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Up to 600 Aussies to be evacuated from China’s coronavirus epicentre

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

The emergency operation to get Australians out of the coronavirus “ground zero” in China is now underway.

The emergency operation to get Australians out of the coronavirus "ground zero" in China is now underway.

A Qantas 747 is on its way to Wuhan via Hong Kong to collect up to 600 people who are currently in the lock down zone.

This comes as NSW Health confirms the virus can be transmitted in as little as 15 minutes if there's been face to face contact with an infected person.

If there's been no face-to-face contact, transmission can still occur if a healthy person is in a closed space with an infected person for at least two hours.

People arrive wearing masks to avoid contact with the Coronavirus at Sydney Airport.

The evacuation flight is expected to arrive in Darwin at 2.30am Monday.

Evacuees will then be taken to Christmas Island where they will be placed under observation for 14 days.

Medical specialists will spend the weekend preparing a quarantine facility on Christmas Island for the Australian evacuees.

Experts from Australia's disaster response team were dispatched to the island today.

The nation's top health bureaucrats have not yet recommended suspending all flights from China, but the Transport Workers Union is calling on the government to do so.

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"The federal government must take urgent action to protect its own citizens and to help prevent a potentially devastating global pandemic," the union said.

Nine people have been diagnosed in Australia, amid revelations it only takes 15 minutes for the deadly virus to pass from one person to another.

The World Health Organisation has declared the disease, which has killed more than 200 people in China and infected thousands, a public health emergency.

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The declaration means there will be a greater focus on a global response, with WHO fearful of what could happen if the virus reaches countries ill-prepared to cope with high infection rates.

China's deadly coronavirus has spread around the world.

"Australia has been acting in advance of this decision," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"All of the issues - isolation, case management, contract tracing, prevention of onward spread, active surveillance, early detection - Australia has been doing."

Human coronavirus with pandemic potential is a listed human disease under Australian laws, which enables the government to use "enhanced border measures" to contain outbreaks.

Australia's chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said the world would soon know if containment was realistic.

"It is not yet contained in China, but they are making Herculean efforts to do so. It is contained very well in all the countries where it has been exported to, including Australia," he said.

The government's national security committee met today to go over pre-planning and precautionary measures to battle the virus.

Qantas 747 in London (Getty)How coronavirus affects the human body.

The virus has spread to 18 countries including Australia, which has had nine confirmed cases with more expected.

Hong Kong has closed its borders to mainland China.

"They are in a very different situation than an island nation like ours," Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told Today.

"We are not taking flights from Wuhan. And if we need to take further steps beyond that we will."

Mr Dutton again defended the government's plans to charge evacuees for part of the cost of their repatriation to Australia, and the decision to force them into quarantine on Christmas Island for up to two weeks.

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He said costs had been applied to evacuees in the past, noting that not all the 600 or so Australians who had registered for the airlift would be evacuated.

Source: 9News

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