Airport Scanning- Coronavirus Outbreak
Airport Scanning- Coronavirus Outbreak

‘I’m very confident that we’re well prepared’

A SARS-like virus, which had killed at least nine people and infected more than 400, was "quite likely" to reach Australia, the nation's chief medical officer said yesterday.

But Professor Brendan Murphy said the country was prepared to deal with the coronavirus, which emerged last month in Wuhan, China.

"We do have a lot of traffic from China and I think it's quite likely that we will get some cases here but I'm very confident that we're well prepared to respond if we do," he said.

"We currently have over ten million masks even though we distributed 3.5 million during the bushfires, so we've got a good stockpile.

"We can activate that stockpile and get stuff out."

Workers spray antiseptic solution in the arrival lobby at Incheon International Airport, South Korea, amid rising public concerns over the possible spread of a new coronavirus. Picture: Suh Myung-geon, Yonhap via AP.
Workers spray antiseptic solution in the arrival lobby at Incheon International Airport, South Korea, amid rising public concerns over the possible spread of a new coronavirus. Picture: Suh Myung-geon, Yonhap via AP.

Queensland Health yesterday cleared a Brisbane man of the virus, in the same family as the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which killed more than 700 people earlier this century.

The man, who returned from Wuhan on January 8, was temporarily isolated at home after developing a respiratory illness. But tests yesterday were negative for the Wuhan virus.

A Melbourne traveller in his 40s was taken to hospital from Melbourne airport with respiratory issues yesterday after recently travelling to China, but tests later also cleared him.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has advised people returning from Wuhan who developed respiratory symptoms within 14 days of travel to see their general practitioner.

People are urged to call ahead and advise the clinic of their symptoms so precautions can be taken.

The new virus, first detected last month, is believed to have spread from animals to humans through the Wuhan South China Seafood City Market, which sells chickens, bats, marmots and other wild animals.

A Chinese girl wears a protective mask as her mother pushes her on a suitcase to board a train at Beijing Railway station amid concerns about the spread of a new coronavirus. Photo: Kevin Frayer, Getty Images.
A Chinese girl wears a protective mask as her mother pushes her on a suitcase to board a train at Beijing Railway station amid concerns about the spread of a new coronavirus. Photo: Kevin Frayer, Getty Images.

Human-to-human contact of the virus has also been reported, with some health workers becoming infected.

Countries which have recorded cases of the novel coronavirus outside China, including the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Macau.

University of Queensland virologist Ian Mackay said further research was necessary to understand more about the virus, including how fast it was transmitting.

"We still don't really know how widespread it is," Associate Professor Mackay said. "We don't know from China … how fast it's travelling, what the incubation period is."

The World Health Organisation (WHO) was due to hold an emergency meeting overnight to determineif the outbreak constitutes a global health emergency.

PM Scott Morrison was briefed about the virus yesterday. He said he understood that people were "somewhat anxious about this outbreak" but "the states and Commonwealth are working together to stay ahead of this."



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