First Australian coronavirus case confirmed – 41 now dead in China

Workers producing face masks at a factory in Handan in China's northern Hebei province, on 22 January 2020. Image: RNZ/AFP

By RNZ News

The first Australian case of Wuhan coronavirus has been confirmed, with a man being held under isolation in a Melbourne hospital.

News of the case came after Chinese authorities said they were treating 1287 patients with the virus, while the death toll has risen to 41.

The Melbourne patient is a Chinese man in his 50s who recently spent time in the city of Wuhan, where the deadly outbreak is believed to have originated in an illegal wildlife market.

He is in a stable condition.

READ MORE: Background on coronavirus – The Lancet

New South Wales Health has confirmed five people in the state are being tested for coronavirus, but none of those cases have been confirmed.

Two people were discharged after returning negative test results in NSW yesterday. A child on an incoming flight prompted a scare at Sydney International airport last night, but Sydney Children’s Hospital says the child was assessed and then released.

European cases
Europe’s first three cases were confirmed in France on Friday, with two patients being hospitalised in Paris and the other in the south-western city of Bordeaux.

On the eve of the Lunar New Year, transportation has been shut down in at least 13 Chinese cities with a combined population of some 36 million people.

At least eight hospitals in Wuhan issued public calls for donations of masks, goggles, gowns and other protective medical gear, according to notices online.

China’s government announced it was sending in military medics to Wuhan.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the new coronavirus an “emergency in China” but stopped short of declaring it of international concern.

Symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing and coughing. Most of the fatalities have been elderly people, many with pre-existing conditions, the WHO said.

Thailand has confirmed four cases, Japan, South Korea and the United States have confirmed two cases each, while Taiwan and Singapore have reported one each.

Indian nurse
Indian authorities say an Indian nurse working in Saudi Arabia has also been infected, but Saudi health authorities say there has been no cases in the country so far.

Airports worldwide are screening passengers arriving from China, with the US warning travellers to exercise increased caution in China.

Hong Kong, which has two confirmed cases, is turning two holiday camps into quarantine stations as a precaution. Taiwan has banned anyone from Wuhan from going to the island.

Meanwhile, the Australian Federal government has raised travel advice for the provinces of Wuhan and Hubei in China to the highest level, due to the threat posed by the coronavirus.

The level four warning urges Australians not to travel to the region.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Chinese authorities had restricted travel in at least five Hubei cities and Australians going there may not be able to leave until restrictions are lifted.

Travellers are being warned that the level of assistance the government can provide is limited.

This article is published under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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