Australian authorities review Italy travel advice as confirmed cases rise


“I have asked them specifically today as part of their work to consider what the appropriate level of advice is for Italy,” Mr Hunt said outside Frankston hospital in Melbourne.

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“The good thing is, they make advice, they give advice, without fear or favour, and we have implemented it without fear or favour.

“But I have specifically asked them today to consider whether or not the current arrangements need to be changed in any way, shape or form.”

The Morrison government will put a travel ban on people coming from Iran from Sunday due to the country’s “high death rate” from coronavirus as it tries to stem the flow of the disease into Australia.

But Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy played down the likelihood of more bans on Saturday for other countries, explaining “it’s not possible to further isolate Australia”, and that the focus should be on detection and containment instead.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has suggested Iran’s underreporting was a key reason for announcing the travel ban.

Asked why the Australian government had not banned travel from countries like Italy and South Korea which had more confirmed cases, Mr Dutton said the “sudden surge” in Iran was a significant concern.

“Of the 106 deaths that are reported outside of China, 43 of those have been in Iran so – that’s the highest number of deaths,” Mr Dutton told the ABC’s Insiders program.

“As the Chief Medical Officer has pointed out, it’s not possible to extend the ban to every country and we’ll see what phase we move into next, but there’s particular concern about the lack of reporting out of Iran, the very high death rate.”

“If you look at the underreporting, or the lack of reporting, coming out of Iran to start with, I think, indicated that there was a real concern as to whether they had a handle on the numbers, and I think … the numbers we’re talking about relative to South Korea or elsewhere at the moment are potentially well underestimated.

“So it’s also confidence in the numbers that have been reported out of different jurisdictions and obviously South Korea has a more advanced health system, and they have been reporting numbers for a period of time. So I think there are key differences.”

Mr Dutton also said the Australian Border Force commissioner has a number of powers to deal with planes coming from countries with outbreaks if someone arrived with coronavirus – including blocking a plane from disembarking.

“If he [the Border Force commissioner] believes there’s grounds to do so, but that would be highly unlikely,” he said.

“The more likely nature would be that those who are seated around the person that’s sick would be identified, would be tested.

“We need to recognise now that this has spread to 61 countries outside of China. So it’s a very serious development.”

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