. We are working to ensure even if a case occurs in our community, others are unlikely to be infected. This week we will begin moving towards online delivery for many of our large classes and look at those smaller classes and tutorials where social distancing is hard - so that we can find appropriate solutions. But we expect to move online quickly.
Our residential halls are where many of our students congregate, so we're working with our public health experts to implement protocols that make them resilient against COVID-19 spread. We know that practicing good hygiene is essential to reducing the spread, so we have ensured our campus has been equipped with hand sanitiser across campus buildings and additional soap in bathrooms.
This has been an extraordinarily challenging year for our community, and I thank you for your continued patience and support as we work through this together.