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Australia states move towards coronavirus emergency

Photo: States move towards coronavirus emergency
State and territory governments are expected to follow Victorian and the ACT in deciding to declare states of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Victoria has declared a state of emergency and the ACT is next in line with more states expected to follow after Australia's coronavirus death toll rose to five.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made the declaration on Monday morning, with the ACT set to follow suit in the afternoon.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the declarations were about giving state and territory governments the powers to protect public health and slow the spread of the virus.
"A state of emergency is not a state of panic," he told Nine Network on Monday.

A state of emergency declaration allows a government to impose policies it would normally not be allowed to do, such as detain people or restrict movements.

Meanwhile, the federal government is resisting pressure to close schools nationwide, with Mr Morrison pointing to risks associated with a shutdown.

He's concerned nurses and medical staff could be forced to stay home to look after children or vulnerable grandparents could be tapped into childminding.

"Younger people in our population are actually less at risk and there are great risks right now in school closures," he told the Nine Network.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said medical advice given to the government warned the spread could worsen if unsupervised children mingled in the community.

"Not having students at school could actually lead to a greater risk of the virus spreading," he told ABC radio.

Former Australian Medical Association president Kerryn Phelps said it seemed inevitable that schools, universities and daycare centres would close.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is at home recovering after being diagnosed with coronavirus on Friday.

Mr Morrison, who attended a cabinet meeting with Mr Dutton three days before his diagnosis, said he had not been tested for the virus.

"There's no need. I have no symptoms of the coronavirus," the prime minister told Sky News.

"Testing resources are scarce resources and they should only be used where the medical advice suggests a test should be conducted."

A 90-year-old resident of the Dorothy Henderson Lodge aged care home in Sydney died on Saturday, with testing confirming she had coronavirus.

A 77-year-old woman also died from the disease after flying from Brisbane to Sydney on Friday.

In recent weeks, two other Dorothy Henderson Lodge residents, aged 82 and 95, died along with a Perth man, 78, who was evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan.

All people coming to Australia from Monday will have to self-isolate for 14 days, while cruise ships will be banned from arriving at Australian ports for an initial 30 days.

Non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people are now banned.

People are being told to practice social distancing measures and maintain good hand hygiene to slow the spread of the virus.

More than 150,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 5600 deaths.

The number of confirmed virus cases in Australia has risen to more than 300.

Most of those people are in NSW and many have already recovered from their illnesses.

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