Australia is sending a medical expert to Japan to assist authorities with growing concerns for passengers on the cruise ship quarantined off Yokohama because of the coronavirus.
The infectious disease expert will join an international team to gather information about the passengers, including the 200 Australians on board the Diamond Princess.
US citizens on the Diamond Princess cruise ship who are confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus will not be taken back to the United States on a planned charter flight after all, a Japanese government official said.
The US said earlier on Saturday it would send an aircraft to Japan to bring back US passengers on the Diamond Princess, where the most coronavirus infections outside China have occurred.
The Australian Embassy in Tokyo has since emailed citizens aboard the cruise ship to state the federal government is also examining options to assist Australians.
The Australian government extended the two-week travel ban from mainland China to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 for another seven days this week.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says keeping Australians safe from the virus is “absolutely paramount”, but says it is a “savage blow” to Australian tourism.
“The ban on passenger air travel also impacts on a range of other industries that depend on frequent air movements to shift goods, including perishable products,” Australian Chamber – Tourism Executive chair John Hart said in a statement.
“Tourism and trade would greatly benefit from even a partial lifting of the ban from provinces in China that present a much lower risk to Australians.”
He said Beijing and Shanghai have tightly controlled COVID-19 virus and account for around 33 per cent of airline movements.
Prof Kelly said all sorts of options have been looked at to relax travel restrictions.
“But realistically when we put the health of Australians is the first priority we could not see a way forward that we could advise it should be lifted at this time,” he said.
The Maritime Unions of Australia is concerned its members are being put at risk by the arrival of container vessels from mainland China, which it says in some cases are docking in breach of the travel ban.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has raised this issue with the government and the chief medical officer, and has been assured they are aware of the situation.
“We need to be vigilant and make sure the health of Australians is the number one priority,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Perth.
No quarantined Australians at Christmas Island and Darwin have tested positive for the virus, with the first group of evacuees due to return home on Monday.
The Australian Border Force is making arrangements to transfer those quarantined on Christmas Island once they have been medically cleared.
Of the 15 coronavirus cases in Australia, six have been cleared and the remaining nine are all stable.
In China, the total number infected by the virus rose to more than 66,000 on Saturday, with the number of deaths passing 1500.
A total of 1700 Chinese health workers who have been infected, with six deaths.