Airborne COVID-19 update  

13 July 2020

As evidence about COVID-19 continues to emerge, the ANMF is continuing its work to provide members with an update on the research that is evolving.

Reports that some scientists believe that COVID-19 is transmissible by airborne particles are being seen. Following this advice, the World Health Organization (WHO) on 7 July confirmed it is collaborating with the signatories of the article and acknowledges that there is emerging evidence in this field, as in all other fields regarding the COVID-19 virus and the pandemic, and therefore the WHO believes it must be open to this evidence and understand its implications regarding the modes of transmission and also regarding the precautions that need to be taken.

The WHO is currently working on summarising and consolidating the growing knowledge around transmission and will be issuing a brief in the coming days that will outline everything it is has learnt in this area.
The ANMF (SA Branch) will update members with this information once it is released.

Dr Micah D J Peters PhD, Director of the ANMF National Policy Research Unit (Federal Office), and his team are currently updating the ANMF Evidence Briefs with recent studies. The Evidence Briefs are available on the ANMF Federal Office website.

Dr Peters has stated that for now whilst there is further emerging evidence that aerosolised droplets may play a part in the way COVID-19 may be spread, it’s still not clear or proven that this is a major route of transmission.

Even prior to this most recent evidence, our evidence briefs highlighted that small aerosolised droplets (<5μm) may pose a risk but that the level of this risk especially in many everyday scenarios combined with physical distance, cough/sneeze etiquette, hand hygiene, proper use of PPE when required, is likely to be relatively low in comparison to that of larger droplets and direct contact with contaminated surfaces and objects.

For members, the position should still be that the most effective forms of PPE (together with training in correct use, etc) would ideally be readily available and based on prudent risk assessment. For example, in South Australia where we currently have extremely few active cases, the likelihood of health and aged care staff encountering a person with COVID-19 is very low, so respirators are not necessary in normal situations (i.e. with patients/community members not deemed at risk of COVID-19).

Where we have staff  frequently working directly and in close contact with individuals – especially in indoor environments, with poor ventilation and large numbers of people who could be considered to be potentially infected, however (e.g. screening recently returned travellers from areas where infection risk is higher), then I would say respirators should be recommended, since nasal swabs can cause aerosolisation of droplets. It is also important to stress that members of the public who are considered potentially infected should wear medical/surgical masks to reduce the risk of droplet, surface and potential aerosolised particle transmission.

 SA Health has provided the following table to demonstrate the available PPE stock in South Australia and the stock on order.

PPE Supply Category
Current Stock on Hand (EA)    
 Stock on Order (EA)
Surgical Gowns
9,772 6,221
Gloves 19,070,402 36,000,000
Masks (n95)
823,070 193,490
*5,000,000 (Detmold - orders not raised yet)
Masks Surgical
4,713,526 19,070,402
*40,000,000 (Detmold - first orders have been raised)
Safety Glasses
27,745 4,950
Protective Face Shields
150,045 212,786
Other Gowns (aprons, isolation gowns    
and non-surgical gowns)
Aprons: 312,340
Gowns: 414,258
Aprons: 1,187,000
Hand Sanitiser
Hand Sanitiser

Hand Sanitiser (<500ml):

Hand Sanitiser (1L):
Hand Sanitiser

Hand Sanitiser (<500ml):

Hand Sanitiser (1L):
Swabs 158,407 153,400