A multi-billion-dollar federal economic stimulus plan is expected to be announced on Thursday. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS

politics

Italian visitors banned over coronavirus

2020-03-11 15:30:07

Visitors from Italy will be banned from Australia as the government steps up efforts to protect the country from coronavirus.

The ban, to start from 6pm on Wednesday, comes as the Morrison government announced a $2.4 billion boost to health services.

A multi-billion-dollar federal economic stimulus plan is also expected to be announced on Thursday before Mr Morrison’s meeting on Friday with state and territory leaders to discuss their contribution.

Free telehealth services and pop-up testing clinics will be set up and from Friday phone hook-ups with GPs to diagnose coronavirus symptoms can be bulk-billed.

“We’ve been working hard to stay ahead, and it’s important that we all keep our heads as well,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

“Every Australian has a role to play – whether you’re in government, federal, state, local, whether you’re an employer, whether you’re an employee, wherever you happen to be.”

The Italy measure joins bans already in place for visitors from China, Iran and South Korea.

“I think that it is important not to overstate this,” Mr Morrison said.

“Italy itself has effectively put itself into lockdown with travel now, and this largely closes that loop.”

Under the health boost, authorities will establish up to 100 “pop-up” clinics, with each expected to handle 75 patients a day.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said some pop-up clinics were already running, including at hospitals in Melbourne and South Australia.

The Australian Medical Association will help the government with locations for the rest, which will be progressively rolled out.

AMA president Tony Bartone says people with symptoms should only go to a clinic if they’ve recently been overseas or had contact with someone diagnosed with the virus.

The government hopes the clinics will divert people with coronavirus away from hospitals.

As well, extra funds will be spent on research and a communication strategy.

Aged care coronavirus-related services will be boosted with training of staff in infection control, extra staff in cases where an urgent health response is needed and specialist onsite pathology services.

Meanwhile, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg met with bank CEOs on Wednesday to discuss the impact of the virus on the economy.

Australian Banking Association chief Anna Bligh said banks were in the “best-ever shape” to face the challenge and were well capitalised, with strong balance sheets.

“Banks stand ready to assist and if anyone is in need of assistance, they shouldn’t wait to come forward,” she said.

A number of schools in NSW and Melbourne have temporarily closed because of the coronavirus, but Education Minister Dan Tehan doesn’t expect state-wide closures.

Mr Tehan said it would be more likely for schools in particular areas to close, with the government relying on expert medical advice.

Universities are scaling back their course offerings or providing more online tuition.

But Southern Cross University has gone further, temporarily closing its Gold Coast and Lismore campuses on Wednesday after a staff member visiting from the Philippines tested positive to the virus.