Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Information for health professionals

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The cause has now been identified as a novel coronavirus, which has been named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease previously called novel coronavirus is now known as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

The initial cluster of cases was epidemiologically linked to a seafood market in Wuhan City, but cases have now been detected elsewhere in China and in other countries.

For up-to-date information on the number of cases and geographical locations see the World Health Organization Western Pacific outbreaks and emergencies page and the John Hopkins University online tracking dashboard page.

For the most up to date information on the Australian situation and relevant guidelines please refer to the Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources web page.

Case definition and interim recommendations regarding surveillance, infection control and contact management

The most recent case definition can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health website in the Interim advice to public health units – 2019-nCoV document.

The Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) web pages provide extensive resources including interim recommendations for surveillance, infection control and contact management.

Note: These interim recommendations are based on current evidence and may be subject to change as more information becomes available.

Infection Control and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) Advice

Diagnosis – taking samples and laboratory testing

Use appropriate infection control precautions when taking diagnostic specimens including the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Refer to the Australian Government Department of Health fact sheet on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during clinical care of people with suspected or confirmed novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection.

Collect a combined throat and deep nasal swab, preferably in viral transport medium, or sputum or tracheal aspirate in sterile container. See SA Pathology specimen collection guide (PDF 320KB).

Send specimens to SA Pathology.

Request real time respiratory viral panel PCR testing and COVID-19, and document recent travel history and/or suspicion for COVID-19. Do not refer patients to pathology collection centres – specimens should be collected by the treating doctor or at a designated specimen collection centre.

Prohibition on the use of Point of Care Serology Tests

A direction was issued on 2 April 2020 to prohibit a person from using a point of care serological (blood) test (including an assay or device) as an acute illness diagnostic tool for COVID-19, as their use may adversely affect the prevention, control and abatement of the serious public health risk present by COVID-19. This direction does not apply to employees of SA Pathology or the Department of Health and Wellbeing.

Diagnosis — referral for testing

General Practitioners with access to appropriate PPE can collect swabs in their rooms. The SA Pathology specimen collection guide (PDF 320KB) describes the swab collection procedure. Refer to the Australian Government Department of Health fact sheet on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) during clinical care of people with suspected or confirmed novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection. General Practitioners do not need authorisation from the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) to perform testing.

Dedicated COVID-19 clinics and testing centres have been established across metropolitan and regional South Australia. See the COVID-19 clinics and testing centres webpage for more information and locations. Patients do not require a referral.

General Practitioners can also refer patients to a metropolitan or regional drive-through testing centre for specimen collection. Patients need a referral from their GP to access to access this service.

SA Pathology has also established a dedicated metropolitan Adelaide Domiciliary Service run by nurses for collection of specimens from patients with potential COVID-19. This service is for General Practitioners who are unable to collect the specimen due to not having access to PPE or appropriate facilities. This service facilitates the collection of specimens within the patients’ home. Use of the Domiciliary Service requires approval from the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB). After approval, patients require a referral from their General Practitioner to access this service. Further details are available at SA Pathology.

Positive test result

For information about what to do if your patient receives a positive test result, please visit the Information about positive test results page.

Medicines - Pharmacy and Telehealth

A temporary Emergency Supply provision will enable people to access their essential medicines from their pharmacist without a prescription, in the event they have not been able to obtain a prescription for example where there may be reduced access to medical services due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For detailed information about the Emergency Supply provision, read:

Telehealth and medicines (prescribing and dispensing)

Emergency supply

The Commonwealth Government has made temporary changes to medicines regulation to ensure Australians can continue to access the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines they need, as the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic continues. One of these measures relates to the supply of a Schedule 4 (S4) medicine using an image based prescription.

To support this measure, a temporary Exemption has been made in South Australia to enable supply of S4 medicines using an image based prescription.

The notice relating to the Exemption was published in the South Australian Government Gazette on 16 April 2020.

For detailed information about image based prescriptions, read:

  • Health Professionals factsheet - medicine supply on a digital image of a prescription (PDF 141KB).
  • Serious shortage medicine substitution notice

    The Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulations 2011 allow pharmacists to legally substitute a prescribed medicine that is in serious shortage for another medicine, in accordance with certain conditions and under a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Serious Shortage Medicine Substitution Notice.

    Further information


    COVID-19 is now a controlled notifiable condition under the South Australian Public Health Act 2011. Doctors and diagnostic laboratories are required to notify suspected and confirmed cases can be notified online.