Australia has enacted its emergency response plan for coronavirus amid a surge in confirmed cases outside of mainland China.
Despite the World Health Organisation’s reluctance to do so, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia will treat the health threat as a “global pandemic”.
"We believe the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us and as a result as a government we need to take the steps necessary to prepare for such a pandemic," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
The plan includes preparations for extra controls at airports and ports, further quarantine measures and detailing how schools should react to any widespread outbreak.
Australia’s travel ban on people coming from China, which the Chinese embassy lambasted as over the top, has been extended by a week.
While the global pandemic has not been officially declared, Mr Morrison said Australia is working on the basis there is such a declaration.
Cases outside China continue to soar
The turning point was new data showing the rate of cases being confirmed outside China was growing faster than those inside China.
Italy, South Korea and Iran have all seen spikes in cases in recent days.
Australia has so far had 22 cases of COVID-19, most of which have been cleared and are now back in the community.
There has been no evidence of transmission within the community.
State and territory health ministers will meet with federal minister Greg Hunt on Friday to discuss the next steps.
Border Force has also been asked for advice on how to step up measures at ports of entry.
Education ministers will look at what steps can be taken to further protect children.
But Mr Morrison said there was no need to cancel mass gatherings of people or stop going out for Chinese meals.
"You can do all of these things because Australia has acted quickly, Australia has gone ahead of this at this point in time," he said.
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