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Coronavirus update LIVE: WHO says ‘decisive point’ has been reached as COVID-19 cases spike outside China

The possibility of Western Australia being hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak is a matter of “when, not if”, according to Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller, who has warned tens of thousands of people in Perth alone could require hospitalisation.

“It’s a bit like we’re standing on the beach expecting the tsunami now,” Dr Miller told 6PR’s Gareth Parker on Friday morning.

“The numbers [of those affected] are alarming and difficult to believe.

“We’re getting ready.”

Dr Miller’s comments follow latest reports which show the current global count of cases now exceeds more than 80,000.

Japan has closed all schools, China is experiencing unprecedented lockdowns, Milan is in shutdown, and cruise ships are being turned away in the Caribbean.

Read more here.

The World Health Organisation’s director general Tedros Ghebreyesus said the world has reached a “decisive point”, with the number of new cases outside China exceeding new cases within China over the past two days.

“In the past 24 hours, seven countries have reported cases for the first time,” Dr Tedros posted online earlier on Friday.

This includes Brazil, Georgia, Greece, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan and Romania. The Nigerian government also confirmed its first case of coronavirus.

“My advice to these countries is to move swiftly. If you act aggressively now, you can contain the coronavirus.”

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said health ministers were not ruling anything in or out when it comes to the possibility of closing schools down in the event of an outbreak.

“It is important that we tailor our responses accordingly based on need. At this point in time though, [there is] certainly no need for us to be doing that. But of course, we need to look at what the risks may be,” she said.

“The risks to children has been a very low one. We have not had children who have been severely impacted by this.”

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said it was “very unusual” that children do not seem to be getting sick.

“Whatever the reason, the fact that we’re not seeing lots of children getting sick in China other parts of the world is a great thing.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this morning said Education Minister Dan Tehan would call a meeting of state and territory education officials to discuss the virus response.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it would be “very difficult to give absolute assurances” about Indonesia’s claim that it has had zero cases of coronavirus within its borders.

The country, which has a population of about 270 million, has only tested 136 people for the virus and all the tests have come back negative.

Mr Morrison told radio station 3AW that Indonesia’s claim of zero infections was “a function of their capability to test”.

“It’s a very big country with a lot of islands and it would be very difficult to give absolute assurances about those numbers,” Mr Morrison said.

“I don’t mean that in any way disrespecting, Indonesia has a different health system to Australia and we both have different capacities to provide those assurances”.

Read more here.

New Zealand’s government has announced that travellers from Iran will no longer be able to enter New Zealand until at least March 3, as the number of cases in Iran rose to 245 and the number of deaths reached 26.

Citizens and permanent residents who have travelled to Iran are exempt from the ban but are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Health staff will also meet all direct international flights coming to New Zealand from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand, the New Zealand Herald has reported.

Like Australia, New Zealand also has a travel ban on visitors from China.

The number of coronavirus infections in Italy has surged to 650 as French President Emmanuel Macron warns Europe is “only at the beginning” of a major health “crisis”.

Having earlier this week predicted new cases from an outbreak in northern Italy would stabilise, the Italian government on Friday Australian time announced total cases had grown to 650 – up from just three one week before.

Piazza San Marco is the most popular destination for tourists in Venice but has been eerily quiet after coronavirus appeared in Italy.

Piazza San Marco is the most popular destination for tourists in Venice but has been eerily quiet after coronavirus appeared in Italy. Credit:Bloomberg

Nearly 250 are being treated in hospitals, 56 are in intensive care and about 280 at home in isolation.

About 50 had been treated and cured but 17 – all elderly citizens – have died in the days since the cluster took off in a group of towns in the country’s northern Lombardy region.

Cases in France more than doubled in a day to 38 and also grew substantially in Germany. New infections were reported for the first time in Denmark, Estonia, Norway, Romania and The Netherlands. Twenty one European nations have now recorded one or more cases.

After visiting a Paris hospital where France recorded its first coronavirus death, Macron told health workers Europe would confront the growing threat “as best we can”. “We know that we’re only at the beginning. We’re going to try to make the right decisions,” he said.

Arsenal insisted on all training ground visitors filling out medical forms yesterday in the first sign of concern among Premier League clubs over coronavirus.

Journalists and members of staff were told to declare if they had recently attended any risk area countries and whether they were experiencing any symptoms.

Just 15 cases have so far been -recorded in the United Kingdom but John Ashton, the former North West regional director of Public Health, has said football is prime potential breeding ground for its spread. Domestic football has already been hit in Italy, where -Juventus and Inter Milan will play behind closed doors on Sunday.

A 22-year-old Serie C player, who has not been named, also became the first professional footballer to contract the disease in Italy yesterday.

Public Health England is currently advising that people returning from northern Italy should self-isolate if they show symptoms and the Football Association has been holding talks to discuss the potential impact on next month’s friendly between England and Italy at Wembley.

The London Telegraph

South Korea has said a supplementary budget due next week to cushion the economic hit of the coronavirus will be larger than the 11.6 trillion won ($9.5 billion) package spent during the 2015 MERS outbreak.

The extra budget is part of a series of urgent measures President Moon Jae-in’s government announced on Friday as the virus disrupts exports and weakens consumer spending. Coronavirus has now spread to more than 2000 people in the country.

Once approved by the parliament, the government plans to spend more than 75 per cent of the budget within the first two months. Much of the new outlays will be allocated to small businesses, the medical and tourism sectors, as consumers pull back on discretionary spending.

A separate 16 trillion won package of tax breaks and cheap loans will go to small businesses that are struggling to pay wages to their workers and people who have lost their jobs for training, the ministry said in a statement. 

Reuters

Health Minister Greg Hunt said people should go about their daily business and not worry about the virus for now.

“Go down to the Chinese restaurant, go out to the football or the Grand Prix or the netball,” he said.

“At this point, coronavirus is contained in Australia. The messaging of this week is because of the global spread, there is a high likelihood that it will come to Australia at some point … Our message is that we are prepared for that moment because we are not immune but it is very important to go about your daily business.”

Business is down 70 per cent since late January when the first case of the novel virus was reported in Australia, according to Lily Zhou, 39, who owns a Shanghai-style restaurant with her husband in Eastwood. If things continue as they are now, Zhou said she can only stay in business “at most three months”.

Federal health minister Greg Hunt said “no country is immune” to COVID-19, but added Australia was as well prepared as any country for a local outbreak.

Speaking after a COAG meeting of health ministers, Mr Hunt said the number of countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19 had risen by seven to 49. “While there is a global challenge, while Australia will face its challenges, the preparation is real and significant,” he said.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy reiterated that Australia is prepared for an outbreak. He said people should not be concerned and the public should not wear face masks if they were not sick.

“We are not wanting the community to panic, but we are obviously being transparent with the community that we think the international situation does mean it that it is very likely that we will get some more cases in Australia in coming weeks,” he said.

“The great majority of people infected with this virus have a very, very mild disease – more than 80 per cent of people have a mild disease … Our concern of course is preparing for any patients who have the more severe disease who need hospital treatment and respiratory and other support.”

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