Hopes the coronavirus would be contained to China have vanished as infections spread rapidly around the world, countries started stockpiling medical equipment and investors took flight in expectation of a global recession.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the world will soon enter a “pandemic” phase of the coronavirus.
“While the WHO is yet to declare the nature of the coronavirus and it’s moved towards a pandemic phase, we believe that the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us,” Mr Morrison said.
Seven more countries have recorded cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 49 nations around the globe that are dealing with the virus.
What should I do to prepare?
A leading virologist in coronavirus research has urged Australians to stock up on essential supplies to prepare for potential home quarantine and school and work closures.
Associate Professor Ian Mackay from the University of Queensland said that a pandemic is inevitable.
“It’s coming, it’s just how long it takes to come,” he told 3AW.
“China has slowed things down so we’ve got time to prepare, we owe them for that, but it will get here eventually.”
If it does spread, efforts to contain the virus will likely impact local supply chains and major events may also be cancelled.
Professor MacKay, who assisted with the development of coronavirus tests in Australia, recommended the public start to stockpile essentials, but there was no need to act like a “doomsday prepper.”
“There’s no point hoarding things or panic buying so that we empty the shelves,” he said.
“It’s not panic preparing, it’s just thinking ahead to what happens if there are interruptions in our day to day life.
“Are you set up at home to have some stuff for a couple of weeks to keep going, to have stuff to eat (like) canned food, dried food.”
Panic buying has resulted in major shortages in China where over 780 million people are living under partial or full-time quarantine.
What if I’ve recently travelled to China?
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said there is a “strong likelihood” Australia will have more cases of coronavirus.
Professor Murphy leads the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) which is the key decision-making committee for health emergencies such as coronavirus.
A statement from the AHPPC outlined that general travel restrictions from mainland China will remain in place until reviewed again next week.
“Strict quarantine requirements continue to apply to any travellers who have been in mainland China or been in close contact with someone who is a confirmed case of COVID-19,” the statement said.
“That is, self-quarantine for 14 days from the date of departure from mainland China or from the date of last contact with a confirmed case.”
The Committee also recommends a “staged return” of cohorts of Chinese students who have been in mainland China, subject to appropriate screening, quarantine and monitoring.
What if I already have travel plans?
If you are considering travelling to any destinations with cases of COVID-19, it is recommended that you read travel advice for your destination from Smart Traveller.
“Talk to your doctor before travelling with young children, babies or an elderly person; if you are pregnant; if you have a weak immune system, or have a chronic medical condition,” Smart Traveller said in a statement.
“Check with your travel agent, airline, cruise operator, accommodation provider and travel insurance provider to consider your options regarding any potential changes in services.”
For official information regarding the coronavirus, Australian Health Protection Principal Committee recommends the following websites:
If you are seeking information on the COVID-19, call the 24-hour Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080