Department Reference: FOI 3631
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTICE OF DECISION UNDER SECTION 24A
OF THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 1982
I refer to your request received 18 February 2022 by the Department of Health (the
department) seeking access under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
(Cth) (the FOI
Act) to documents related to COVID-19. Your request is in the following terms:
Can you advise if the Covid Delta and Omicron variants have ever been isolated
Information about COVID-19
SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, is real. Multiple scientific studies
across the world demonstrate that highly reputable laboratory medicine experts
have isolated and sequenced the virus that causes COVID-19, demonstrating that the
virus exists, that it exists in variant forms, that it is different from the influenza virus,
and that it causes a disease that has resulted in over 5.9 million deaths worldwide in
just over two years.
While the department is not the custodian of the scientific studies establishing the
existence of SARS-CoV-2, this research has informed the Australian Government’s
response to the pandemic. You can find those scientific studies in the public domain.
The department is a government agency and does not conduct scientific studies or
laboratory testing for the SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory. Diagnostic assays using
reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) are conducted by testing
laboratories throughout Australia. For more information, please see the Public
Health Laboratory Network guidance on laboratory testing for SARS-CoV-2, which
is available online: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/phln-
In Australia, scientists at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory at
The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity were the first to isolate
SARS-CoV-2 outside of China, winning the 2020 MJA/MDA National Prize for
Excellence in Medical Research. This critical information was immediately shared
with local and overseas reference laboratories and major North American and
European virus culture collections. These peer-reviewed, evidence-based
publications provide scientific evidence for the existence of this deadly virus.
All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, change over time as part of their natural
evolution. A change may or may not give the virus a biological advantage. Existing
and emerging variants are constantly monitored using genomic surveillance to
detect those that pose or may pose an increased risk to human health.
In Australia, whole genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 is the preferred way to
determine the variant and mutation patterns of the virus, e.g. Alpha, Delta, and
Omicron variants. Some RT-PCR tests have been designed to detect specific
SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern. These tests can only identify the specific variants
they have been designed for. FOI decision
I am authorised under subsection 23(1) of the FOI Act to make decisions in relation
to Freedom of Information requests. I am writing to notify you of my decision in
response to your request.
Appropriate steps have been taken to find documents you have requested including
consultation with relevant departmental officers and searches of departmental file
I am satisfied, based on the consultation undertaken and the searches conducted,
that the department, including the Therapeutic Goods Administration, does not hold
any documents referred to in your request. This research and information is
available in the public domain as described above.
As a consequence, relying on section 24A of the FOI Act, I cannot provide access to
the documents you requested.
For your information, the FOI Act is designed to provide a right of access to
‘documents’ held by relevant Commonwealth entities. It is not a mechanism for
individuals to address general questions or enquiries to entities. FOI review rights
If you are dissatisfied with my decision, you may apply for a review.
Under section 54 of the FOI Act, you may apply for internal review of this decision.
In accordance with section 54B of the FOI Act, an application for internal review
must be made in writing within 30 days after the day you are notified of this
decision (or such further period as the department allows). To assist in the internal
review process, please provide reasons you consider the review of my decision is
The internal review will be carried out by another officer of this department within
30 days of receipt of your application.
An application for an internal review should be addressed to:
Mail: FOI Unit (MDP 516)
Department of Health
GPO Box 9848
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Information Commissioner review
Alternatively, under section 54L of the FOI Act, you may apply to the Office of the
Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) for review of my decision by the
Information Commissioner (IC).
In accordance with subsection 54S(1) of the FOI Act, an IC review application in
relation to a decision covered by subsection 54L(2) (access refusal decisions) must be
made in writing within 60 days after the day you are notified of this decision (if you
do not request an internal review).
More information about IC review is available on the OAIC website at: https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-information/reviews/
The OAIC can be contacted by:
Phone: 1300 363 992
If you are dissatisfied with action taken by the department, you may also make a
Complaint to the department
form for lodging a complaint directly to the department is available on the
department’s website: https://www.health.gov.au/about-us/contact-us/complaints
Complaint to the IC
Information about making a complaint to the IC about action taken by the
department is available on the OAIC website: https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-information/reviews-and-complaints/make-
an-foi-complaint/ Relevant provisions of the FOI Act
The FOI Act, including the provisions referred to in this letter, can be accessed from
the Federal Register of Legislation website: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2021C00382 Contacts
If you require clarification of any of the matters discussed in this letter you should
contact the department’s Freedom of Information Unit on (02) 6289 1666 or at email@example.com.
Acting Assistant Secretary
Communicable Diseases Branch
Office of Health Protection and Response
25 February 2022