Parts of Australia could be shut down, says Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy


“The Koreans did that for two provinces, very successfully locked them down. Everything is up for consideration.”

There are about 250 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, including Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

Mr Dutton sat with the entire cabinet on Tuesday last week. He started showing symptoms on Friday morning.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the whole cabinet was prepared to self-quarantine, but it was not required under the medical advice.

Professor Murphy said only those who had been in contact with Mr Dutton in the day before he presented with symptoms would need to take extra precautions.

“No one can be absolutely certain about everything, but all of our advice, internationally, is that the peak infectious period is when you have symptoms. There have been very few cases of people transmitting the virus in the 24 hours beforehand,” he said.

The government is encouraging organisers of events of more than 500 people to consider cancelling or postponing those events from Monday.

Professor Murphy said that at this stage people could still go to the cinema or use public transport. He said for those going to a gym, people should be aware of maintaining good hygiene.

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“If you’re going to the gym, I would be very focused on hand washing, using hand sanitisers, all of those social distancing, good hygiene measures,” he said.

Australians inundated the nation’s supermarkets on Saturday with many selling out of things such as toilet paper and canned tomatoes.

Professor Murphy played down the need for people to stock up on goods at this stage.

“For most people we don’t want to encourage major panic-buying at the moment. We’ve seen that with the supermarket chains. But I think it is probably sensible to have a few days of supply,” he said.

Health officials will discuss over the next two days a range of other measures aimed at slowing the flow of the virus.

Professor Murphy said closing down the country too early could cause bigger problems.

“There is no question we have a range of social-distancing measures that we will not hesitate to recommend to government but they’ve got to be proportional and they might last for a long time. So you don’t want to move too early,” he said.

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