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  • Health officials is working to keep out the deadly coronavirus

    Author: AAP

Australia is working to keep out the deadly coronavirus, as the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak is forced into lock down.

A crack team of health officials will carefully screen passengers arriving in Sydney as Australia fights to keep out China's deadly coronavirus.

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The World Health Organisation will decide on Thursday whether to declare a global emergency, as the deadly virus spreads beyond China.

The flu-like virus has so far killed 17 people and infected more than 540, with cases surfacing in the US, Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

The Matildas, Australia's women's soccer team, has been caught up in the emergency after travelling to China to play Olympic qualifiers.

Those matches had been due to go ahead in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak. The city is now in lock-down with transport networks shut down and citizens told not to leave the city.

The Matildas matches will now be played in Nanjing rather than Wuhan, with the Asian Football Confederation saying there was no option but to move the qualifiers in the face of the evolving crisis.

Australian travellers haven't yet been told not to travel to China. But anyone bound for Wuhan has been warned to exercise a high degree of caution.

Biosecurity measures have been ramped up for flights arriving into Australia from China and Wuhan in particular.

In Sydney, a plane load of passengers due to touch down on Thursday from China, via a stop over in Wuhan, will be carefully screened.

Doctors and nurses in protective clothing will look for anyone who appears to be sick, supported by virology experts from Westmead Hospital and elsewhere.

"If it looks like they may have an infection ... we can arrange for testing and management of that person right away," NSW Health protection executive director Jeremy McAnulty said.

Westmead Hospital has the capacity to rapidly diagnose patients.

Dr McAnulty said airport screening was "not foolproof by any means" and sick people could slip through the cracks if they are not showing symptoms at the time they're checked.

Authorities have the power to force anyone suspected of having the virus to go to hospital.

The nation's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has said it's possible the virus will reach Australia, but has reassured people health authorities are well equipped to respond.

A number of people have been tested in Australia, but so far there have been no confirmed cases of the virus, which is suspected to have originated from illegally traded wildlife.

It's now being passed from person to person.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the situation is complex and evolving.

If a declaration is made, it will be the sixth international public health emergency in the past decade.


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