Drastic new measures to stop virus
The spread of coronavirus has led Prime Minister Scott Morrison to take tough new measures to prevent further infection in Australia.
On the weekend, Mr Morrison announced that travellers who had visited mainland China from Saturday, February 1, would be stopped from entering Australia unless they were citizens, permanent residents or their immediate family.
Mr Morrison said they were taking the drastic action on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and other medical experts, to "substantially reduce the volume of travellers coming from mainland China".
The coronavirus has infected 17,205 people around the world, with the majority of these in China. Most of the 361 deaths have been in central Hubei province, although one Wuhan man has died in the Philippines.
The World Health Organisation has said countries shouldn't be closing their borders to China but Mr Morrison said he was taking the action "because our medical advice is it's in the interest of Australians to do so".
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the same measures on Sunday, and it follows a US announcement banning foreign nationals who have travelled to China over the past two weeks.
Mr Morrison said his government was taking the necessary precautions.
"We are in fact, operating with an abundance of caution in these circumstances," he said.
"We are acting here in advance of many countries in terms of when similar type of arrangements are being put in place. We are doing this so you can get about your daily lives in a normal way."
TRAVEL WARNINGS EXTENDED
Australians are being advised not to travel anywhere in China, not just Hubei province.
"If you are currently in China, leave as soon as possible by commercial means," the Smart Traveller website says.
Mr Morrison said this measure was to address the issue of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus outside Hubei Province, which is spreading across the rest of mainland China.
Australians returning to the country from anywhere in mainland China will also be required to isolate themselves for two weeks.
The restrictions do not apply to travellers from Hong Kong. Australians can still travel to Hong Kong but they should exercise a "high degree of caution," the Smart Traveller website advised.
CALLS FOR FLIGHTS TO BE BLOCKED
There have also been calls for flights from China to be suspended, including from Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, but Mr Morrison said medical professionals had not recommended this course of action.
"Many Australians would be in mainland China at any one point in time and this provides them with the opportunity to return to Australia," he said.
He said the National Security Committee had met four times last week to consider whether flights from mainland China should be stopped, and this was being reviewed regularly.
When asked about those who had already arrived from China last week before the ban was put in place, Mr Morrison said they did not present the same risk.
"The advice of all the chief medical officers (is) that people who have been in mainland China prior to today, are not presenting that risk," he said.
"That's their advice - that the risk is beginning to escalate from now.
"You've got to remember the size of the Chinese population and the number of cases outside of Hubei as a proportion of that population is very, very low."
QANTAS WILL STOP CHINA FLIGHTS
The announcements come after Qantas announced on Saturday that it would suspend direct to mainland China from February 9.
Its direct flights from Sydney to Beijing, and Sydney to Shanghai, will be halted from February 9 until March 29.
"This follows entry restrictions imposed by countries including Singapore and the United States, which impact the movement of crew who work across the Qantas international network," a statement said.
"These entry restrictions pose significant logistic challenges for rostering crew to operate mainland China services, leading to the need to temporarily suspend these flights."
Those Aussies who do make it back from China will face virus screening at major airports.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says border and medical staff having been working through the night to set up screening and reception arrangements at major Australian airports to deal with travellers from China.
Mr Dutton said staff conducting the screening that commenced from 6am on Sunday will be well protected.
Arriving travellers will be issued with masks and information and tested with thermometers.
"It provides additional reassurance to the Australian public that we are absolutely determined to deal with this issue," Mr Dutton told Sky News on Sunday.
"We have been decisive in making these decisions to get us to this point and we'll do what ever is necessary to keep Australians safe.
WUHAN TRAVELLERS TO BE QUARANTINED
Australians stranded in the Chinese city of Wuhan are expected to fly out of the city towards Christmas Island on Monday.
A Qantas flight bound for Wuhan via Hong Kong left Sydney on Sunday afternoon. The flight is operated by a volunteer team of four pilots and 14 Qantas cabin crew, and will undergo several cautionary procedures both in-flight and once it's landed.
Passengers will go through health checks before boarding and will wear surgical masks.
There will be a limited food and beverage service to minimise interaction between crew and passengers and the 747 plane will be thoroughly cleaned afterwards.