Young Aussie tests negative for virus on Christmas Island
The young girl believed to have symptoms of the deadly coronavirus on Christmas Island has tested negative for the infection, Australia's chief medical officer has confirmed.
Speaking in Melbourne today, Professor Brendan Murphy said there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus on the isle at present, including the young girl who had fallen ill in quarantine.
She is one of about 300 evacuees on Christmas Island.
The news comes as the latest group of evacuees arrived at a workers' camp in Darwin where they will spend the next two weeks in quarantine.
There were 266 passengers on board the flight from Wuhan, which arrived about 11:50am local time (1:20pm AEST).
Wearing face masks and blue protective gowns they underwent medical checks at the Darwin RAAF Base before being bussed to the Manigurr-ma workers' village at Howard Springs, about 30km south of Darwin.
There were 77 children among the evacuees, including 11 infants.
They have been separated into four groups and will be able to use the village's extensive facilities - which include a swimming pool, basketball court and cinema - on a rotational basis.
Professor Murphy said the screening was in addition to the evacuees already being checked three times - once in China and twice on the flight from Wuhan.
The group will undergo a fifth check upon arrival to the facility.
"I want to again reassure the community around the Howard Springs facility in Darwin that I have personally inspected it and I am absolutely confident that all precautions have been taken to ensure that there is no risk to the community," Professor Murphy said.
"We know that these people who have been quarantined there are actually well at the moment and there is a very large barrier between where they will be and the rest of the community.
"Anyone who develops the virus will be immediately transported to Darwin Hospital and properly quarantine. That is the current situation at the moment."
Professor Murphy said there were no current plans for any further assisted departure flights out of China.
"The Department of Foreign Affairs is in contact with people on the ground in Wuhan and we have certainly brought off the people at greatest risk," he said.
"They will review that situation and if there were any further flights, there is more capacity at Howard Springs, and Christmas Island also may become vacant again after the quarantine of the first flight."
Professor Murphy added of the 15 cases in Australia, three have been discharged and the rest are in a stable condition.
"There are still significant potential for further infection but it shows that our public health measures so far have been very effective," he said.
SECOND EVACUEE FLIGHT FROM WUHAN LANDS
More than 200 Australians have landed in Darwin after being flown out of the coronavirus affected city of Wuhan.
The Qantas jet landed about 11:50am local time (1:20pm AEST).
The passengers were expected to undergo medical checks at the Darwin RAAF base before being placed onto buses and taken to the Manigurr-ma workers' village at Howard Springs, about 30km from CBD.
The village is the second quarantine site set up by the Federal Government after 276 evacuees were flown to Christmas Island last week.
The plane's marked the end of a long ordeal for the Australian citizens and permanent residents, who had waited more than 24 hours for Chinese authorities to clear them for departure from Wuhan.
They had first been told to head to Wuhan airport on Friday but were later sent back to their accommodation after China blocked the Qantas jet sent from Sydney, forcing it to wait in Hong Kong.
The Department of Foreign Affairs emailed passengers again on Saturday, telling them to be at the airport by 6pm local time to prepare for boarding.
But it would be another 10 hours before the flight would take off.
Passengers had their temperatures tested before boarding and had to be below 37.3C to be allowed on the plane.
They have been given face masks, which they are required to change every two hours, and were told if they needed to cough they should cough into their elbow.
It came as the global death toll has climbed to 811, surpassing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which killed 774 people in 2002-2003.
The number of confirmed infections in China's coronavirus outbreak has reached 37,198 nationwide, with more than 2600 new cases reported, the National Health Commission said today.
In its daily update, the commission said there had been 89 new deaths from the virus - with 81 in hardest-hit Hubei province, and the rest in other regions - bringing the national toll to 811.
Meantime, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned people not to assume any further evacuation flights would be possible, either from Wuhan or mainland China.
Australia has so far had 15 confirmed coronavirus cases: five in Queensland, four each in NSW and Victoria and two in South Australia.
AUSSIE GIRL TESTED FOR CORONAVIRUS
The delays came as doctors on Christmas Island sent one potential case of coronavirus to the mainland.
The young Australian girl evacuated from China and in quarantine on Christmas Island was tested after developing an illness, with symptoms potentially being linked to coronavirus.
But Professor Kelly on Saturday said the child's sickness was not serious and could be "all sorts of things". The child is among about 300 evacuees on the island.
"It could be all sorts of other things, we don't have a test positive at this point," he told reporters in Canberra on Saturday.
"That person is well, it is certainly not a serious illness at this stage. "They have been further isolated from the other people that are on the island, and the appropriate steps in infection control and indeed clinical care are being taken."
Sources told News Corp an extremely conservative approach was being taken, but the evacuee had been isolated at the Christmas Island Detention Centre with the results expected back by Monday.
NEW TESTING MACHINE COMING
A machine will also arrive on Christmas Island on Monday allowing doctors to do the testing on site, with a two-hour turnaround.
No more evacuees will be sent to Christmas Island in the short term, with a workers' camp in the outskirts of Darwin now waiting to accept the latest group from Wuhan.
If all goes to plan, the evacuees will land in Darwin about 8am local time.
Plans have been made for the flight to land at the Darwin RAAF Base where passengers will be put straight on to buses and taken to a disused workers' village at Howard Springs, about 30km south of the Northern Territory capital.
The village - which can hold 3500 people - has a range of facilities including a medical centre.
DARWIN LOCALS UPSET
But the move - confirmed on Friday night after it was earlier revealed by News Corp - has alarmed many nearby residents.
Local MP Gerry Wood said some parents were planning to pull their children out of school at the nearby Good Shepherd Lutheran College.
Mr Wood said the concerns had been caused because of a lack of consultation, which allowed misinformation about the coronavirus to spread before the official announcement was made.
"There's certainly some people concerned about it," he said.
"Some people have spoken about pulling their children out of the school."
Mr Wood said he had met with school officials and Chief Health Officer Brendan Murphy who had allayed concerns about the quarantine centre.
A meeting has been planned at the school on Monday to provide parents and students with more information.
Mr Wood said accurate information about the coronavirus and the evacuees has only been provided at the same time as the official announcement on Friday.
"The correct information is slowly getting out there but there's a lot of information going around that's simply not true."
He said it was important people knew the coronavirus could only be passed if people came within one metre of an infected person, and that none of those coming to Darwin had any symptoms.
AUSSIES AMONG THOUSANDS STRANDED ON CRUISE SHIPS
Australian passengers trapped on a quarantined cruise ship near Tokyo are in a state of limbo as medication fails to reach them and confusion surrounds the coronavirus lockdown period being enforced by Japanese health authorities.
"It's a circus. We're in a total bind," says Banora Point retiree Ellis Vincent, 76. "We are actually trapped between hell and high water."
Mr Vincent's immediate concern is for his wife Kimberly, 73, who had just one day left of medication for a life-threatening condition. Mrs Vincent reached out to the Australian Embassy for help. On Saturday night, she finally obtained it after a Japanese Coast Guard helicopter landed on the ship.
"They will be evacuating very sick people or corpses soon," she warns over the delays.
Three more coronavirus infections were confirmed on board the Diamond Princess, bringing the number of infected passengers and crew to 64. All confirmed cases have been evacuated from the vessel, including seven Australians.
The Vincents say they were informed on Saturday 16 doctors and 12 nurses were dispatched on board by Japan's Health Ministry.
"Apparently they are going to help test people who have been self-monitoring their temperatures and report 37.5 degrees Celsius or higher," Mr Vincent said.
The Diamond Princess is subject to a 14-day quarantine order imposed by Japanese authorities. It started on Wednesday, but people confined on board are concerned the period could be extended if any more infections are confirmed.
The Australian Embassy in Tokyo reached out to the Australian passengers yesterday in an email that acknowledged "we cannot imagine how difficult and frustrating this experience must be".
The email stated no decisions had been made about evacuating Australians from Japan. It described disembarkation and returning procedures as "an evolving situation" for which it could offer no clear advice, and went on to address concerns about an extended quarantine period as another area for which it had no advice.
The Diamond Princess set out to sea yesterday for water and ballast operations. It is scheduled to return to port in Yokohama on Sunday.
Its original manifest for a two-week cruise that set off from Yokohama on January 20 had 2,666 passengers, including 223 Australians, and 1.045 crew. The coronavirus alarm was sounded after an 80-year-old man who disembarked in Hong Kong a few days into the cruise tested positive.
Mr Vincent, a retired airline freight executive, says while medication distribution remains a key concern, he and his wife do not know what to do about their airline reservations with Jetstar, nor do they know when they will be allowed off the ship.
"We can't make any plans," he said. "We're just living day to day and hoping the news gets better."
Mr Ellis says the operator of the Diamond Princess, Carnival Cruises, is improving entertainment options with the addition of extra movie and television channels. "There's plenty to watch," he notes, adding food service had improved and clean linen is available.
"They are doing what they can" to make the situation bearable, he said.
CHINESE BANNED FROM OTHER CRUISE SHIPS
The US-based Royal Caribbean Cruises has issued a statement saying: "Any guests holding a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passport, regardless of when they were there last, will not be allowed to board our ships."
The company said the ban would be in place this month.
It also said any guest or crew member travelling through China, Hong Kong or Macau less than 15 days before departure would be unable to board any of its ships.
Four sick passengers aboard a Royal Caribbean ship off New Jersey were sent to a hospital out of "an abundance of caution," the local mayor said.
The company has delayed boarding of the ship, Anthem of the Seas, until Saturday night (local time) while the test results came back but said none of the guests had shown signs of the virus.
Another cruise ship carrying a passenger suspected of infection with coronavirus will not be allowed to dock in southern Japan, the government said.
In Hong Kong, 3,600 people were confined aboard the World Dream, where eight former passengers have tested positive for the virus. There are 15 Australian passengers on this ship.
FIRST AMERICAN DIES FROM CORONAVIRUS
The first American victim has died after outbreak that began in China has infected more than 34,800 people globally.
The 60-year-old United States citizen had died from the virus at Jinyintian Hospital, in Wuhan, on February 6, according to the US Embassy in Beijing.
Japan also reported its first death of suspected coronavirus in Wuhan on Saturday in an announcement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Japanese man in his 60s died of pneumonia. The hospital that treated him was inconclusive on the cause of the pneumonia.
China has recorded 86 fatalities so far.
RACE TO FIND VACCINE
Researchers, meanwhile, are scrambling to develop a drug to combat the virus. It may not be produced until next year, according to reports.
The US health department is working with pharmaceutical firm Regeneron to develop a treatment using a class of drug that has boosted survival rates among ebola patients.
Two weeks ago Chinese doctors confirmed they had been giving anti-HIV drugs to coronavirus patients in Beijing, based on a 2004 study published after the SARS outbreak that showed "favourable" responses.
Other governments around the world have hardened their defences, with several countries banning arrivals from China and advising their citizens to avoid travelling there.
Major airlines have suspended flights to and from China.