Aussies ‘can be detained’ over virus
AUSTRALIANS could be held by medical authorities if they show symptoms of coronavirus, Attorney-General Christian Porter has said.
He said the powers used to detain people at airports could also be used elsewhere as the government moves to respond to the threat from the virus.
"It's very likely that these laws will get used on a larger scale," Mr Porter told ABC Radio National. "And it's very likely that Australians will encounter practices and instructions and circumstances that they have not had to encounter before."
The nation's chief health officers will meet today to consider steps to reduce the coronavirus risk such as cancelling mass sporting events or religious gatherings and school or workplace closures.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has suggested Australians think twice before shaking hands or kissing as the first human-to-human transmission of coronavirus inside Australia is confirmed.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mr Hazzard advised people to be "cautious but not alarmed" and said there was a number of steps people could be taking to keep themselves healthy.
"I won't be changing anything about what I do on a day-to-day basis. I will still be enjoying eating at a Chinese restaurant, I feel totally and absolutely safe in that situation," he said.
"I also think it is a sensible step though for us all to recognise that trying to make sure there is no transmission to any of us that may had exposure.
"It is a very Australian thing to do to put your hand out and shake hands for example. I would be suggesting it is time that Aussies actually gave each other a pat on the back for the time being. No hand shaking, it's not necessary."
Mr Hazzard also said that while he wouldn't tell people to stop kissing, they should "exercise some degree of caution" when doing so.
Australian chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy said an outbreak in Australia was likely inevitable, stating "it's no longer possible to absolutely prevent new cases coming in".
AUSTRALIA'S FIRST CASES OF HUMAN-TO-HUMAN TRANSMISSION
The first human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus has been confirmed inside Australia.
Three more cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in NSW, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to nine.
Two of the people who have been recently diagnosed had not travelled outside of Australia, with authorities believing it is the first cases of human-to-human transmission in the country.
A man who arrived from Iran on Saturday has been confirmed as having the virus. Since then his 41-year-old sister, who did not travel to Iran, has also been confirmed as having the virus.
Mr Hazzard said there is a "high likelihood" that the woman contracted the virus from her brother when he returned home.
A 53-year-old Sydney health worker is also believed to have contracted the virus via person-to-person transmission after treating a female patient for the illness.
NSW Health authorities initially believed the man didn't have the coronavirus but a third test proved he was infected.
"That is particularly concerning as he has not travelled overseas for at least three months," Mr Hazzard said.
"That would indicate a second case that is highly likely of transmission on NSW soil.
"He's been working in a clinical situation so there is a lot of work to be done … to determine what contacts he may have had (and) how did he actually get the transmission."
All patients are being treated at Sydney's Westmead Hospital.
Up until now all cases of the coronavirus inside Australia have been from people who arrived in the country after travelling internationally.
There are now 32 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, with Tasmania recording its first case today.
Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant says it's not known if the healthcare worker acquired the infection at work or while in the community.
"Our key focus at the moment is to contact staff or patients that may have been close contacts of this gentleman," Dr Chant said, adding he was in a stable condition in intensive care.
She also said it was a possibility that cases of the coronavirus had been missed.
"I think we have been pretty open with you that there is always a possibility that there is a case out there that we have not detected," Dr Chant said.
"But what I have also said is that I am reassured there isn't widespread transmission because we are doing lots of testing, we have tested over 3500 people and we continue to see high rates of testing."
This update comes after The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that authorities were concerned a Sydney man, understood to be a medical worker, could become the first person to contract the disease through person-to-person transmission.
The man in his 50s was understood to have recently started showing signs of the virus and was being tested in a NSW Hospital.
"Additional specimens were collected overnight and are being tested today to confirm whether or not he has the infection," a NSW spokesman said yesterday evening.
"He is currently being cared for in hospital. No more personal details relating to this patient will be released at this stage."