Background: Infectious diseases (ID) physicians perform a pivotal role in directing the response to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Aim: To assess the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on workload and the perceptions of ID physicians regarding the national response in Australia and New Zealand in the pre-pandemic.
Methods: A survey of ID physicians in Australia and New Zealand was undertaken from 3 to 10 March 2020. Respondents were asked to estimate time spent on SARS-CoV-2-related activities in February and report their agreement with statements on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’. We also asked about the intended use of investigational agents.
Results: There were 214 respondents (36% of 600 eligible participants). The median workload due to SARS-CoV-2-related activities was 34% of one full-time equivalent (interquartile range 18–68%). Less than a quarter (50, 23%) of respondents had experience managing cases, while 33% (70) had experience preparing during similar pandemics. Nevertheless, 88% (188/213) believed they were well informed when giving testing and management advice, and 45% (95/212) believed their national response was well coordinated. Additionally, 41% (88/214) were worried about becoming infected through occupational exposure. Over half (116, 54%) the respondents intended to use lopinavir/ritonavir in confirmed cases of COVID-19 with severe disease.
Conclusions: ID physicians spent a large proportion of time on SARS-CoV-2-related activities. Increased staffing is required to avoid burnout. Importantly, ID physicians feel well informed when giving advice. A national body should be established to co-ordinate response. Treatment efficacy trials are needed to clarify the utility of unproven treatments.