Coronavirus on verge of ‘pandemic’

THE new coronavirus sweeping the globe is of "pandemic potential", Health Minister Greg Hunt declared as he said new cases will be confirmed in Australia.

Border protection measures are being put in place to deal with an influx of Australians returning from China after Luna New Year celebrations.

The death toll for the disease has now hit more than 80 in China, where the epicentre of the disease has been locked down in Hubei province.

Medical workers in protective gear stand as a woman suspected of being ill with coronavirus waits to be seen at a community health station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province. (Chinatopix via AP)
Medical workers in protective gear stand as a woman suspected of being ill with coronavirus waits to be seen at a community health station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province. (Chinatopix via AP)

The World Organisation Health has held off declaring the outbreak a "pandemic of global significance".

But Mr Hunt said it had "pandemic potential", but Australia was well prepared to take all necessary measures to isolate any infected persons.

Health Minister Greg Hunt declared the new coronavirus to be of “pandemic potential”. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Health Minister Greg Hunt declared the new coronavirus to be of “pandemic potential”. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

"We have some of the strongest border protection measures in place around the world and we have biosecurity officials boarding all planes from China looking for symptoms," he said.

"The Prime Minister has ordered all planes coming from China are boarded by security officials and that's an extremely important measure.

 

 

"Every passenger is met with by biosecurity officials and not only are they provided with information, but there is a review of their symptoms and the situation."

The National Security Committee met last night and is continuing to be briefed on the latest developments with the outbreak.

 

Mr Hunt said he was confident more cases of the virus would be confirmed in the coming days, but authorities were prepared to test and isolate people who may be infected.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said there was still no cause for concern for Australians at this stage.

"There is no human to human transmission of this virus (in Australia) … There is no need for the Australian public to wear masks," Prof Murphy said.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy says there is still no need for the Australian public to be concerned or wearing masks in public. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy says there is still no need for the Australian public to be concerned or wearing masks in public. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

"All of the cases that we've detected so far came here when there wasn't major concern about the disease internationally."

Prof Murphy said quarantining of people coming off flights in China and travel bans were not of public health value at the moment.

Everyone coming off a flight from China is receiving information in English and Mandarin about the need to report their travel history and if they have symptoms to declare themselves to a border security officer.



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