The Federal Government fears a COVID-19 global pandemic could be imminent, prompting them to activate an emergency plan to deal with the outbreak.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Thursday that the rate of transmission of the virus outside of China is “fundamentally changing the way we need to look at how the issue is being managed here in Australia.”
“The advice that we have received today is that, based on the expert medical advice we have received, there is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus and as a result, we have agreed today and initiated the implementation of the coronavirus emergency response plan,” Mr Morrison said.
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“While the World Health Organisation is yet to declare the nature of the coronavirus and its move towards a pandemic phase, we believe that the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us, and as a result, as a government, we need to take the steps necessary to prepare for such a pandemic.”
The Prime Minister stressed that the Australian Government’s actions are being taken in an abundance of caution.
“We have always acted with an abundance of caution on this issue and that has put Australia in the strong position we are in to this time, in being able to contain the impact of this virus.
“So the actions we are now taking in being prepared even further is to ensure we can respond immediately when the virus moves to the next level.
“You can still go to the football, you can still go to the cricket, you can still go and play with your friends down the street, you can go off to the concert and you can go out for a Chinese meal.”
Minister for Health Greg Hunt said that under the plan, health ministers will be making sure that hospitals around the country are ready to deal with a possible influx of patients.
“One of the things we’re most focused on is to make sure we have the personnel capacity if there is a surge within our hospitals and medical system,” Mr Hunt said.
“In the event of a pandemic, the goal is to slow its spread if it gets to Australia.
“But with the number of countries that are now affected, we have to be realistic about the likelihood of containment strategies into the weeks ahead.”
The travel ban has also been extended for another week, meaning foreign nationals will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they have left or transited through mainland China.
Australians who are returning after visiting mainland China are being told to self-isolate for 14 days.
The ban was due to end this weekend, however the Federal Government confirmed they have accepted the recommendation from medical experts to extend it for a third time.
The new travel ban will now end on Saturday March 7, however it will be reviewed again within a week.