Attorney-General Christian Porter has flagged using tough biosecurity laws to detain suspected coronavirus sufferers to fight the spread of the infection.
The announcement follows the first human-to-human transmission of the virus in Australia, involving a western Sydney doctor.
Under existing laws, the government already has the power to detain people infected with the virus.
Mr Porter said the public should prepare for those laws to be activated.
“It is likely that the laws will get used on a larger scale and it is very likely that Australians will encounter practices and instructions and circumstances that they have not had to encounter before,” he told ABC Radio National on Tuesday.
“There could be the declaration of what are called human health response zones, and that could mean there are specific requirements for screening measures for people going in and out of such a zone.”
Earlier, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government saw no immediate need to ban mass gatherings, including the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne (on March 15) or coming AFL matches.
Mr Hunt said the search was on for anyone who might have come in contact with Australians who have contracted the virus.
“They’re now conducting what’s called a full-contact tracing. Contact tracing means that, as it sounds, they’re reaching out, working through all of the people that the individual has been in contact with, which is what we’ve done with all of the Australian cases,” he said.
“There are now 33 Australian cases and an initial 15 from Wuhan or associated with Wuhan, all of whom cleared the virus, 10 from the Diamond Princess – six of those 10 have cleared the virus and have returned home.
“Very sadly, of course, we’ve lost James Kwan, a 78-year-old man from Western Australia, and now we have the eight cases that have emerged in the last week within the community – seven from Iran and this one case of the health worker in NSW.
More than 10,000 tests for coronavirus have been conducted in Australia for the 33 positive results.
Mr Hunt urged Australians to remain calm and said there was no need to stockpile food or medical supplies.
“As a nation, as a community, we’re all in this together,” he said.
“It is also about taking care of each other, and that includes how we buy and how we shop. Not trying to hoard, not trying to have more than is required, to make sure that we’re being careful in our personal hygiene, and caring in our conduct towards others.”