Coronavirus outbreak prompts warning for Australian GPs to wear masks during consultations



Updated

January 28, 2020 12:17:45

The Federal Government has told doctors and GP surgery staff to wear face masks when seeing potential coronavirus cases and it will dip into the national mask stockpile to make sure there are enough to go around.

Key points:

  • The Federal Government will release masks from a national stockpile to ensure there are enough
  • Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy stressed there was no need for members of the public to wear masks
  • Professor Murphy said people around the country were being tested for coronavirus every day, with most returning negative results

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said he had spoken to the president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners on Tuesday morning and advised that the masks be used for consultations.

“We want GPs to put a mask on the patient and the staff and the doctor when they are assessing the patient. That’s important advice,” Professor Murphy said.

“We are investigating the supply issue. If it is difficult and impossible for some of them to get them, we will make sure they will get them.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said there was a national medical stockpile of 12 million masks which would be sent where they were needed.

“We will work to make sure that everybody who needs them has them,” he said.

But Professor Murphy said there was no need for widespread quarantining and called for people who had recently returned from China to “be treated like any normal member of the community unless they develop symptoms” of the virus.

“The main message that we’re trying to give still to the Australian public is that there is no cause for concern,” he said.

“There is no human-to-human transmission of this virus [in Australia] and it is important to know because we had media ask about masks today.

“There is no need for the Australian public to wear masks.

“The only people who should wear masks in relation to this … virus are those who are unwell.

“Those who come back from China in the last two weeks and who have developed flu-like symptoms, they need to call ahead to their GP or emergency department and tell of their travel history and get tested.

“We’re testing a large number of people across the country every day.

The facts:

  • The primary symptoms of novel coronavirus 2019 are fever, coughing and difficulty breathing
  • It is thought to take between two and 14 days to see symptoms
  • It is not known how long the virus takes to incubate
  • There are no available vaccines that protect against coronavirus and there are no specific antiviral treatments for those who test positive

“The majority of them are negative as we always expected it to be, but we do expect that it is likely we might find some more positives over the next few days, but we are extremely well prepared.”

The Government’s Smart Traveller website has updated its travel advice for China, telling Australians not to travel to and from Hubei province, where the virus originated.

The advice level for the rest of China remains normal.

There have been five confirmed cases of the virus in Australia, four of them in New South Wales.

A Queensland boarding school has told parents that 10 students who recently returned from mainland China will be quarantined on a single floor of its boarding house for 10 days.

More on the coronavirus outbreak:

Topics:

infectious-diseases-other,

government-and-politics,

federal-government,

doctors-and-medical-professionals,

health,

health-policy,

travel-health-and-safety,

diseases-and-disorders,

australia,

china

First posted

January 28, 2020 10:55:40



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