South Australia has recorded its first confirmed cases of the deadly coronavirus after a Chinese couple tested positive to the disease, which has killed more than 250 people.
The couple, both aged 60, arrived in SA from Wuhan, China – the centre of the outbreak – on January 20.
South Australia Health’s chief public health officer Associate Professor Nicola Spurrier revealed the case just after Prime Minster Scott Morrison announced a ban on all foreigners, who had travelled through China, entering Australia.
Prof Spurrier said the couple had followed all of the procedures requested by the state’s communicable disease control branch.
The couple, who were admitted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, were in a stable condition last night.
“All of the isolation procedures are being followed,” Prof Spurrier said.
“They developed symptoms and they had testing done at one of our public hospitals.
“All of the correct procedures were undertaken so we are not concerned about spread at that time.
“They have self-isolated in their home awaiting the results of the test.”
A relative that was with the couple also has undergone testing.
“We are going to await the results of that test but during that time they are going to keep themselves in isolation,” Prof Spurrier said.
“I can reassure people that we do not think there has been any contact with anybody else in the state and they have been in self-isolation for the required period of time.”
Prof Spurrier said she could not provide details about how long the couple had been in self-isolation.
Health Minister Stephen Wade said he was confident the state’s hospital system could support the couple and protect South Australians.
“Our South Australian public health officials are world-class,” he said.
A further 15 people had returned negative results before the two positive cases.
The National Security Committee of Cabinet today agreed to ban all foreigners, who had travelled through China, from entering Australia in response to what Mr Morrison described as “an escalating threat and a constantly changing situation”.
The entry ban will not apply to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family. This extends to airline staff who have used personal protective gear.
But those excluded from the ban, which will be reassessed in two weeks, will be asked to self-isolate for a period of 14 days, the amount of time experts believe it takes those infected to develop symptoms.
“In addition to that, there’ll be advanced screening and reception arrangements put into place at the major airports to facilitate identifying and providing this information and ensuring the appropriate precautions are being put in place,” Mr Morrison said.
The measure – which was effective from today and is to be reviewed in a fortnight – comes after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called for those incoming flights to be halted until the virus is contained.
However, Mr Morrison said advice at the moment from medical experts was not to move to “that level of action”.
“This provides (Australians in mainland China) with the opportunity to return to Australia,” he said.
Mr Morrison also announced new arrangements for Australian airports including the provision of protective masks and thermometers.
“I want to assure Australians that we are doing everything that we can and through these actions to protect Australia for what is an escalating threat and a constantly changing situation,” he said.
Earlier today, Qantas confirmed it would suspend its direct flights from Sydney to mainland China.
Premier Steven Marshall acknowledged the travel ban could have an effect on the local tourism industry, which needed all the help it could get after devastating bushfires.
“We know that this is going to have very serious economic impacts for the people of South Australia, especially in terms of international students and tourism, but our primary responsibility is for public health,” Mr Marshall said.
“These measures have been put in place to ensure we can control the spread of the coronavirus.”
Qantas will temporarily cease flying to Beijing and Shanghai from Sydney between February 9 and March 29.
The airline said the eight-day delay was because it was “working to balance high passenger numbers in both directions – including Australian residents wanting to return home from China – with the various travel restrictions”.