There is every sign the world is about to be gripped by a pandemic of coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned on Thursday, as Australia kicked off emergency measures to restrain the spread of the disease.
“The advice we have received today is…there is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus,” Morrison told a televised news conference in Canberra, the capital.”And as a result we have agreed today and initiated the…coronavirus emergency response plan,” he added.
Australia will extend a travel ban on foreigners arriving from China by at least another week, Morrison said, although there was as yet no need to stop mass gatherings, such as football games.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said enacting the emergency response plan meant the Federal Government would work more closer with the states to ensure there were adequate medical supplies and personal protective equipment across the country.
“In the event of a pandemic, the goal is to slow its spread if it gets to Australia” he said
“But with the number of countries that are now affected, we have to be realistic about the likelihood of containment strategies into the weeks ahead.”
The scope of the emergency response will be escalated according to the spread of the disease. In the worst case, that would include:
- Cancelling large gatherings
- People having to work from home
- Elective surgeries being suspended
- Intensive care bed numbers increased
- Mortuary services prioritised
- Aged care homes locked down
- Childcare centres closed
But Mr Morrison insisted that level of response was not yet needed.