As with the existing travel restrictions to mainland China, Australian citizens, residents and their immediate family will still be able to come back to Australia from Iran, but they must self-isolate for 14 days.
Mr Hunt said there were “very specific characteristics” about Iran that led to the imposition of the travel ban, pointing to the “high death rate” from coronavirus in the country. The Health Minister told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday there was likely to be a significant number of undetected cases in Iran that may not be picked up on departure.
Professor Murphy said Iran “would seem to be the highest risk outside of China” with cases “exported” to a number of countries.
On Saturday, there were about 388 coronavirus confirmed cases in Iran, with 34 confirmed deaths. However, there are fears many more people have been infected. The BBC reported that hospital sources say at least 210 people have died.
When asked why Australia was not considering bans for South Korea and Italy, where there are also a high number of cases, Professor Murphy said the circumstances around Iran were “unusual”.
“We can’t be putting on travel bans and quarantine requirements from every country that develops this virus. What we have to do is make sure that every traveller who comes from any country wherever there’s an outbreak gets messages at the border, so that they know if they develop any of the right systems they need to get medical advice and get tested.”
He added it would be “ineffective” to put rigid travel bans on “what could be a large number of countries”.
Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the risk of a pandemic was “very much upon us” but has also cautioned Australia could not “completely lock itself off from the world”.
There have been 25 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Australia. This includes a man in a serious but stable condition, and a woman in a stable condition, in a Perth hospital, after travelling on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The total number of Australian cases also includes 15 people with a direct or indirect link to Wuhan in China, who are all reported to have recovered.
Mr Hunt said his advice to Australians was “please proceed with your lives.”
He said the unanimous advice of health officers around the country is, “the community is safe, at this stage.” The Health Minister added while Australia was not “immune,” it was as “well prepared as any country in the world”.
“Ultimately, we will get through this.”
Asked if Australians should be stockpiling supplies, Professor Murphy said he did not think it was appropriate at this stage, specifically cautioning against stocking up on face masks.
Australia’s travel ban in place for China was last updated on Thursday and lasts at least until March 7.
Judith Ireland is a political reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House
Liam is The Age and Sydney Morning Herald’s science reporter