Novel Coronavirus Information (COVID-19)

Novel Coronavirus Information (COVID-19)

Coronaviruses are a type of virus that can cause a range of illnesses, from the common cold to more severe diseases including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified in China in January 2020. On this webpage you can find advice for GPs and community members on how to identify, manage and prevent the spread of the condition. Please note that the situation in Australia with regards to novel coronavirus is changing continually and official local and national government sources will be able to provide the most up-to-date information.

Novel coronavirus information for health professionals

• Where can I find up-to-date information for GPs?

NSW Health Novel Coronavirus 2019 Updated advice for General Practitioners (current as of 14th Feb 2020): https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Documents/2020/novel-coronavirus-latest-gp-alert.pdf

In the Tuesday 11 February Coronavirus Update Webinar, Dr Kerry Chant (Chief Health Officer, NSW Health) and Dr Charlotte Hespe (RACGP NSW&ACT Faculty Council Chair) led the panel through discussion on the current situation, recommended approaches and answered online questions.

Panel members were:

  • Dr Penny Burns, Chair, RACGP NSW&ACT Disaster Management Committee.
  • Professor Tania Sorrell, Westmead Clinical School, Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity.
  • Kathy Dempsey, Clinical Excellence Commission, Infection Prevention and Control Practitioner.

To view the webinar please go to: https://youtu.be/m71tgQf6cKo. The Q&A summary of this webinar is available here.

GPs should be aware that advice may change. Please visit the following link periodically for the most up-to-date guidance: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/diseases/Pages/coronavirus.aspx. This page includes information for health professionals and consumers (including clinical guidance, and waiting-room resources in both English and Mandarin).

Information can also be found at the Federal Department of Health website: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-nco

The Sydney North HealthPathways team have completed a rapid localisation of the pathway Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Information. If you have not accessed HealthPathways before, or if you have any questions, please contact the HealthPathways Team: healthpathways@snhn.org.au

• My practice has received P2 and surgical masks. What is the advice on using them?

The Department of Health have issued an information sheet that answers questions about the use of surgical masks and novel coronavirus: Australian Government Department of Health Novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) information on the use of surgical masks. The fact sheet contains information for both health professionals and the general public.

Sydney North Health Network (Northern Sydney PHN) have issued P2 and surgical masks to all general practices across the region, in response to advice from NSW Health.

Please note the masks are for distribution to general practices, not for distribution to the general public.

People who have symptoms and might be infected with novel coronavirus should wear a surgical mask to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to anyone else whilst seeking medical advice.

Health care workers who are caring for patients with suspected novel coronavirus should use P2 masks to protect against the virus, but these must be fit tested and worn properly.

PHNs have distributed a limited number of masks to practices with a demonstrated need i.e. where there is no local supply available commercially or from a State or Territory government scheme, where practices have a population which may be more likely to have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and/or have unusual numbers of patients presenting with respiratory symptoms.

Mask-fitting guidelines: https://sydneynorthhealthnetwork.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Principles-of-Fit-checking-chart2.pdf

If your practice runs out of P2 or surgical masks, please contact your Primary Care Advancement Coordinator at Sydney North Health Network. 

Please note that P2 masks are only for distribution to GPs who have indicated that they are undertaking the specimen collection process in their surgeries. The PHN has strict reporting requirements to the Department of Health and must provide details of each practice requesting masks (including the reason why a practice has requested additional masks).

• Where can I direct my patients for advice?

Visit the Information for Community Members section or visit NSW Health FAQ page which has coronavirus advice for consumers: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Pages/coronavirus-faqs.aspx

Novel coronavirus information for the community

• Where can I find up-to-date information and advice on the novel coronavirus?

The coronavirus situation in Australia is continually changing. To stay up-to-date with the latest information and advice SNHN recommend visiting the following websites and documents:

The Department of Health have issued an information sheet that answers questions about the use of surgical masks and novel coronavirus: Australian Government Department of Health Novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) information on the use of surgical masks. The fact sheet contains information for both health professionals and the general public.

NSW Health Novel coronavirus FAQs


Australian Government Department of Health Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) information sheet


Read the latest News from the Australian Government Department of Health Watch


• How is novel coronavirus spread?

Experts believe that this outbreak is likely to have originated in an animal species and spread to humans. It is not yet fully understood how the illness is transmitted, though there are reports of the virus spreading from person to person within China. There have not been any recorded transmissions of the virus between people in Australia at this point.

Other strains of human coronavirus are spread by contaminated droplets when a person who is infected coughs or sneezes. Novel coronavirus is suspected to spread in the same way. The virus does not appear to last long on surfaces.

• How can I help prevent novel coronavirus?

It’s likely that general prevention measures used for other coronavirus infections will also prevent infection with 2019-nCoV.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends measures to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections while travelling in or from affected areas by:

  • avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections;
  • frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment;
  • avoiding close contact with live or dead farm or wild animals;
  • people with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (keep away from other people, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds).

The best way to protect yourself / your family is the same as you would against any respiratory infection. Practice good hygiene by:

  • making sure ​to clean your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub
  • cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or a flexed elbow
  • avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

Make sure you stay home if you are sick.

• What are the symptoms of novel coronavirus?

Coronavirus symptoms include fever, flu like symptoms (coughing, sore throat, head aches) and difficulty breathing. Severity can range from from mild illness to pneumonia.

• What should I do if I come into contact with a person with novel coronavirus?

If someone you know has a confirmed case of coronavirus in Australia your local public health unit will contact you to provide advice.

• Is there a cure of vaccine for novel coronavirus?

At this time there is no vaccine available to prevent coronavirus, nor is there a specific treatment to cure it. People with more serious complications can be treated in hospital.

• What should I do if I become unwell?

If you have travelled to or transited through mainland China (excluding Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan) in the 14 days before your symptoms started, and you have a fever and respiratory symptoms, please call your doctor, or your local Emergency Department or healthdirect on 1800 022 222. Tell the person when you call that you have been in mainland China.