Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the government has activated an emergency response plan in relation to the ongoing coronavirus global health crisis.
Speaking outside of Parliament House with Health Minister Greg Hunt and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly on Thursday afternoon, the prime minister stated that there is “every indication” that the virus outbreak will progress to a pandemic phase and said that the government is acting as if that has already happened.
“I want to stress that these actions are being taken in an abundance of caution,” Morrison said.
“While the WHO is yet to declare the nature of the coronavirus and its move towards a pandemic phase, we believe the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us and as a result is a government we need to take the steps necessary to prepare for such a pandemic.”
The government said it has taken this action due to the pace at which coronavirus has spread outside of China, however he stressed that there is no reason for people to stop attending public events or avoiding going out for meals.
The PM added: “The key message is because of the actions we’ve taken on the coronavirus, we’ve got ahead, we intend to stay ahead and together we will get through this.”
Minister Hunt then spoke, and said the government is committed to making sure the country has the “personnel capacity” to deal with a pandemic, should one be declared in the coming days and weeks, as well as ensuring there are no issues with medicine stockpiling.
The health minister will meet with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) tomorrow to discuss the practicalities of the plan across each state and territory.
Professor Kelly said the plan which has been activated today builds upon years of planning for similar events, such as the 2009 flu pandemic, and said the government is preparing “for all eventualities”.
He also stressed that officials now know far more about the virus, such as how it spreads, how infectious it is and who is most likely to succumb to severe illness as a result of infection. He added: “I would stress for 80 per cent of people it is a mild illness.”
In addition to initiating the emergency response plan, Morrison also announced that the China travel ban would remain in place for another week. The ban prevents foreign nationals who have been visited mainland China in the last 14 days are not allowed to enter Australia.
Australian citizens and permanent residents are allowed to return home, but must adhere to self isolation for a period of 14 days.
More to follow.