Government officials have hinted that the travel ban imposed on China as a result of the coronavirus epidemic may be extended.
Speaking at a press conference at parliament house, the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said the travel ban preventing foreign travellers who have come from China from entering Australia will be reviewed this week but indicated it may be extended.
“The situation in China is ongoing and so we don’t want to set a false expectation, but that is likely to change yet,” Hunt said.
Speaking to Fran Kelly on Radio National this morning, Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, echoed Hunt’s comments and said the government should reach a decision on Thursday.
“The important consideration is that we are still containing the virus in Australia, we’ve still only had 15 cases, and there is still a risk associated with the outbreak in many provinces of China,” Murphy said.
“We have to look at all the factors, but we’re also are very aware that this travel ban has had a huge impact on students and tourism and other economic factors.”
Hunt said the government advice asking Australians not to travel to China is also not likely to change.
“The existing DFAT advice is level four – which means do not travel to China at this stage and there are other quarantine restrictions in place.
“And so that remains the case and we’re not indicating that it’s about to change.”
The new cases have brought the total number of infections spread on the ship to 174, with four in a serious condition.
Speaking at the same press conference at parliament house yesterday, Murphy said it’s likely that all cases were infected before the quarantine was imposed on board.
“Cruise ships are well known as a place where communicable diseases can be rapidly transmitted. We’ve all heard of norovirus on cruise ships,” he said.
“It can, you know, pretty much affect half or more of the population.
“I’d be confident that they’ll be practising high-quality quarantine. It remains to be seen, though, what happens over the next weeks.
“But it’s not surprising given that people are so close together in a large cruise ship that there was a lot of transmissions before the quarantine period occurred.”
During the press conference, both Murphy and Hunt spoke about the xenophobic attitude towards the Chinese community as a result of the epidemic.
“We do know that many in the Australian Chinese community have has a stressful and difficult time,” Hunt said.
“In some cases, there have been reports of discrimination, and I want to denounce and reject those absolutely, and to say to the Australian Chinese community: we thank you, we honour you, we respect you.”
Murphy also told Radio National that it was “very surprising” that Indonesia has not reported any cases yet.
“That should be a cause for some concern that there may be undetected cases,” he said.
“We know that they have some diagnostic capability now and I’m sure they’re looking at. But very surprising.”
Featured image source: AAP