The coronavirus-related travel ban preventing Chinese visitors and students from entering Australia, which was due to end this weekend, will be extended for a further week.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the move this afternoon as China recorded its biggest single-day jump in deaths from the coronavirus.
"We did not take this decision lightly," Mr Morrison said, after a national security committee meeting.
"We are very mindful of the disruption and economic impacts of these arrangements, but I note Australia is one of 58 countries that has introduced some form of travel restrictions."
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the key concern was the spread of the virus, officially known as COVID-19, across China.
There are now more than 60,000 confirmed cases of the virus, most of them in the province of Hubei where it was first detected, and 1357 people have died.
More than 240 deaths were reported yesterday alone, the highest number of fatalities since the virus was first reported in December.
"There has been significant growth in Hubei," Dr Murphy said.
"In other provinces of China there has been slow growth .... but still growth.
"That is of concern because there are still evidence of community transmission in other provinces and that is the reason we would like to maintain the travel ban at the moment."
Of the 15 cases in Australia, six have been cleared and the remaining nine are all stable.
No quarantined Australians at Christmas Island and Darwin have tested positive to the virus, with the first group of evacuees due to return home on Monday.
Dr Murphy said those who had self-isolated had "behaved impeccably", greatly helping authorities' efforts to keep people safe.
Mr Morrison said the government was working closely with schools, universities and the tourism sector.
The virus, officially known as COVID-19, has killed 1310 people at its epicentre in the Chinese province of Hubei after 242 people died on Wednesday.
The province's health commission says 14,840 cases have been detected, taking the total to 48,206.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has advised Australians not to travel to China, and those who have returned have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
Given Australia's close economic ties with China, the virus - along with this summer's bushfires and a long-running drought - is having a huge financial impact on the economy.
It may even interfere with the government's much-promised budget surplus.
In the two days before, new cases dropped for a second straight day, health officials said in a possible glimmer of hope in the outbreak.
Doctor Mike Ryan, the head of emergencies for the World Health Organisation, said it is "way too early to try to predict the beginning of the end" of the crisis in China.
"The stabilisation in cases in the last number of days is very reassuring and it is to a great extent the result of the huge public health operation in China," he added.
China has locked down an unprecedented 60 million people in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, which has hit hardest in the city of Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.
Meanwhile, NSW Health has confirmed all four patients with coronavirus in the state have been discharged from hospital.
"This is terrific news for the patients, clinicians, researchers and the NSW community, and we should applaud the efforts of everyone involved," Health Protection NSW's Executive Director Jeremy McAnulty said.
China's National Health Commission said 2015 new cases were counted on Tuesday, the second straight daily decline and down from nearly 3900 a week ago.
Commission spokesman Mi Feng said the situation is still grim but "we have seen some positive changes".
People warned to still be cautious
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva that the numbers "must be interpreted with extreme caution," adding: "This outbreak could still go in any direction."
At the same time, he noted that the number of other countries reporting cases - about two dozen - has not changed since February 4.
All but one of the deaths recorded so far have been in China, as have more than 99 per cent of all reported infections in the world.
"In principle at the moment, there's no evidence out there that this virus is out there causing efficient community transmission in other countries," Dr Ryan said.
"We have a window of opportunity to shut this virus down."
At the end of a two-day meeting aimed at speeding the development of new tests, drugs and vaccines for the virus, WHO said scientists had agreed upon a set of global research priorities but warned it could still take considerable time before any licensed products might be available.
In other developments, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised tax cuts and other aid to industry as the ruling Communist Party tries to limit the mounting damage to the economy.
The country is struggling to restart its economy after the annual Lunar New Year holiday was extended to try to keep people home and contain the virus.
Traffic remained light in Beijing, and many people were still working at home.
Companies are facing increasing losses because of the closing of factories, offices, shops and other businesses in the most sweeping anti-disease measures ever imposed.
Meanwhile, organisers of the world's biggest mobile technology fair - the annual Mobile World Congress show, set for February 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain - cancelled the event because of worries about the viral outbreak.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/health/coronavirus-number-of-new-cases-in-china-drop/af76a79c-11ed-4363-baff-1f7aac714999