25 Jan 2020

First Australian coronavirus case confirmed; 41 now dead in China

6:30 pm on 25 January 2020

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

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

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

News of the case came after Chinese authorities said they were treating 1,287 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.

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.

Malaysia is the latest country to confirm cases of the Wuhan coronavirus - which can cause deadly pneumonia.

The government said the three individuals infected were Chinese nationals related to a 66-year-old man confirmed by Singaporean health authorities to have tested positive for the virus.

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 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.

Little risk to NZ

The Ministry of Health said the first case of novel coronavirus in Australia posed little risk to New Zealand.

It said the patient had had limited contact with anyone in Australia since their arrival and followed medical advice at the border.

The patient flew from Wuhan to Guangzhou and then arrived in Melbourne last Sunday the 19th of January.

The ministry said it would remain in close contact with the Australian authorities as they make contact with other passengers.

It said so far, no cases had been reported in New Zealand.

The ministry urges travellers to New Zealand who become sick within a month of their arrival to seek medical advice.

Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy is warning its citizens to take notice of health advisories before coming to New Zealand.

The embassy said people should read the health advice card when they entered New Zealand and report their health and travel history if needed.

It asks people to contact health services if they have a fever, cough or gasp while traveling in the country.

It also advises people not to travel to Wuhan and surrounding areas.

Chinese New Zealanders rally

Chinese New Zealanders are rallying to donate to hospitals in Wuhan to help fight the deadly coronavirus.

Amanda Wang, whose one-year-old son is in China, said she was worried about the situation there.

She said she had called a few hospitals in Wuhan after seeing on social media that they were short of medical supplies.

"It's just really depressing and upsetting because the medical people there helping, they don't have enough things to help people with and the city is closed down. I was really distressed last night when I saw the news and I just really wanted to help people."

Mrs Wang said the hospitals were asking for medical protective clothing and disposable masks.

She's got more than 200 supporters and is sorting out the details of supply and logistics.

A Givealittle Page created by another group has gathered more than $20,000 in six hours.