Reconsider all overseas travel: Dutton’s coronavirus warning
AUSTRALIANS should reconsider any overseas travel, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton dramatically warned as the country increases its security measures to protect itself against the spread of the new coronavirus.
The senior Morrison Government Minister also took a swipe at Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, accusing her of breaching the confidence of chief medical officers for political gain.
It follows Australia warning people not to travel to China, the epicentre of the outbreak, and blocking tourists coming from China from entering the country.
But Mr Dutton this morning warned that the virus situation was not likely to improve in the short term.
"We hope China can contain the issue and that we can move on from it as quickly as possible, but it's likely to be more protracted than that," he told Sky News.
"We need to deal with that. We need Australians frankly, if they're considering a holiday at the moment to reconsider whether an outbound overseas trip is what they want to do.
"If they've thought about staying in parts of Australia, regional Australia, in particular, now might be a good time to book that holiday."
He said holidaying at home could help tourist operators and local businesses struggling with the double hit of bushfires and coronavirus.
He advised Australians in China at the moment to leave sooner than later, with Qantas to suspend flights from the country after February 9.
"People should head the travel advice and not go to mainland China at this point in time," Mr Dutton said.
"If people are leaving Australia to go to China today against the advice then they're putting themselves in a difficult position.
"The very strong advice from the Federal Government is please, do not travel, let us assess this over the next 14 days."
While the Morrison Government is negotiating with Chinese authorities to evacuate Australians trapped within the locked-down city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated, he warned more assisted flights home may not be able to go ahead.
Meanwhile he took an extraordinary swipe at Ms Palaszczuk accusing her of "appalling" conduct.
"Yesterday, after she'd had a briefing from her medical officer, about (coronavirus travel bans), went out smugly calling for the Federal Government to act in relation to flights from China," Mr Dutton said.
"No other Premier broke the confidence of the chief medical officers meeting, except Annastacia Palaszczuk for her own political purposes.
"I thought it was an absolutely disgraceful act yesterday and it undermined the confidence within that committee and she's got a lot of questions to answer for."
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said while the virus was serious, Australians should not to panic.
"It's a very serious virus, but Australians should not panic. We should support the Australian-Chinese community, and we should know that as a Government, as a country, we are very well prepared," Mr Frydenberg told the ABC.
He said the evacuation of Australians in Wuhan had not received permission from China yet, but he believed approval was imminent.
But the government has been sending mixed messages on whether the evacuees will be charged.
Mr Dutton said they would have to pay about $1000 to cover the cost of the flights, but Mr Frydenberg insisted it would be provided free of charge.
"We won't be charging the people to come to Australia without a cost … it's very clear that the advice that we got originally was incorrect," Mr Frydenberg said.