ICEG under pressure on aerosol transmission

18 Feb 2021

AMA Vice President, Dr Chris Moy, this week questioned the stubbornness of the Infection Control Expert Group (ICEG), which advises the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), to recognise the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19. 

Dr Moy said that hotel quarantine had largely worked well in Australia, but the new strains are punching holes in it. 

“Part of the problem has been the slowness of ICEG, which advises on the types of mechanisms that COVID spreads, to change their stance that it’s not just droplet spread,” Dr Moy told RN Breakfast. 

“Droplet spread is still going to be the primary spread, but there is a chance of airborne spread, particularly for the 14 days that infected visitors are in relatively close contact with quarantine workers.” 

ICEG member, Professor Peter Collignon, this week defended the decision not to recommend the use of N95 masks in all settings in hotel quarantine, saying there was no evidence to suggest aerosol transmission was in play in Australian quarantine hotels outside of the case at the Holiday Inn. 

Dr Khorshid said the debate had been “very frustrating” for many doctors. 

“Clearly this focus on droplet protection isn’t enough, which is exactly what happened in Victorian hospitals last year,” Dr Khorshid told Guardian Australia. 

“We strongly believe that there’s enough evidence now to move to airborne protection to anybody who could have contact with somebody with COVID.” 

Dr Khorshid said the process for getting new national guidelines on mask use was “painfully slow”. 

“It’s only a matter of time that one of these events turns into another catastrophe, the need for another lockdown or another big community outbreak, both of which I think will be very disappointing to the Australian people when it could have been prevented by taking some of these simple measures,” Dr Khorshid said. 

ICEG Chair, Professor Lyn Gilbert, defended the stance in a follow-up interview on RN Breakfast on Tuesday.