Novel coronavirus update

A statement from the Chief Medical Officer about novel coronavirus.

Date published:
Media type:
Media release
General public

The Australian Government Department of Health is working across agencies to implement additional measures to manage the risk of novel coronavirus (2019‑nCoV) from the region of Wuhan in China.

I want to reassure Australians that to date there have been no confirmed cases in Australia and the risk of transmission in Australia from this novel coronavirus remains low. 

We have well established mechanisms to detect and respond to ill travellers, and processes in place to implement further measures if the risk increases.

This is a rapidly evolving matter with developments in recent days and we remain alert but not alarmed.

Recent developments include significant increases in reported cases, and evidence of limited human-to-human transmission.

After consulting other Government agencies and the states and territories, we are now undertaking evidence based, proportionate additional border measures, particularly in relation to the three weekly direct flights from Wuhan to Sydney.

  • All passengers on these direct flights will receive information about the virus on arrival requesting that they identify themselves to biosecurity officers at the airport if they are unwell. If they have symptoms of an infectious disease they will be assessed by NSW Health.
  • Additional information will be displayed at all major international ports around Australia, with instructions on what to do if travellers have symptoms or if symptoms develop. 
  • We are currently working with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to update the travel advisory to Wuhan.
  • We are also preparing updated advice for doctors and other health professionals in Australia and will be providing advice on the Department of Health’s website.

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Australia. 

Australia’s public health systems have identified a number of individuals who have presented with relevant symptoms and travel history to Wuhan. 

So far, all but one have been cleared of the novel coronavirus. Laboratory testing results are pending on one remaining case in Queensland. 

Key details of the evolving situation and suspected cases in Australia are shared across jurisdictions through key expert bodies such as the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and its standing committee, the Communicable Diseases Network Australia.

Australia has world-class public health systems in place to manage any cases, including isolation facilities in each state and territory.

There is currently no vaccine available for this new virus; supportive care is the best available treatment if a case is confirmed. 


Coronaviruses are ubiquitous—there are many known viruses in humans and animals including some viruses that cause the common cold.

This novel virus was first detected in the City of Wuhan in China around 30 December 2019.

As of 21 January 2020, 198 confirmed cases of this virus have been detected in the Wuhan region of China, with three deaths.

Twenty-three additional cases have been detected in individuals in Beijing and Guangdong Province (China), Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Some of these individuals have reported a history of travel to Wuhan.

Since 17 January 2020, 136 new cases have been identified in patients in Wuhan with previously unexplained pneumonia.

All reported cases are adults.

The recent increase in the number of cases has been partially due to increased surveillance and testing of cases.

There is likely to be  under-reporting and detection, particularly of mild cases, and true numbers are likely to be significantly greater.

A number of clinical symptoms have been reported, fever was the single consistent symptom. Other symptoms include breathing difficulty, coughing and a sore throat.

Among the reported cases, a proportion have experienced severe symptoms, including three deaths in China, with one individual known to have underlying disease. 

There is not enough data to assess clinical severity yet, however, on current evidence, the virus is not thought to be as clinically severe as SARS or MERS and investigations are ongoing.


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