Eight new coronavirus cases in Australia from quarantined cruise ship

Matt Woodley

21/02/2020 4:46:36 PM

Updated: Eight Australians who left the Diamond Princess cruise ship have now tested positive, with the figure expected to rise as more patients are screened.

Arriving in Darwin
The patients will be taken to hospitals in their home states to be treated. (Image: AAP)


The eight infected are among 170 Australians evacuated to Darwin.

A third person from Vitctoria has tested positive for coronavirus, joining three from Queensland, one from South Australia and a West Australian resident.

The new confirmed cases were reported as the Australian Department of Health (DoH) is in the process of updating its coronavirus fact sheets for health professionals, including GPs.
‘Updated Commonwealth fact sheets are in the final stages of approval and will include travel history from an expanded number of countries that should be considered when doctors are seeing patients with the right symptom complex,’ a DoH spokesperson told newsGP.
The new fact sheets will reflect interim guidelines updated by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA), which recommend clinicians consider testing people with ‘a clinically compatible illness’ who have previously travelled to Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore or Thailand within 14 days of symptom onset.
GPs in Western Australia have already been told to test people who present with flu-like symptoms if they have travelled to Bali in the past two weeks.
Indonesia is yet to have a confirmed case of coronavirus, but infectious disease experts have said it is ‘likely’ to be undetected but present. Only 77 people have been tested for the virus, out of a population of close to 270 million.
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon told Nine newspapers any patients who present with respiratory symptoms after returning from Bali or Indonesia should be tested for coronavirus, regardless of how mild the symptoms might be.
‘Indonesia’s got a population of 267 million people, it has almost no effective screening – they say they do, but they probably don’t,’ he said.
‘If you’re looking at the stats, there should be some cases in Indonesia.’
The two new confirmed cases in Australia had previously been cleared by multiple screenings for the virus before being put into isolation.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said this was not surprising.
‘There has been ongoing detection of infection on the Diamond Princess cruise ship over the last few days, so it’s not unexpected that some people might have been incubating the virus,’ he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.
‘It’s possible more people could develop positive tests over the next few days. We don’t know that, but if they do we are completely well set up to detect and manage them and isolate them.’
Six other patients who had displayed cold-like symptoms were separated from other evacuees on the flight back to Darwin, but four tested negative for coronavirus after returning to Australia. They have been cleared and released from isolation back into general accommodation.
The eight new cases takes the total in Australia to 23. Of those, 10 people have fully recovered.
Acting NT Chief Health Officer Dianne Stephens said the patients’ symptoms could slowly worsen over several days.
‘Both these individuals will be taken into their hospital systems to watch to see whether or not they’re going to improve or deteriorate,’ she told reporters.
‘Then their own health systems have systems in place to manage the COVID-19 infected patients.’
The news comes as the Australian Government extended its ban on foreign travellers from China for another week, as the number of infections and deaths in the coronavirus epicentre of Hubei province continues to grow.
There are also reports of recovered patients continuing to show traces of the virus through nucleic acid tests, meaning they are potentially still contagious. Despite this development, the Australian Government on Saturday announced it will start allowing students in years 11 and 12 to enter from China, except from the Hubei province at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

According to Minister Hunt, this follows the continued containment of the COVID-19 virus in Australia – and falling infection rates in China – and medical advice that the Australian Border Force continue to provide case-by-case exemptions to the travel ban from mainland China.
At the time of publication, Tuesday 25 February, more than 80,000 cases had been confirmed worldwide, including 2700 deaths.
Some deaths occurred in Japan, South Korea and Iran, marking a potential escalation of the virus’ severity outside China.
The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.
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This article was updated to reflect more cases of coronavirus among Australians, and the Australian Government decision to
 start allowing students in years 11 and 12 to enter from China.

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A/Prof C Sense - aka Common   22/02/2020 1:23:56 PM

“ There are also reports of recovered patients continuing to show traces of the virus through nucleic acid tests, meaning they are potentially still contagious. Despite this development, the Government is reportedly considering easing the ban for Chinese students.“ The last phrase is a cause for concern. There are those in the Australian government who rather prioritize $$$ over lives. The CMO’s response doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either. - “Murphy has said it is up to the Federal Government to consider the risks and benefits of doing so.” On the one hand, we hav a DoH conducting Inquisitions of GPs with gleeful abandon (cf threatening letters to conscientious GPs doing their jobs), on the other, when we would expect they would protect Australian citizens, they shirk their responsibilities and preference $ over lives.

Dr Yunbo Duan   25/02/2020 2:15:55 PM

It took me about 40-50 mins to consult a suspected patient of coronavirus infection. I feel it is not safe for me to take a throat and NPA swab as the patient needs to stay in the surgery for about an hour to complete the test. I guess our role as a GP is to identify the suspected patient, rather than to test them. I would recommend the RACGP should to talk to state or federal health department to extablish a dedicated COVID 2019 clinic in Hospital as well as to encourage the pathology to set up a well equiped negative pressure room for collection of the specimen such as NPA swab/throatswab.