Updated advice about novel coronavirus COVID-19

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Updated advice about novel coronavirus COVID-19

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1 April 2020

Updated to midday 2 April

To keep the USC community up to date with developments relating to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), this page will be updated daily at midday and 5pm, with the latest news in bullet points at the top.

  • Classes resume via technology - From Monday 30 March, USC is delivering its courses via technology after ensuring that all learning and teaching materials are accessible to students online.
  • Graduation ceremonies cancelled – USC has cancelled its April graduation ceremonies due to new restrictions on large gatherings.
  • Sports facilities closed - USC's stadium, aquatic facilities and gymnasiums are now closed indefinitely. The track and sporting fields remain open at this stage.
  • Australia closes borders – An entry ban for all non-citizens and non-residents took effect from 9pm Friday 20 March. The Australian Government has banned all overseas travel, and returned travellers from any overseas location need to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Non-essential travel – The Australian Government has advised for all non-essential travel – domestic and overseas – to be cancelled unless it is directly related to normal daily activities such as work.
  • All FAQs for students are now available at USC’s dedicated student page 
  • All FAQs for staff are now available via MyUSC.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the novel coronavirus. Please also check in with Queensland Health, the Australian Department of Health, and the World Health Organization.

What is the novel coronavirus and what are the symptoms?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses similar to the common cold and more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The SARS-CoV-2 strain of coronavirus that originated in the Wuhan region of the Chinese province of Hubei is new and has not been previously identified in humans. It is now referred to as COVID-19, and its symptoms include (but are not limited to): fever; flu-like symptoms such as cough, sore throat or headache; and difficulty breathing.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic on 11 March due to sustained transmission throughout the world. It is spreading from person to person in close proximity, similar to other respiratory illnesses such as the flu. WHO has urged people to stay calm and to continue the important work being done to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

What is a confirmed case of COVID-19? 

A confirmed case of COVID-19 is a person who tests positive to a validated, specific SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid test or who has had the virus identified by electron microscopy or viral culture.

What is a suspect case of COVID-19? And how is 'close contact' defined? 

A suspect case of COVID-19 is a person who has had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms. Close contact is defined as requiring:

  • greater than 15 minutes face-to-face contact in any setting with a confirmed case in the period extending from 24 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case, or
  • sharing of a closed space with a confirmed case for a prolonged period (e.g. more than 2 hours) in the period extending from 24 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case.
Who is at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus?

In Australia, those at highest risk of contracting the coronavirus are those who have:

  • travelled internationally;
  • been in close contact with someone who has had a confirmed case of coronavirus.

Those with underlying medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease and the elderly, are considered to be at greater risk of more severe disease if infected. It is believed that symptoms will occur within 14 days of exposure.

How can I help protect myself from being infected with coronavirus?

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses include:

  • Cleaning hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Hand rub dispensers can be found around USC's campuses in high-traffic areas and outside toilets.
  • Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. Wash your hands immediately afterwards and dispose of tissues immediately.
  • Avoiding close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough.
Should I wear a facemask?

Health authorities do not recommend facemasks for use by healthy members of the public for the prevention of infections like novel coronavirus. However, if you suspect you have been exposed to someone with coronavirus or are showing symptoms, you may be advised by your health practitioner to wear a mask to limit the spread of the virus.

What should I do if I am feeling unwell?

If you are showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, including a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, contact your general practitioner or Queensland Health on 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) immediately. It is suggested to phone ahead to explain your symptoms, travel history, and possible contact with someone who might have had the novel coronavirus.

Who is required to self-isolate?

Returned travellers from any overseas location are now required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Anyone who has had close contact with a confirmed novel coronavirus case must self-isolate for 14 days following exposure. Close contact is defined as requiring:

  • greater than 15 minutes face-to-face contact in any setting with a confirmed case in the period extending from 24 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case, or
  • sharing of a closed space with a confirmed case for a prolonged period (eg more than two hours) in the period extending from 24 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case.
What does self-isolation involve?

Self-isolation means staying at home, and not going to work, university, school or anywhere public for 14 days. Fourteen days is considered to be the maximum incubation period of the virus, so any symptoms would develop in this time.

The key is to avoid contact with others, which also means not accepting visitors to your home. People should also avoid going to the shops, and to instead arrange food deliveries to their homes or contact Student Wellbeing for assistance to arrange this.

Self-isolation has been described by public health experts as the same measures that you would take if you have the flu, to avoid spreading the virus, which is transmitted by droplets from coughs and sneezes, and possibly transferred by contact with shared surfaces.

USC students with further questions about self-isolation can contact Student Wellbeing at +61 7 5430 1226 or studentwellbeing@usc.edu.au.

USC staff with queries about self-isolation and/or believe that they should self-isolate can contact USC’s Human Resources on +61 7 5430 2830 or uscstaff@usc.edu.au.

What do I do if I get sick while in self-isolation?

If symptoms appear during a period of self-isolation, contact your general practitioner or Queensland Health on 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) immediately.

What if I'm at risk or someone I live with is at risk?

If you’re showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, including a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, please contact your general practitioner or Queensland Health on 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) immediately.

How is USC continuing to operate during the pandemic?

USC has transferred all face-to-face learning and teaching to technology-enabled modes that do not require students to attend campus. From Monday 30 March, and for the remainder of this semester, classes will be provided through various platforms like Zoom and Blackboard to help students follow social distancing requirements during the coronavirus pandemic.

USC staff are continuing to work, many now from home, to ensure the University continues to operate. Those staff still on campus are required to observe social distancing guidelines.

Why did USC pause teaching?

USC paused all coursework teaching and assessments at its Queensland campuses for one week from Monday 23 March to enable face-to-face teaching and assessments to be redesigned to technology-enabled learning and teaching modes that do not require students to attend campus. From Monday 30 March, and for the remainder of this semester, classes will be provided through various platforms like Zoom and Blackboard to help students follow social distancing requirements during the coronavirus pandemic.

Are campuses closing?

All USC’s Queensland campuses remain open and operating, with staff working with additional hygiene and sanitation measures as well as with enhanced social distancing measures. This is in line with Australian Government advice that universities should continue to operate. Libraries and Student Central offices are no longer accessible in person, but their services are still available online or via telephone.

All face-to-face learning and teaching has been replaced with technology-enabled learning and teaching. From Monday 30 March, and for the remainder of this semester, classes will be provided through various platforms like Zoom and Blackboard to help students follow social distancing requirements during the coronavirus pandemic.

Are USC’s libraries services still available?

Following the Prime Minister’s statement on 24 March 2020 about library closures, USC closed its Library buildings and spaces at all of its Queensland campuses on Wednesday 25 March 2020.

USC Library will continue to support students through its revised, online services. Up-to-date information will continue to be available from the Library website. The Library's chat services have been extended to ensure students can access eBooks and electronic databases from the Library website. Please contact the Library by phone or email for assistance.

24-hour study spaces at USC Sunshine Coast, USC Moreton Bay, and USC Fraser Coast will remain accessible via swipe card. Social distancing limits will apply in these spaces.

What will happen if someone at USC tests positive to the novel coronavirus?

If Queensland Health identifies that someone from USC has the novel coronavirus, the University will follow Queensland Health’s instructions on what actions need to be taken. It is likely, in these circumstances, that USC will need to close an entire campus for a period of time to allow Queensland Health to assess the situation and to identify those who may have come into close contact with the person with the coronavirus. USC will then follow Queensland Health’s instructions on cleaning the campus to ensure the safety of students and staff when they return.

Why has USC decided to cancel the April graduation ceremonies?

USC has cancelled its April graduation ceremonies following the introduction of new national rules regarding the number of people allowed at indoor gatherings and social distancing requirements. New travel restrictions would have prevented a large number of graduates and guests from attending.

How has USC responded to the coronavirus outbreak being declared a pandemic?

USC has a comprehensive incident management and business continuity framework, which it uses to manage events such as this. Decision-making is guided by advice from State and Federal governments and the World Health Organisation, which is being regularly monitored. The University’s response plans have been enacted, and staff and students have been advised.

What is USC doing to clean and sanitise the university?

USC's Asset Management Services are providing additional cleaning and sanitation services to high-touch and high-traffic areas across all sites. Particular emphasis is being placed on surfaces within bathrooms, along with high-touch areas such as handrails, door handles and lift buttons. These services are being provided in conjunction with existing work routines, along with additional cleaning shifts in the high-use locations. Some minor disruptions may result from this work.

What are the changes to use of USC Sport facilities?

In line with the Australian Government's restrictions on gyms and indoor sporting venue, the USC stadium, gymnasiums and aquatic facilities will be closed to everyone until further notice to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Information for USC students regarding advice and support during the coronavirus pandemic is now available at the University's dedicated student page.

Information for USC staff regarding advice and support during the coronavirus pandemic is now available via MyUSC.

Can I travel within Australia (including between USC campuses)?

USC has suspended domestic travel for staff until at least 13 June 2020. However, the suspension could be extended beyond that date depending on the changing domestic situation relating to COVID-19.

This suspension includes travel by individuals who are not USC staff members but whose travel was planned to be paid or partly paid by USC, including trips relating to research and consultancy contracts held in the University’s name.

This suspension also includes travel between USC campuses – except in cases where there is no alternative to conducting essential University business. If you believe your planned travel between campuses falls into that category, you will require authorisation by a member of USC’s Executive.

Can I still travel overseas for work or study?

The Australian Government has raised the advice for all overseas travel to the highest level - that is, do not travel. This reflects the gravity of the international situation arising from the COVID-19 outbreak, the risks to health, and the high likelihood of major travel disruptions.

USC has suspended international travel by staff until at least 13 June 2020. However, it could be extended beyond that date depending on the changing global situation. This suspension includes travel by individuals who are not USC staff members but whose travel was planned to be paid or partly paid by USC, including trips relating to research and consultancy contracts held in the University’s name.

What restrictions apply to travellers arriving from overseas?

The Australian Government has closed the county's border to anyone who is a non-citizen or non-resident, with exemptions only for Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family, including spouses, legal guardians and dependants. New Zealand citizens who live in Australia as Australian residents are also exempt, as are New Zealanders transiting to New Zealand. Exemptions for Pacific Islanders transiting to their home countries will continue to apply. Returned travellers from any overseas location need to self-isolate for 14 days.

How does COVID-19 affect travel insurance?

COVID-19 is considered a “foreseen circumstance” for all new travel insurance policies effected and/or new paid travel arrangements made after 4pm (AEDT) 2 March 2020. A “foreseen circumstance” may be precluded under the terms and conditions of some policies. In regards to travel to China, COVID-19 has been considered a "foreseen circumstance" since 22 January 2020.

USC’s travel insurance will continue to apply for university activities except for COVID-19 related events (disruptions, cancellations, accommodation changes etc).

Who is required to self-isolate?

Returned travellers from any overseas location now need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Anyone who has had close contact with a confirmed novel coronavirus case must self-isolate for 14 days following exposure. Close contact is defined as requiring:

  • greater than 15 minutes face-to-face contact in any setting with a confirmed case in the period extending from 24 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case, or
  • sharing of a closed space with a confirmed case for a prolonged period (e.g. more than 2 hours) in the period extending from 24 hours before onset of symptoms in the confirmed case.
What does self-isolation involve?

Self-isolation means staying at home, and not going to work, university, school or anywhere public for 14 days. 14 days is considered to be the maximum incubation period of the virus, so any symptoms would develop in this time.

The key is to avoid contact with others, which also means not accepting visitors to your home. People should also avoid going to the shops, and to instead arrange food deliveries to their homes or contact Student Wellbeing for assistance to arrange this.

Self-isolation has been described by public health experts as the same measures that you would take if you have the flu, to avoid spreading the virus, which is transmitted by droplets from coughs and sneezes, and possibly transferred by contact with shared surfaces.

USC students with further questions about self-isolation can contact Student Wellbeing at +61 7 5430 1226 or studentwellbeing@usc.edu.au.

USC staff with queries about self-isolation and/or believe that they should self-isolate can contact USC’s Human Resources on +61 7 5430 2830 or uscstaff@usc.edu.au.

What do I do if I get sick while in self-isolation?

If symptoms appear during a period of self-isolation, contact your general practitioner or Queensland Health on 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) immediately.

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