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State president says preparations for a pandemic were progressing too slowly

Photo: Virus preparations too slow: WA doctors
The Australian Medical Association (WA) says banning mass gatherings and closing all schools to stop the spread of coronavirus should soon be considered.

Serious consideration should be given soon to banning mass gatherings and closing all schools to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Australian Medical Association's WA division says.

State president Andrew Miller said he understood politicians were trying to prevent panic but he was concerned preparations for a pandemic were progressing too slowly.

"What we're worried about with the frontline healthcare staff is we will get too many cases at once and be overwhelmed," Dr Miller told reporters on Tuesday.
"Things could change dramatically in the next few weeks if this virus does the same thing here as in Italy."

He said the community needed to "get ahead of the game now" to control the spread.

"One way of getting ahead of this curve would be to close the schools - we think that's something that should be under serious consideration very soon.

"The kids stay healthy (but) they get out there and spread it around."

Dr Miller said he didn't believe the Melbourne Grand Prix should go ahead on Sunday, given it involved many overseas visitors who won't serve a quarantine period.

WA Health Minister Roger Cook acknowledged a heightened sense of anxiety in the community but labelled Dr Miller's commentary unhelpful, saying plans were in place to deal with ill students and the state was a long way off having to cancel sporting and other events.

He said drive-through clinics, as introduced in South Australia, were an interesting idea but WA was more focused on mobile clinics using services such as Silver Chain.

There have been six confirmed cases of the virus in WA.

Within four hours of opening on Tuesday, more than 450 people attended three new coronavirus clinics at Perth hospitals.

Of those, more than 300 require further assessment, East Metropolitan Health Service chief executive Liz MacLeod said.

She reminded people to only attend the clinics if they had cold or flu-like symptoms, had travelled from overseas or had contact with a coronavirus patient.

Mr Cook said COVID-19 clinics would eventually open in regional WA.

Also on Tuesday, the Fremantle Dockers player who was tested for coronavirus has been cleared after displaying flu-like symptoms following contact with a friend who had visited China.

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