Travel advice – Australians should be aware there are numerous domestic and international travel restrictions in place. Consult the Smartraveller website and subscribe for updates or call the Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080 for advice. Coronavirus has now been detected in most countries. With some quarantine measures in place, and heightened concerns around travel, international air traffic has been impacted. Major airlines have cancelled connections as governments impose strict travel bans. This will affect not only tourism in Australia but could also impact availability of overseas workers.
Food safety – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European Food Safety Authority has confirmed there are no concerns as to the safety of seafood. Nor is there any evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus - i.e. Eating seafood did not start the coronavirus epidemic. The CDC believes the origin of the virus is from (live) animal-to-person spread. Many foods were present at the live animal market believed to be at the epicenter of the first outbreak, but it is not suggested that eating products from that market caused the spread. FSANZ is reporting that previous experience with outbreaks of illness due to MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and other respiratory viruses (e.g. avian influenza) suggest that novel coronavirus may have been transmitted from animals to humans. However, transmission through food is unlikely and there is no evidence of this occurring with novel coronavirus to date. Investigations to identify the source of the outbreak, the extent of spread of the infection, and mode(s) of transmission are continuing. FSANZ will continue to monitor developments and liaise with the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, state and territory health authorities and international counterparts to assess the possibility of foodborne transmission of the virus.
Seafood demand – The impact on seafood demand is broken into three categories - export, domestic retail and domestic food service.
Reputation risk – Given the global extent of the spread and presence in all significant seafood producing regions, there is no elevated risk for the Australian seafood industry or Australian products in particular.
Supply chains – impacts on supply chain have been broken into three categories - export, domestic and import.
Globally freight has been impacted – both ocean and air. In particular, the Chinese market has seen major impacts. Limited airfreight space is available, but report indicate it is at a premium. China’s ports are slowly returning to normal operations following congestion caused by internal distribution networks being disrupted and labour limitations. However, typically securing shipping space could be arranged in a matter of days, the backlog now means exporters are having to book space well in advance. It could be up to 3 months before this situation resolves assuming the situation continues to improve in China.
Longer term impacts in China – China is one of the world’s largest importer of seafood and seafood products (in particular for Australia Lobster and Abalone) and any significant impact on the Chinese economy is likely to have flow-on effect on import demand for all types of products. China is now reportedly slowly and unevenly returning to normal. This is encouraging as it could minimise the overall impact on the Chinese economy. The quicker the outbreak can be contained, the smaller the impact on overall trade is likely to be.
Impact on global commodity prices – It is still too early to speculate on the full effect the Coronavirus will have on export markets. Seafood prices have been impacted across the globe with the imports and exports from China limited. Some trade has all but stopped in some countries, and prices are generally down amid fears and restrictions on movement of consumers. These price revisions are driven by market sentiment, rather than substantiated shifts to demand, however, some prices have not fallen as much as expected. While total volume of exported product has decreased, again primarily driven by China.
Employment impacts – domestically, all businesses are looking at how best to prepare for potential staff with COVID-19. This primarily revolves around improved hygiene and cleaning, working from home (where applicable) through to putting in place isolation periods for key staff to ensure they do not get infected. Key risks identified revolve around staff in remote location or that are at sea for periods of time. 14 day self isolation and quarantine arrangements are also impacting on some businesses with staffing - especially those who are reliant on overseas labour.
Animal exposure - According to the Australian Veterinary Association, current evidence suggests that the COVID-19 virus has an animal source. However, the current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. However, as of 4 March, the Australian Veterinary Association have advised that Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has identified a case of Covi-19 in a Pomeranian. It is believed that this is a case of human-to-animal (reverse zoonotic) transmission. At this stage there is no evidence that dogs can play a role in the spread of this human disease, or that they become sick. See World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) FAQs and comprehensive guidance on companion animal exposure.
Cleaning standards - Please find below some information on cleaning standards for Coronavirus provided by the Australian Government Department of Health in response to a member query on what is expected of retailers if there is a direction by a health department to close and clean a store (e.g. if a virus carrier was identified as attending a store, and the advice was to close the store).
The length of time that SARS-COV-2 (which causes COVID-19) survives on inanimate surfaces will vary depending on many factors including the amount of body fluid associated the contamination plus the ambient temperature and humidity of the environment. In general, coronaviruses in droplets do not survive very long on dry surfaces when the droplet of mucus produced by coughing or sneezing dries out.
Because people who sneeze and cough may be present throughout the opening times of the store, frequent cleaning, especially of surfaces and items frequently touched is important. Alcohol-based hand rub stations should be placed liberally around shopping aisles, especially in areas where food stuffs are on display and where frequent touching of produce occurs.
Signs should be considered to ask shoppers to only touch what they intend to purchase. Training staff to encourage use of alcohol-based hand rub as well as coughing and sneezing etiquette should be instituted by company WHS advisors.
The risk when cleaning is not the same as the risk when face to face with a sick person who may be coughing or sneezing.
Cleaning staff should be informed to avoid touching their face, especially their mouth, nose, and eyes when cleaning. Cleaning staff should wear impermeable disposable gloves and a surgical mask plus eye protection while cleaning. Cleaners should use alcohol-based hand rub before and after wearing gloves. Alcohol-based hand rub should also be used after removing the surgical mask and eye protection. The reason for the surgical mask and eye protection, is because even though the virus will not usually become airborne from cleaning, the surgical mask and eye protection acts as a barrier when people inadvertently touch their face with contaminated hands and fingers whether gloved or not.
Simple disinfectants with label claims noting action against viruses can kill the virus making it no longer possible to infect people.
If there is visible body fluid contamination the cleaner should also wear a full-length disposable gown in addition to the surgical mask, eye protection, and gloves. Advice should be sought from your WHS consultants on correct procedures for wearing PPE.