Coronavirus fears in Italy and South Korea trigger warnings for Australian healthcare workers


Australians returning from Italy or South Korea, who are employed in the medical and elderly care sectors, are told not to return to work for two weeks.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the country’s chief medical officers have recommended additional precautions for certain professions.

Australians are being asked to “exercise great caution” in Italy and South Korea.

“We believe there are people whose symptoms are so mild that they can almost ignore that they are infected, especially by the time they become infectious,” said Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy.

“This is one of the reasons quarantine is still practiced for very, very high risk situations.

“But, all the evidence suggests that people are more contagious when they are symptomatic. It is always the most important advice, to isolate when you are symptomatic.”

The number of coronavirus cases in Italy has increased by 50% in just 24 hours, local authorities said overnight.

Meanwhile, the leader of a religious sect in South Korea faces gross negligence charges for some of the coronavirus deaths in the country.

The federal government banned foreign nationals from traveling from China to Australia last month.

Mr Hunt extended the ban to Iran on Saturday.

Australia has so far recorded 29 cases of the coronavirus, four of which were from Iran.

“We very strongly suspected that the number of cases in Iran was much higher than reported due to the death rate,” he said.

“So even though we have a relatively low volume of travel from Iran, we have had these four cases, which is why Iran has been a particularly special case.”

A foreign national from China or Iran must spend 14 days in a third country before being allowed to enter Australia under the ban.

But the government chose not to extend this to people traveling from South Korea and Italy.

“For the moment, the medical opinion was that the situation in Italy and South Korea, where there are large epidemics but they are contained and localized, the proportionality of the travel ban was not justified in terms of health benefits protecting the Australian community, ”said Dr Murphy.

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