I am writing to update you on the measures the University has in place to respond to COVID-19.
Media coverage has been pervasive, and it is natural for you to feel concerned for yourself and your community. I assure you that your safety and health is our highest priority too.
Thankfully there are currently no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the ACT and there are no cases at ANU. For the most up-to-date information about the virus, please visit the Australian Government Department of Health website: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert
We are very fortunate that our own health experts are actively involved in advising our community as well as providing their expertise to the Australian Government and the wider population.
If you are feeling unwell, please stay home and rest. It's important that you take time to recover. If you do stay home from work remain in your residence and restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. It is recommended that you do not come to work or go to classes, and avoid public areas while you are unwell.
If you want to work from home while you are recovering, the University will support you to do this. We have flexible working arrangements to assist you and accommodate your circumstances. Please let your supervisor know and work out what is best for you.
We can all follow simple steps to help prevent the spread of viruses:
- If you are unwell, stay home and rest. You should make an appointment with your GP if you have signs of a fever that suddenly worsen, your symptoms don't improve within two weeks, and/or you experience pain in a concentrated single area (eg your ear, chest or sinuses)
- Wash your hands well and often. The recommendation is to wet your hands, lather your fingers, palms and wrists with soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse your hands well with clean, running water and then dry your hands.
- Practice sneeze and cough etiquette - cough and sneeze into your elbow.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid handshakes.
- Regularly use hand sanitiser.
- Keep at least a metre away from people who are coughing/showing signs of illness.
All staff and students who need to undertake isolation are doing so with support from the University. Isolation is a precautionary measure, not an indication someone is ill. Anyone with symptoms is treated with appropriate protocol at the hospital.
We are actively working with health authorities and have consistently followed their advice to help keep our community safe. That means anybody who needs to be isolated is in isolation. And anyone you see on campus has already met all the necessary health requirements.
This is a complex and evolving situation, so we are actively monitoring and implementing required measures as and when appropriate. The first phase of the response has been two-fold: to ensure students affected by the travel bans stay engaged with their learning and our community; and to put in place policies and measures to protect the safety and well-being of all of our staff and students. The response of you all has been generous and impressive, and a testament to all the things that makes the ANU such a great place.
Given the recent spread of the virus to other countries, we have moved into the second phase of the response, focussed on getting ready for safe continuity of University activities here in Australia and overseas.
ANU infectious disease experts say the community should remain calm about a COVID-19 pandemic, for the following reasons:
- There are very few cases of the coronavirus in Australia, compared with other countries.
- There is no uncontrolled spread of the disease in Australia, and experts and health authorities don't anticipate the situation to change anytime soon.
- For most people coronavirus symptoms will be very mild. Mortality is low for coronavirus and the risk is very low for those in our community under 70.
- The infection rate of the coronavirus is only three to 10 per cent within households, and even lower out in the community.
The best information we have is that there is no immediate threat and as always it is better that we remain calm.
Also, ANU is in a relatively strong financial position and has good reserves. There are no current plans to freeze spending based on what we know at the moment about likely impacts.
One of the most important things you can do right now is to think about activities that are essential to your area and how to continue them should key people and resources not be available. You can possibly create some capacity for unexpected events by reconsidering non-essential projects, travel and other activities.
In recognition of this dynamic situation, the University will be sending regular email updates from now on. You can expect an email at least twice a week with updated information. We will also post updates to our website and via social media and the ANUOK app.
I'd like to thank you all for your continued compassion and support of each other during this difficult time. You can find more information about the support available to you and our community here: https://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/support-for-you-and-our-community
Chief Operating Officer
*Sent Wednesday 4 March 5.17pm AEDT