The Federal Government is working with Chinese authorities to get Australians in coronavirus-affected areas home.
The Australian has reported diplomatic staff are scrambling to repatriate Australians, including at least 100 schoolkids stranded in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.
It comes as the nation’s chief medical officer says it’s likely there will be more cases of the coronavirus in Australia, following confirmation of four cases.
Coronavirus has killed 56 people in China and the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the illness, remains in lockdown.
Professor Brendan Murphy says he will be sending out a message to GPs across the country on how to handle patients who present with symptoms of the deadly illness.
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Three men are in hospital in Sydney after flying in from China, while another man in his 50s is being treated in Melbourne.
“There is no cause for general concern,” Prof Murphy told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
“I would not be surprised if there are some more cases … it’s highly likely that we may see them some more.
“We are incredibly well prepared to isolate and deal with that.” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the government would look to assist Australians with travel out of China, with several cities in lockdown as authorities try to contain the virus.
“We are seeking advice from the Chinese authorities on these restrictions and whether any options are available to international travellers,” Senator Payne said.
“Our embassy in Beijing and our consulate in Shanghai are also working with international partners and the Chinese government to determine what support can be given to Australians on the ground.” Two of the men hospitalised in Sydney flew directly from Wuhan, a 53-year-old on January 20 and a 43-year-old two days prior. The third man, aged 35, arrived from the southern city of Shenzhen on January 6.
A fourth, also aged in his 50s, was Australia’s first confirmed case of the virus after he touched down in Melbourne from Guangzhou on January 19. Only the 53-year-old man is thought to have been contagious while travelling to Australia. He flew to Sydney on China Eastern flight MU749, and authorities are obtaining details of other passengers on that flight.
Meanwhile, passengers on China Southern Airlines flight CZ321 from Guangzhou to Melbourne on January 19 are also being contacted as a precaution. Chinese authorities are scrambling to stop the spread of the deadly illness, restricting transport in the Hubei province including its capital Wuhan. Coronavirus has been confirmed in other countries including Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, France, Malaysia and the United States. Experts are still learning about the virus and Prof Murphy says it’s important people arriving from Wuhan, as well as those in close contact with them, look out for symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, vomiting and difficulty breathing.
Australians are being told not to travel to Wuhan or Hubei province.
Almost 2000 cases of a new viral respiratory illness have been confirmed since an outbreak began last month in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Scientists have identified the illness as a new kind of coronavirus.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold.
Others have evolved into more severe illnesses, such as SARS and MERS, although so far the new virus does not appear to be nearly as deadly or contagious.
WHAT’S NEW TODAY
• The National Health Commission said the number of confirmed cases in China rose to nearly 2,000 and the death toll, to 56.
• The US reported a third case, a man in southern California who travelled from the hard-hit city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
• Singapore and South Korea each reported one new case Sunday, while Thailand reported three new cases.
• The US said it was chartering a plane to fly out its consulate staff and some civilians from the city. France said it was preparing a similar evacuation, possibly by bus. Japan said it too was arranging an evacuation flight.
• China’s health minister said the country was entering a “crucial stage” as “it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger.”
• Beijing said it would delay the start of classes after the Lunar New Year holiday ends later this week.
• Two of Hong Kong’s biggest attractions, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, announced they were closing for the time being.
Here are the places that have confirmed cases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus:
– China –
As of Sunday, almost 2,000 people have been infected across China, the bulk of them in and around Wuhan.
Nearly all of those who died were in the Wuhan region, but officials have confirmed at least four deaths elsewhere.
The city of Macau, a gambling hub hugely popular with mainland tourists, has confirmed five cases as of Sunday.
In Hong Kong, six people are known to have the disease. Of those, five arrived via a newly built high-speed train terminal which connects with the mainland.
– France –
There are three known cases of the coronavirus in France, the first European country to be affected by the outbreak.
One person is sick in Bordeaux and another is ill in Paris. A third person, who is a close relative of one of the other two, has also been confirmed to have the virus.
All three had recently travelled to China and have now been placed in isolation.
– Japan –
Japan’s health authorities confirmed the country’s fourth case on Saturday: a man in his 40s, visiting Japan from Wuhan, who is currently in hospital in a stable condition.
Another man was hospitalised on January 10, four days after his return from a visit to Wuhan.
And a further two people from the Chinese city — a man in his 40s and a woman in her 30s — have also been treated in hospital for fever.
– Australia –
Australia confirmed its first four cases of the virus on Saturday. One man in Melbourne and three men in Sydney tested positive and are being treated in hospital isolation units after arriving in the country from Wuhan.
Authorities said they were contacting people who had travelled on the same planes from China and are offering advice.
Sydney will host the Matildas’ Olympic qualifying group matches against China, Taiwan and Thailand after the Asian Football Confederation elected to move the games away from Nanjing due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The games were moved from Wuhan to Nanjing but will now take place in Sydney in February after the Chinese Football Association withdrew as host.
“The safety of all players, officials and fans is of paramount importance to Football Federation Australia and the Asian Football Confederation, and we are confident we will host a successful tournament here in Sydney,” FFA chief executive Chris Nikou said in a statement.
– United States –
The US has confirmed three cases of the virus in patients who had recently entered the country from Wuhan.
A man aged in his 30s reported himself to authorities on January 19 after returning to his home near Seattle.
On Friday, public health authorities said the virus had been detected in a Chicago woman in her 60s, and on Saturday a traveller from Wuhan in California was confirmed as the third infected person on US soil.
All patients were quarantined in hospitals and had responded to treatment, health officials said.
– Canada –
Canada said Saturday it had identified its first “presumptive” case of the virus in a man who returned to Toronto from Wuhan.
The patient is aged in his 50s and has been placed in isolation.
– Malaysia –
Malaysia confirmed its fourth case on Sunday. All are Chinese nationals on holiday from Wuhan who arrived in the country from Singapore.
A 66-year-old woman and two boys, aged two and 11, are in stable condition and are being kept in an isolation ward at a public hospital, Malaysia’s health minister said Saturday.
The latest confirmed case is a 40-year-old man who entered the country on a bus with a Chinese tour group.
– Nepal –
Nepal said a 32-year-old man arriving from Wuhan had the disease. The patient, who was initially quarantined, recovered and was discharged. The government said that surveillance has been increased at Nepal’s international airport “and suspicious patients entering Nepal are being monitored”.
– Singapore –
Singapore announced its fourth case of the coronavirus on Sunday. All four patients had arrived in the city-state from Wuhan over the last week.
The latest confirmed case is a 36-year-old man who entered Singapore on Wednesday and later developed a cough, the health ministry said in a statement.
– South Korea –
South Korean media reported the country’s third case on Sunday. The patients include two South Korean men, both aged in their 50s and working in Wuhan, who returned to South Korea earlier this week.
The country reported its first case on January 20 – a 35-year-old woman who flew in from Wuhan.
– Taiwan –
Taiwan has uncovered three cases so far. It has since advised against travel to Wuhan and Hubei province and on Friday said any arrivals from Wuhan would be rejected by immigration.
All arrivals from the rest of China – including Hong Kong and Macau – must fill out health declaration forms on arrival.
It has also banned the export of face masks for a month to ensure domestic supplies.
– Thailand –
Thailand has detected eight cases so far – three of whom are receiving treatment in hospital and five of whom have been discharged, according to a statement from Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
All the infected persons are Chinese nationals, except for a 73-year-old Thai woman who came back from Wuhan this month.
– Vietnam –
Vietnam confirmed two cases of the virus on Thursday. An infected man from Wuhan travelled to Ho Chi Minh City earlier this month and passed the virus on to his son.
Both are being treated in hospital and are stable, health officials said.
– Suspected case in Austria –
A Chinese flight attendant who arrived in Vienna on Friday has been quarantined in hospital since late Saturday with flu symptoms. The woman is believed to have recently been in Wuhan.
Authorities said it would take up to 48 hours to confirm whether the woman had contracted the virus.