The global spread of coronavirus has hit a grave milestone as Australia considers a range of drastic measures to contain an epidemic, with warnings that the virus could plague the nation for many more months.
More than 100,000 people have now been infected in around 90 countries, far surpassing recent outbreaks such as SARS which infected 8,000 people.
The vast majority of cases are in China (80,552 infections, 3000 deaths), followed by Italy (148 deaths, 3858 infections), Iran (107 deaths, 3513 infections), South Korea (42 deaths, 6284 infections) and Japan (12 deaths, 1066 infections).
US President Donald Trump signed a $8.3 billion bill to fight the virus a day after Italy said it would double its own spending to $8.5 billion.
In Geneva, the UN health agency said it had received applications for 40 possible virus tests, had 20 vaccine candidates in development and reported that numerous clinical trials of experimental drugs for the new coronavirus were under way.
“We’re all in this together. We all have a role to play,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the World Health Organisation, urging more global cooperation from the business world and solidarity with the poorest.
However the virus is still much less widespread than annual flu epidemics, which result in up to 5 million severe cases annually and between 290,000 and 650,000 deaths, according to the WHO.
The Australian government estimates coronavirus could cost the health system $1 billion as the chief medical officer warned that millions of Australians could be infected over the course of weeks in a worst-case scenario.
Mr Morrison announced a shared funding deal with the states to help with hospital, health service and other virus-related costs, with the federal government stumping up $500 million and the states contributing the rest.
As more infections emerge, state authorities are considering the threshold for invoking a range of drastic measures such as school closures.
Queensland’s government departments have gone into war mode, planning for a potential outbreak in the same way as cyclones or bushfires.
“The way in which we prepare for natural disasters is exactly what we’re doing in preparation for a potential coronavirus outbreak,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian warned the state was bracing for “a concerning phase of a number of months ahead of us”.
Authorities are considering potentially closing a Sydney high school for two weeks after a 16-year-old student tested positive.
The student is the son of a Ryde Hospital healthcare worker who had contact with a 53-year-old male doctor who has coronavirus.
The NSW education department is ensuring students across the state can attend virtual classes in the likelihood of more school shutdowns, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Talks on epidemic planning were also held on Friday for the aged care sector.
Australia has 59 confirmed cases nationwide – with 28 in NSW and 14 in Qld – but the rate is rapidly climbing, with NSW doubling its figures in a week.
Meanwhile, four more Australians have been caught up in yet another cruise ship emergency, this time off the coast of California.
They are among twenty-one people aboard the mammoth ship to have tested positive for the new coronavirus including 19 crew members, US Vice President Mike Pence has announced.
BREAKING: 21 people on Grand Princess cruise ship docked off the California coast tested positive for coronavirus, including 19 crew members and two passengers, Vice Pres. Mike Pence says. 24 people tested negative. https://t.co/uktXUEaeda pic.twitter.com/lWinXTb4QV
— ABC News (@ABC) March 6, 2020
Test kits were lowered by helicopter to the ship which has been prevented from docking until results are complete.
At the White House, President Donald Trump signed a $US8.3 billion ($12.5 billion) bill to fight the coronavirus and an official said Mr Trump’s administration was considering some type of support to hard-hit industries like travel and tourism.
Spoke to Governor @GavinNewsom early this morning about the cruise ship quarantined off the California Coast. CoronaVirus test kits have been delivered, testing is taking place now. pic.twitter.com/Pqda00HVCC
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 6, 2020
In Geneva, the UN health agency said it had received applications for 40 possible virus tests, had 20 vaccine candidates in development and reported that numerous clinical trials of experimental drugs for the coronavirus were underway.
“We’re all in this together. We all have a role to play,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the World Health Organisation.
The global outbreak continues to impact large international events, with Olympics organisers announcing they were scaling down a torch arrival ceremony for Tokyo 2020.
Japan will also not send 140 children to Greece for a torch departure ceremony on March 19.
A four-month torch relay around Japan begins on March 26 before the torch is due to arrive for the opening ceremony on July 24 at the Olympic stadium in Tokyo.
A co-organiser of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam is reviewing its options for the May 12-16 event.
A doctor who recently returned from the US has become Victoria’s 11th confirmed coronavirus case, health authorities have said.
It is believed the doctor subsequently treated dozens of patients before the infection was detected.
A second man who recently returned from Iran became Queensland’s latest case, bringing the state’s infections to 14. The 28-year-old Brisbane man has been taken to Princess Alexandra Hospital.
An 81-year-old man who returned from Thailand and a 29-year-old woman who travelled from London with a stopover in Singapore were also confirmed to have COVID-19 on Thursday.
Authorities are tracing those who may have come into contact with a 26-year-old Logan man diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday after returning home from Iran.
The state government says it is trying to contact all the people who were on his flight and were sitting within two rows of him.
Fifteen staff members from the emergency department of Brisbane’s Mater Hospital are in self-quarantine for 14 days after they were exposed to a Chinese student who contracted COVID-19.
On Thursday morning, the housemate of the Chinese student was released from hospital after testing negative.
He is now at home and has been advised to self-quarantine.
In NSW, a 21-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman who worked at the Dorothy Henderson Lodge nursing home in Macquarie Park have also been diagnosed with COVID-19.
An 18-year-old woman on Friday became the state’s 28th case after she had been in close contact with a previously known case in western Sydney.