COVID-19 case confirmed at major university conference

COVID-19 case confirmed at major university conference

A delegate who attended the recent Universities Australia (UA) conference in Canberra has tested positive for coronavirus, UA’s chief executive has confirmed.

The conference, which was held at the National Convention Centre between February 25-27, was attended by Vice-Chancellors and the Federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan, who addressed the delegates on 26 February.

It is understood that following the conference the delegate left the ACT and returned to their home state.

Delegates told to be ‘alert’

“Health authorities have carried out extensive investigations into the source of the infection but have, as yet, been unable to identify the source of the infection,” UA chief executive, Catriona Jackson, said in a statement.

“Now, in line with the advice of ACT Health, we have emailed all delegates and asked them to be alert for any of the symptoms of COVID-19 and supplied health information and contact details.”

The ACT recently recorded its first positive test for COVID-19, but Jackson said the person is not the Universities Australia Conference delegate.

“As the university sector has done throughout COVID-19, we have adhered meticulously to the advice of medical authorities and will continue to do so,” she said.

“As we all confront the reality of the virus that has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, what is most important is that we pull together as a community and take expert health advice to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.”

‘Social distancing measures appear inevitable’

Meanwhile, Federal Labor says enforced “social distancing”, a nationwide closure of Australia’s schools, universities, workplaces and the cancelling of mass events appears inevitable.

“The only way to make sure this pandemic is not worse than it otherwise could be is to have more drastic social distancing measures,” Bill Shorten told Sky News.

On Thursday, Southern Cross University (SCU) closed campuses at Lismore and Gold Coast for the day following detection of the first COVID-19 case in regional Australia. However, the campuses soon reopened after being cleared.

“Working closely with the NSW and Queensland health departments, the University has spoken with all 47 staff and students who had contact last week with another staff member who has since reported being diagnosed with COVID-19 virus,” a statement by the University read.

“The 47 people have been fully informed of the situation and possible risks. These staff and students will not be asked to return to campus until the completion of a 14-day isolation period concluding on 20 March 2020”.

The University said this measure will enable them to have special, paid working arrangements – including working from home – in order to undertake all necessary family, self-care, and self-isolation requirements.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic – the term given to a virus that spreads easily between people on a global scale.

Since the first COVID-19 death was deported on January 11 the virus has infected more than 134,000 people and killed nearly 5,000 in 126 countries.