Date published: 
25 January 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

[Confirms the first case of novel coronavirus has been identified in Australia]… from Wuhan travelled to Melbourne last Sunday on a flight on the 19th. On flight CZ321from Guangzhou and he was well when he arrived but developed an illness during last week and is currently in stable condition under isolation in a hospital in Melbourne. As we indicated earlier in this week, given the number of cases that have been found outside of China and the significant traffic from Wuhan city in the past to Australia, it was not unexpected that we would get some cases.

So this is the first confirmed cases. There are other cases being tested each day. Many of them are negative but I wouldn't be surprised if we had further confirmed cases. As I've said previously however Australia is very well prepared. We have excellent State and Territory health systems. All of whom have protocols to isolate and rapidly diagnose conditions such as this. And this is evidenced by what happened with this gentleman in Melbourne, who is now under isolation and being managed. This morning I convened an emergency meeting of the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee to discuss this first positive case and we discussed the protocol for contact tracing of passengers adjacent to him in the train, in the plane sorry, and providing information to other passengers on that plane.

As I've previously advised, we have a lower risk now of people coming from Wuhan because the Chinese government have now stopped all transport out of Wuhan. However, there may be some people who have been in Wuhan, who got out before the travel ban was instituted by China and they may make their way to Australia from other ports in China.

So for the time being as of this afternoon we'll be meeting all flights from China - and there are a very large number of flights to Australia each week from China - and providing information to all passengers in English and Mandarin, encourage them if they've been from that Hubei province of China, particularly the city of Wuhan. And if they get any illness when they're here to seek medical attention and identify themselves as having come from that region of China. We are intending- Minister Hunt is proposing to convene a meeting of health ministers this afternoon just to make sure that all health ministers are well apprised of the situation. And the Australian Government Crisis Committee will also be meeting just to make sure that everybody is fully prepared and fully understands the implications of having one or more positive cases in Australia.

We're still in a learning curve about this virus. Information from China is showing significant increase in numbers, now over 1,300 confirmed cases, and the death toll is now up to 41. Again the vast majority, 39 of those deaths, have been from people in that epicentre in Wuhan province and we have as you will have heard reports now of a further exported cases to other countries and increasing numbers. But again they are small numbers and we're confident that outside of the major epicentre in China there is not yet evidence of significant or any human to human spread. But clearly we're keeping a watching eye on this situation and will watch the situation internationally very closely. In terms of the Australian public unless you have been in close contact with someone who is unwell and has come from that part of China, there is no need for current concern. There is no evidence that this virus is being transmitted at all in Australia. But clearly our message is for people who have come from that part of China in in recent weeks who do develop any symptoms particularly: fever, cough, shortness of breath, vomiting, often flu like symptoms and maybe they may just have the flu but to call ahead to their doctor or their hospital nearby to warn them and to come in and get checked out. So the risk really is in people who've come from that part of China. There is at this stage no risk to the general Australian community. And I want to emphasise that. But clearly we are keeping a very close eye on this situation so that's probably all I need to say at the moment I'm happy to take any questions.

QUESTION

How many people have been tested and have tested negative to this.

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

That is a daily evolving number probably about a dozen so far I think in Australia. But there are people being tested today so I can't confirm that accurately.

QUESTION:

Can you tell us where this gentleman was from or where he has been?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

He was from Wuhan and he came from Wuhan to Guangzhou on an earlier flight and then from Guangzhou to Melbourne on a direct flight. So he's come from the area where the virus was.

QUESTION: 

Do you think the Chinese government is misleading in how bad this virus actually is?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

I don't believe so. I think the Chinese government has taken very proportionate measures. I mean it's quite an extraordinary measure to lock down an entire province. It's not just the city of Wuhan but its surroundings cities now where they have banned all travel out of those cities. They have been very transparent. The fact that the data is evolving rapidly each day is more I think, that due to the fact that they are requiring that data. I don't believe there's any evidence that they're not being open and transparent.

QUESTION:

Do you have concerns given the incubation period, that we'll have multiple cases of this virus appearing in Australia?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

It's very hard to tell. Given that it was only last weekend as you recall that Friday of the previous week there had been no new cases reported for 10 days or only about 45 cases. There was a fairly relaxed international message clearly over the course of last weekend, things escalated and since the Chinese government stopped travel from last Thursday the risk to Australia I think is more in those people who travelled in the week up to Thursday when the travel ban was put in place. And there are potentially others like this person who have travelled to Australia who were well when they arrived and who may develop disease but we just don't know. Given that the travel has now stopped from that region and there are no clear epicentres outside of that region where there are human to human transmission I suspect the risk of people coming from other parts of China or the world is very low. But we just need to keep watching and seeing what develops.

QUESTION:

The flu season is in China because it's cold. Is that going to have a problem for Australia when it comes to our winter time and our flu season?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

Well I think the flu season is a problem because a lot of people from that part of China who develop these symptoms will have the flu and including people who may have come from here. I think it's just too early to say what the cause of this virus is going to be over the next months. And I think that's probably a bit premature to postulate whether the flu season will have anything to do with it here.

QUESTION:

Can you tell us how many people have been tested today?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

I can't tell you because the state and territory health services are testing. They arrange tests. They've got their own labs but we- I believe they're probably in the order of half a dozen people who are having tests across the country today. We've had many tests in the last few days and they've all been negative except this one.

QUESTION:

And how did it come about that he tested positive. Did he present himself with symptoms?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

He did. He developed symptoms and he sought- he contacted ahead of the hospital and turned up to the hospital wearing a mask. And the hospital- he was very responsible citizen and went to hospital, described that he'd come from Wuhan and he was unwell and they rapidly isolated him and organised the test.

QUESTION:

How old is this man?

PROFESSOR BRENDAN MURPHY:

In his 50s. Thank you very much.

Contact

Public Health Information Hotline

Call the Public Health Information Hotline in the event of an health emergency or incident affecting the public.

View contact

Departmental media enquiries

Contact for members of the media

news [at] health.gov.au (subject: Media%20enquiry%20-%20News%20item%20ID9729, body: URL - https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.gov.au%2Fnews%2Fchief-medical-officers-update-on-novel-coronavirus-2)

View contact