Department of Health secretary Glenys Beauchamp has returned from leave just days into her retirement.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said his outgoing secretary had offered to postpone her retirement while her successor — chief medical officer Brendan Murphy — handles Australia’s response to the coronavirus.
The World Health Organisation today declared the virus a global emergency.
Last weekend, Beauchamp said she “should be back on deck” and offered to return to her role, despite only going on leave on January 24, according to Hunt.
“The secretary Glenys Beauchamp pre-empted us before anyone else got to the question of it on Australia Day, when we spoke,” he said.
“She’s been tremendous.”
Murphy said he would be focused “entirely” on the coronavirus for now, and would not be moving immediately into his new role.
“We will assess the situation on a regular basis and I’ll consult with the minister about what the appropriate time is,” he said.
Beauchamp’s official retirement was scheduled for February 28.
The CSIRO today announced it would start researching the virus using a sample from the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity — the first organisation outside of China to re-create the virus in a lab. The sample will be taken to the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, where scientists will work to understand the virus.