New South Wales Health is alerting passengers who were on five separate flights from Asia in the past week after a number of people tested positive for coronavirus.
Six more people have tested positive to the coronavirus in NSW, bringing the total number of those infected in the state to 15 since the outbreak began.
NSW Health is alerting passengers who were on five separate flights from Asia in the past week after two men in their 30s, a man in his 50s and two women in their 60s tested positive following their arrival in NSW.
The men in their 30s travelled from Iran, the two women flew from Japan and South Korea respectively, and the man in his 50s was returning from Singapore.
Meanwhile a woman in her 50s who hasnt been out of Australia recently has also tested positive to the coronavirus.
And health authorities are advising passengers who sat near a coronavirus-infected woman on a Doha-to-Sydney flight to immediately isolate themselves at home.
The woman in her 50s who flew into Australia from Iran on 23 February aboard Qatar Airways flight 908 from Doha was in seat 43H.
Meanwhile, a 53-year-old male doctor is in a stable condition at Westmead hospital and going quite well, NSW health minister Brad Hazzard told the Nine Network on Tuesday.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the doctor had worked at Ryde hospital and had been in contact with a diverse range of patients.
Thirteen doctors, 23 nurses and four other health workers have been identified as close contacts of the doctor and are in home isolation.
A further eight patients of the doctor are showing no symptoms, while 29 other patients identified as casual contacts are being chased up.
We are making sure we get in contact with them and make sure they dont have symptoms, Hazzard said. Its a bit of a worry.
Another locally acquired case in Sydney is a 41-year-old sister of an infected man who recently returned from Iran where the virus is rampant.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has called for Australians to use common sense, with escalation of the virus around the world prompting panic buying. Consumers reported supermarket shelves stripped of items like paper towels and toilet paper, along with nonperishable food items.
But health experts and Morrison said extensive stockpiling was not necessary. By Tuesday evening, #toiletpaper was trending on Twitter as Australians shared photos of empty shelves.
Both Coles and Woolworths reassured customers that they had increased deliveries and expected to replenish stock. Toilet paper producer Kimberly-Clark said it had opened up its manufacturing line in South Australia to help replenish stock.
The commonsense response is to go about your business as normal. That is exactly what you heard from the chief medical officer, Morrison said. I can understand the anxiety out there in the community. That is why it is important to get information from the trusted official sources, rather than wildly speculative reports out there.
He urged people to regularly visit the federal department of health website, to contact the coronavirus health information hotline, and to listen to the commonwealth chief medical officer, Prof Brendan Murphy.
Murphy said people in the community did not need to change their activities. Only high-risk people that is, people who had returned from mainland China and Iran, those with the virus, and those who had been in close contact with infected people needed to self-isolate and report symptoms to their doctors. The rest of the community did not need to avoid shaking hands or crowds, he said.
So if you have come from an area where you might be at risk or you have been in contact with someone, isolate yourself, ring up your GP or your local hospital, tell them about your travel history and get advice about being tested, Murphy said. We do have a very advanced pandemic plan, we are working across every part of the health system to make sure that we are prepared for any eventuality. But at this stage, we have small numbers of cases that are controlled and the community can be reassured that there is no reason to change normal behaviours, no reason to go and panic buy and do things that are unnecessary.
Morrison praised Australians for heeding advice to self-isolate if they had travelled to affected countries and identify themselves if they became sick, saying we will continue to put in place the sensible measures.
However, the attorney general, Christian Porter, said it was not inconceivable that control orders might be used under the Biosecurity Act to detain people or force them into treatment to halt the virus spread. A human biosecurity control order requires people to comply with certain orders including staying at home, handing over contact details and providing body samples for diagnosis.
On Friday, health ministers will meet with aged care home providers to discuss advice and ensure the sector is prepared. Meanwhile, doctors will be briefed in coming days on how to respond to any sustained community transmission, including through establishing dedicated coronavirus clinics where patients could be triaged. The NSW chief medical officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said hospitals were planning to increase the number of beds and staff in intensive care units to accommodate severe cases.
We will increase ICU capacity and work is being undertaken with our districts to do that, she said. We can redeploy staff. Im not saying its not a challenge but weve done a lot of extensive planning.
State and territory education departments, too, have been issuing notices to school principals. Public schools in NSW have been told to stop overseas excursions, while in Western Australia, education officials have told students to stay home if they have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus irrespective of whether they have developed symptoms.
Principals are encouraged to consider the needs of students in self-imposed isolation, the WA directive states. The health-related needs of these students is primary, however, it is important to also consider the social-emotional needs of such students.
Maintaining contact with students via phone and/or the internet while they are in isolation will allow students to know the school cares about them and their well-being.
Because of the risk to the economy from the virus, the Reserve Bank of Australia cut interest rates to a record low of just 0.5%. The prime minister has called on the banks to pass on any rate cut in full.
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