Australia to begin screening passengers from China as coronavirus continues to spread

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Jan 21, 2020, 08.12 AM(IST) Edited By: Bharat Sharma

File photo. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

  • Australian authorities had earlier claimed that limiting an outbreak would be very difficult
  • Chinese recently confirmed that more than 200 cases of the virus have been reported
  • The virus, as opposed to what was presumed, spreads from person-to-person

Australia recently announced that it will begin screening passengers arriving from China to limit the spread of a new mysterious coronavirus which is gaining traction in the Chinese mainland with new cases popping up in nearby countries like Japan and South Korea. The statement was put out by the country's chief medical officer.

Australian authorities had earlier claimed that limiting an outbreak would be very difficult.

The Chinese recently confirmed that more than 200 cases of the virus have been reported, with four deaths in the city of Wuhan. 

The virus, as opposed to what was presumed, spreads from person-to-person, and causes a type of pneumonia.

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A woman walks in front of the closed Huanan wholesale seafood market, where health authorities say a man who died from a respiratory illness had purchased goods from, in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, on January 12, 2020 | AFP
 

Additionally, the virus has recently reached Thailand, Japan, and South Korea, which has raised concerns about it spreading via air travel.

The Chief Medical Officer of the Australian government, Brendan Murphy recently said that ''biosecurity officials'' would begin screening passengers slated to arrive on the three weekly flights from Wuhan to Sydney. 

"You cannot absolutely prevent the spread of disease into the country. The incubation period is probably a week," Murphy told reporters in Canberra.

According to official information reported by Reuters, passengers would be handed out a checklist pamphlet to ascertain whether anybody had contracted fever or the disease itself. However, Murphy clearly added that these measures are capable of offering only limited protection.

Read more: China confirms person-to-person spread of the new virus as fourth death reported

"It's about identifying those with high risk and making sure those who have a high risk know about it and know how to get medical attention", Murphy added.

Australia receives a large horde of tourists from China: almost one million Chinese folks visited the continent-cum-country last year.

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Medical staff members carry a patient into the Jinyintan hospital, where patients infected by a mysterious SARS-like virus are being treated, in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on January 18, 2020  | AFP
 

Even though only three weekly flights ply from Wuhan to Sydney, Murphy suggested that people could arrive through other locations. About 160 flights come from China to Australia every year.

Fears of an epidemic have increased that China prepares for the Lunar New Year this week, which witnesses millions coming to and going from the country.

Read more: SARS-like virus spreading across China amid 140 new cases, third death

The Australian screening process would involve checking people for higher body temperatures, a technique used to limit the SARS outbreak earlier. Murphy claimed that this technique was ineffective and fostered a false sense of security.

The SARS outbreak, which had also begun in China, left 800 people dead around the world in 2002-03. 

(With inputs from Reuters)