More than 80 people have now been infected with the COVID-19 disease across the country and three people have died.
But Professor Robert Booy from the University of Sydney says about 3000 people may die in Australia in what he considers the “best case estimate”.
Here’s what you need to know.
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HOW QUICKLY IS COVID-19 SPREADING?
Prof Booy says the coronavirus is currently spreading “quite fast” across the country.
“We’ve got community transmission. More and more places are going to have transmission,” he said.
To avoid catching the bug, people should be wary of coughs and sneezes and avoid touching their face, he said.
“COVID-19 spreads quite easily between people when they cough or sneeze but also when the droplets that come out hit surfaces, remain viable for many hours, someone else touches them, then they touch their mouth or their nose and their eyes, and they auto-inoculate themselves.”
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE LIKELY TO GET IT?
Prof Booy believes “a large proportion of the population” could become infected with the virus over the course of the outbreak, and thousands could die.
“For every one person with COVID-19, two or three other people are getting infected. For every one person with influenza, they only infect one or one-and-a-half other people,” he explained.
“Influenza is estimated to kill about 3000 Australians every year. This new COVID pandemic could do exactly the same. About 3000 people might die. That’s the best case estimate that I can think of. The worst case estimate is many thousands.”
HOW DO I STOP IT FROM SPREADING?
The best way to avoid spreading germs is to make sure you’re washing your hands properly – either with hand sanitiser or with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
“You don’t have to worry about one or the other. Both work,” Prof Booy said.
You should also take care not to cough and sneeze on other people and stop shaking hands.
“When you’re in a public space, say a supermarket, and you go to sneeze, you should sneeze into the crook of your arm. If you’re going to cough, use a tissue that can then be discarded,” he said.
“If you’re going to shake hands because you’ve just seen someone who’s a good friend, don’t. Wave, smile. You don’t need to physically touch people to say you’re important to me.”
SHOULD I AVOID PUBLIC EVENTS?
Some countries, including France and Italy, have banned large public gatherings to help contain the virus, but Prof Booy said Australia wasn’t quite there yet.
“At present in Australia, in March, there’s no clear evidence that going to a mass gathering is a problem,” he said.
“So going to the restaurant, going to a football match, going to a concert, they’re all just fine.”
He did, however, warn against going on a cruise.
“If you are planning to go on a cruise, I would say not a good idea. Cruise ships are great places for spreading infection,” he said.
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WHAT IF I DISPLAY SYMPTOMS?
The vast majority of people who have symptoms will only have a runny nose, a cough and a fever.
“In that case, you can self-monitor at home. (They) do not need to go to their GP or the hospital,” Prof Booy said.
But a small percentage of people may experience a higher fever, faster breathing, a worse cough and feel very unwell, he added.
“Then they can phone their GP, and the GP can say, ‘OK, come and see me’ or ‘go straight to the emergency department because I’m worried that you’re too severe’,” he said.
“The great majority can self-monitor at home without medical intervention.”