'No longer possible': Australia's sobering new coronavirus reality

Australia has recorded its first person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus as authorities concede it's become impossible to keep out new cases and the best that can be done is to slow the onslaught.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy earlier issued a sobering warning for the community stating "it's no longer possible to absolutely prevent new cases coming in".

The sister of an infected man recently returned from Iran and a health worker, both in Sydney, were confirmed on Monday as the first locally-acquired infections.

"It's no longer possible to absolutely prevent new cases coming in," Australia's Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said. Source: AAP

The 53-year-old male health worker – thought to be a doctor – hadn't travelled for many months and it's unclear how he contracted the virus.

"Our key focus at the moment is to contact staff or patients that may have been close contacts of this gentleman," NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant told reporters.

Efforts are now focused on quickly isolating newly-infected people, dissuading Australians from heading to virus hotspots, and in the case of Iran using a travel ban to slow down that route of infection.

Australia eyes up more travel bans

Australia is considering travel bans for South Korea and Italy where coronavirus outbreaks have taken hold, although they were not considered as high risk because they were contained and localised.

Prof Murphy said it was a different situation in Iran where alarm bells had been ringing after more than 50 deaths from about 1000 cases.

"We had a very high index suspicion that the caseload in Iran was much greater than being reported, because of the death rate," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked for a reassessment of travel and border control arrangements. Source: AAP

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Canberra had imposed a travel ban on arrivals from Iran on the advice of chief medical officers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday asked for a reassessment of travel and border control arrangements for higher risk groups in those countries.

"I would note that those cases are quite different to some of the others because we are dealing with more advanced health systems in those places," he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

"We will continue to look to the health advice, which has not been – up until this point – to make any changes to those arrangements."

The federal government has upgraded its travel advice for Italy.

Australians intending to travel there have been told to exercise a high degree of caution across the entire country and to reconsider the need to travel to 10 virus-affected towns in Italy's north.

The government has also said any health and aged-care workers returning from Italy and South Korea must not go to work for two weeks because they could infect vulnerable populations.

Globally there have been more than 88,000 infections and almost 3000 deaths spanning 67 countries and regions.

Australia has now had 33 confirmed cases, 15 have been cleared. Pictured are passengers lying up at Sydney's Overseas Passenger Terminal. Source: Getty Images

Coronavirus in Australia reaches 33

Australia has now had 33 confirmed cases – 15 Chinese tourists or residents who had visited China, 10 passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, six people who recently returned from Iran and the two cases acquired in Sydney.

Fifteen of the cases have been cleared.

Australia recorded its first coronavirus death at the weekend when James Kwan, 78, died in a Perth hospital.

He and his wife were among evacuees from the Diamond Princess, with both falling ill after being taken to Darwin for two weeks in quarantine.

Tasmania reported its first case of coronavirus on Monday, a 40-year-old man recently returned from Iran.

Human health "response zones" could be declared, banning people from attending places of mass gatherings like schools and shopping centres. Pictured is a man in Sydney wearing a face mask. Source: AAP

The federal government is looking at strict new powers under biosecurity laws which could be used to detain coronavirus-positive people.

Attorney-General Christian Porter says the government could bar people and large groups from attending public places and authorities would be able to quarantine an entire building similar to the Japanese government's approach to the Diamond Princess.

Human health "response zones" can also be declared, banning people from attending places of mass gatherings like schools and shopping centres.

Mr Morrison said people should continue going about their business as usual.

"I am looking forward to getting to places of mass gathering, particularly if it involves my football team playing, or going to kids' concerts," he said.

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