Australia Coronavirus outbreak prompts warning for Australian GPs to wear masks during consultations
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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.
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.
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"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 and it is important to know because we had media ask about masks today.
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Public servant Malcolm Scriber and his family, who live in Hobart, were on holiday visiting relatives in the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan when the city was put under quarantine on January 23. Since then, Mr Scriber, his mother June, his wife Wenjuan and their two children Luna, 11 months, and Eli, 3, have been trapped in a small apartment owned his Chinese-born partner's family. The Australian Government is offering a $1,000-a-head evacuation flight with Qantas but Mr Scriber doesn't see the point in spending money to put his family at risk.
"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 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.
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