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Update on novel coronavirus in Australia

Joint release with the Chief Medical Officer about the novel coronoavirus cases in Australia.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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Four cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have now been confirmed in Australia – one in Victoria and three in New South Wales.

The first case was confirmed in Victoria yesterday, with the three in New South Wales confirmed later in the day.

The Commonwealth Department of Health is in close contact with Victorian and NSW health authorities and has notified the World Health Organization of the cases.

All four cases are men who flew to Australia on separate flights from China between 6 January and 20 January. All four had either spent time in Wuhan, China, or been in close contact with someone from Wuhan.

The virus originated in mainland China, and the overwhelming majority of cases are there. The only clear evidence of human-to-human transmission is in the Hubei province, where the City of Wuhan is located.

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said NSW and Victorian authorities are taking all necessary precautions to limit the transmission of the virus.

“Australia has processes in place to identify and treat cases such as the novel coronavirus, including isolation facilities in each state and territory,” Minister Hunt said.

“Yesterday I convened a meeting of State and Territory Health Ministers to coordinate the ongoing national action and response.”

“As a consequence the Government has written to doctors’ groups today to provide them with updated information and advice.”

“The Commonwealth is working closely with Victoria and New South Wales to facilitate contact tracing of individuals who may have been in contact with these men since they arrived in Australia or on the relevant flights.”

“This will include contacting individuals in close contact with the four confirmed cases, and providing other passengers with advice on what to do if they begin feeling unwell,” Minister Hunt said.

Australian Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, said Victorian and NSW authorities had acted swiftly, following strict protocols.

“All four affected patients have been placed in isolation. I understand the men are stable and doing well,” Professor Murphy said.

Professor Murphy also acknowledge that other cases may be confirmed in Australia over the coming days or weeks.

“Symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, vomiting and difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention,” Professor Murphy said.

In response to the emerging situation the Australian Government has taken immediate action which has been based on the best available evidence and advice:

  • Minister Hunt convened a meeting of State and Territory Health Ministers on 25 January to coordinate the ongoing national action and response.
  • DFAT has raised the level of travel advice for Wuhan and Hubei Province in China to ‘level 4 – do not travel’ and has issued a Smartraveller bulletin on the virus outbreak. The advice level for China as a whole has not changed.
  • Border measures are already in place to detect travellers who are unwell coming into the country.
  • While Chinese authorities have now stopped all traffic from Hubei province, as an added precaution, the Australian Government is ensuring that all flights from other parts of China will be met and all passengers provided with information on arrival.
  • Information is also on display at all major international ports around Australia, with instructions on what to do if travellers have symptoms or if symptoms develop.
  • Human coronavirus with pandemic potential is now a Listed Human Disease under the Biosecurity Act 2015, enabling the use of enhanced border measures.
  • The Department of Health has provided primary and community health care workers and Emergency Departments in Australia with updated advice.

If people think they have been exposed to the novel coronavirus and have serious concerns about their health, they should immediately contact their local health professional and they can also ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to receive a health assessment by a registered nurse.

Further information is available at:

  • NSW Public Health Unit: 1300 066 055
  • Victorian Department of Health and Human Services: 1300 651 160

Secretary of the Department of Health and Aged Care

Mr Blair Comley PSM is the Secretary of the Department of Health and Aged Care.

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