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Matildas to travel to epicentre of China Coronavirus

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

The death toll from a new Chinese virus has risen as it has come to light that the Australian Women’s football team will travel to the original outbreak zone.

The death toll from a new flu-like coronavirus in China has risen to nine with the number of confirmed cases doubling in 24 hours to 440.

Chinese health officials confirmed the latest deaths as authorities step up efforts to control the outbreak by discouraging public gatherings in Hubei province.

Today, Queensland Health confirmed a Brisbane man who was quarantined does not have Coronavirus.

However, concerns have shifted to the Australia's female soccer team, the Matildas, due to head to China for a pre-Olympic qualifier.

The team are expected to travel to the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, in Wuhan, however coach Ante Milicic said the safety of the team remains the number on priority.

"We will always put the well being of our players and staff first."

The Matildas are expected to arrive in Wuhan early next week for three games and as it stands, the trip will go ahead.

Player Stephanie Catley said she isn't concerned.

"We have our doctor here so I'm sure he's keeping an eye on it, and I'm sure we will head over there if it is safe," she said.

In China, another 2197 cases of close contact with patients had been confirmed and there was evidence of "respiratory transmission" of the virus, National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin told reporters on Wednesday.

As China also vowed to tighten containment measures in hospitals, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is due to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to determine whether the outbreak of the new coronavirus constitutes a global health emergency.

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The virus, originating in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei at the end of last year, has spread to Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai, as well as the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

The Chinese government has been providing daily updates on the number of cases in a bid to head off public panic, as millions of people prepare to travel domestically and abroad for the country's Lunar New Year celebrations starting this week.

Hubei had been asked to minimise public gatherings and people across the country were urged to avoid densely populated areas in general, the health commission said. China also would step up cooperation with the WHO, Li added.

Officials found to have covered up infections would be a "sinner for eternity before the Party and the people", the Chinese Communist Party's Central Political and Legal Commission said in a post on its WeChat social media account that was subsequently deleted.

"I'm not sure that we could expect more of them at this stage in the outbreak, particularly when they are understandably focused on responding to the outbreak and trying to contain it ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations," said Adam Kamradt-Scott, an infectious diseases expert at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney.

Fears of a pandemic similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak that started in China and killed nearly 800 people in 2002-2003 have roiled global markets, with aviation and luxury goods stocks hit particularly hard and the Chinese yuan tumbling.

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The WHO said on Tuesday the new coronavirus was likely to spread to other parts of China and possibly other countries in coming days.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said new cases would appear as China stepped up monitoring. "If you increase surveillance and testing you are likely to get new numbers," he added.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, one of the airlines affected the most by the SARS outbreak, said it would allow flight attendants to wear a surgical mask while operating mainland China flights due to concerns over the new virus.

Travellers wear face masks as they walk outside of the Beijing Railway Station. China has reported a sharp rise in the number of people infected with a new coronavirus, including the first cases in the capital.

Taiwan joined Australia in warning citizens to avoid travel to Wuhan, and airports around the world have stepped up screening of travellers from China.

"I want to call on our nationals please not to visit this region if not necessary," Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wrote on her Facebook page.

Fifteen medical personnel are among those infected in China. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. The viral infection can cause pneumonia.

Though the origin of the virus has yet to be identified, WHO said the primary source was probably animal. Chinese officials have linked the outbreak to Wuhan's seafood markets.

Source: 9News

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