Date published: 
17 February 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

DAVID KOCH:

Now the Government is still working on a plan to evacuate Aussies on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

The infectious disease expert has travelled to Yokohama where the cruise ship is docked to assess the situation.

It’s expected the elderly will be given priority and comes after America began evacuating its citizens overnight. Two 747s are being chartered to fly up to 400 Americans out of Japan.

Joining me now is our Health Minister Greg Hunt. Minister, good to see you again.

GREG HUNT:

Good morning David.

DAVID KOCH:

Tomorrow marks 14 days since the ship was placed in a quarantine. How’s the Government going to get Aussies off the Diamond Princess? What's the process?

GREG HUNT:

So we are planning a potential operation to bring them home.

Today we have a senior medical officer, Dr Paul Armstrong, who’s boarding the ship with international authorities, obviously in a heavy quarantine and health situation.

He’ll report back to the National Security Committee today and if his advice is that there has been in any way a secondary round of infections, and obviously the presumption is that's the case, then we’re looking to work with Qantas to bring these people home.

But we’re working with the Japanese authorities, working with Qantas, working with the health authorities in planning to bring all of those Australians home who need it.

DAVID KOCH:

And will they go into quarantine, because you’ve got the two hundred and- what, 242 on Christmas Island flying back to their homes today, so that frees up more space at Christmas Island.

Will you bring those from the ship to Christmas Island?

GREG HUNT:

So a final decision on where would be made later today.

We know that Christmas Island is seeing some of the evacuees, the majority of them, over 240 leave today.

That’s been a very successful quarantine and that has helped protect them and the country, but that will take a few days to actually turn around that facility.

As well, many of these patients or passengers on the ship are very, very elderly and may need to be near major hospital facilities.

So we’re working through that with different options and we’ll have advice later today.

I am deeply aware of the stress the situation that the passengers have been under and that’s why we set up a mental health line.

So we’re reaching out to them and we will take care of them if that’s the medical advice today and bring them home.

It's likely that as the Americans have done, they may need to be in a quarantine situation, but more advice coming today, decisions today and announcements today.

DAVID KOCH:

Right. What’s your general feeling on the coronavirus at the moment? You’ve extended that blanket ban for another week until Monday next week.

What sense are you getting out of China? Are they getting on top of it?

GREG HUNT:

So within Wuhan the city and Hubei province, the numbers continue to rise very significantly.

They have somewhat flattened in other parts of China. But as we speak, the latest advice I have is 69,000 people have been diagnosed, over 1670 have lost their lives. And so it remains a very dangerous situation overseas.

In Australia, we have contained it; still only 15 cases, 8 have cleared the virus, another 2 have recovered and so that’s very good news.

But this could get away if we are not maintaining the strongest quarantine and border protection practices.

DAVID KOCH:

Sure. Alright. Greg Hunt, thank you for that.

Ministers: