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

PROFESSOR  BRENDAN MURPHY:

Good afternoon. My name is Brendan Murphy. I'm the Australian Government Chief Medical Officer and I'm just giving an update on the coronavirus situation.

As you've probably all heard, the situation intentionally is much the same as it's been in the past few days with continued, significant growth in numbers, particularly in the Hubei province of China. There are now just over 37.5 thousand cases worldwide, just over 800 deaths, and just over 350 exported cases in 27 countries.

In Australia, there remain 15 cases only. We've had no more cases detected, which is good. And all of the people who have contracted the virus in Australia are in a stable condition, and as you know, some have already been discharged from hospital, having cleared the virus.

I'm pleased to report that the girl on Christmas Island who was recently tested has been proven to be negative. She does not have coronavirus so there is no confirmed cases of the virus in the Christmas Island quarantine population, who remain well and are well looked after.

I'm also pleased to inform you, as you already know I imagine, that the second flight from Wuhan arrived early this afternoon in Darwin. All of the 266 people on board have been health screened four times now. Before they left China, twice on the flight and once on arrival at the Darwin Airport. They are all clinically well and they're in the process of being transported to the Howard Springs quarantine facility, where they'll have another health check, be cohorted and quarantined for a 14-day period.

And again, I want to thank the Northern Territory Government and all of the agencies that stepped up to ready that facility, which we needed because Christmas Island is full at the moment from a quarantine perspective.

And I do want to again reassure the community around the Howard Springs Facility in Darwin that I've personally inspected it. I'm absolutely confident that all precautions have been taken to ensure that there's no risk to the community. We know that these people who are being quarantined there are actually well at the moment and there's a very large barrier between where they'll be and anyone in the community. Anyone who might develop the virus, if they do, will be immediately transported to the Darwin Hospital and properly quarantined.

So, that's the current situation at the moment and I'm obviously very happy to take any questions.

QUESTION:

How many evacuees are there in the Howard Springs facility, do you know?

PROFESSOR  BRENDAN MURPHY:

There'll be 266.

QUESTION:

And they're all – healthy, as you said?

PROFESSOR  BRENDAN MURPHY:

All very well, and they've all been screened a final time on arrival at Darwin, yes.

QUESTION:

How many people are considered to have recovered from the coronavirus in Australia?

PROFESSOR  BRENDAN MURPHY:

[There are] three that have confirmed to have completely cleared the virus on testing. There are another couple that are clinically well, or in fact more than another couple. There are several that are clinically well but we haven't proven them to clear the virus yet. And we won't say that they've completely recovered until all their tests are negative. But there's nobody who is clinically in a serious condition. Everyone is stable, which is great to hear.

QUESTION:

If someone does get sick in one of these facilities, what is the plan of attack, so to speak?

PROFESSOR  BRENDAN MURPHY:

So, if anyone becomes unwell in any of these facilities they will be immediately taken to quarantine. In the Darwin facility they will go to the Darwin Hospital, where they will be tested, and if they are negative that is good; if they are positive they will be properly treated there. At Christmas Island, the AUSMAT team have set up an isolation hospital on the island and they would be taken there for testing and isolation.

QUESTION:

Is there now a bit of confusion about how the virus started?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

I don't think we know yet. I think we do know that it almost definitely was a bat coronavirus. How it crossed from the bat into animal species and then to human is still a matter of intense investigation. WHO are sending in an expert team into Hubei province and Wuhan in the coming days, and that will be a very important thing to determine just what happened in terms of it coming across to human transmission.

QUESTION:

Are there any updates on the third boat that is also stranded in Japan?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

No. We have no more information about the people on the cruise liners. We know there were seven Australians who have contracted the virus, have been taken off. It's lucky that they're in Japan because they have got a wonderful health system, like ours, and they are being well looked after. And obviously, our Department of Foreign Affairs is providing consular assistance to others on board the ship. But they can provide more information on that.

QUESTION:

Are you expecting other flights like this to arrive in Australia? You say Christmas Island is full. If Howard Springs becomes full what's the plan after?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Look, there are no current plans for any further assisted departure flights. I know that the Department of Foreign Affairs is in contact with people on the ground in Wuhan. We've certainly brought off the people of greatest risk. There are another 92 [SIC*] children on this flight that came from Darwin. I think they will be reviewing that situation. If there were any further flights there's certainly more capacity at Howard Springs, but Christmas Island also may become vacant again after the quarantine of the first flight. But there are no current plans for further flights.

QUESTION:

And is there a reason as to why this virus is spreading so quickly in China but not so much in Australia?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Well, I think the fact that we have contained it so far. We have only had a relatively small number of people with the virus come here, but we have got onto it very quickly. Our public health units in every one of the state and territories has been incredibly quick to isolate and manage people who have contracted the virus, contact trace, and make sure that those people are isolated. There's still a long way to go. There's still significant potential for further infection, but it shows that our public health measures so far have been very effective.

QUESTION:

Do you know if Australia's contributing to the $2 billion request fund?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Australia will be considering, as we always do, global assistance. That's a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Foreign Minister.

QUESTION:

Can we expect any changes in the travel bans?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

The travel bans, as the Prime Minister announced, will be formally reviewed at the end of a two-week period, which comes up at the end of this week.

QUESTION:

Can I just double-check those figures with you? Was it 266 [indistinct] on the flight to Darwin?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Correct. Correct.

QUESTION:

And you mentioned four health screenings. So, is that in total or did they do four before they left?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

They did a health screening, but the Chinese checked them before they got on the flight and wouldn't let anyone on who was not unwell [SIC]. Our AUSMAT clinicians checked them twice during the fight and they have been checked by health officials at the airport, the RAAF Base in Darwin where they've arrived, and they'll have a further check when they get to Howard Springs to make sure that they are absolutely well.

QUESTION: 

Okay, and there were 92 children out of the 266?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

I believe so, yes. [SIC*]

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Okay. Thank you very much everybody.

* 11 infants and 90 minors (aged two to 18 years) were on today’s flight from Wuhan to Darwin.

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Chief Medical Officer

Professor Brendan Murphy is the Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government and is the principal medical adviser to the Minister and Health.

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