Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the coronavirus outbreak will enter a pandemic phase, prompting the Australian government to initiate its emergency response plan.
Addressing the public, Mr Morrison said there is "every indication" coronavirus will become a pandemic and the risk to Australia is "very much upon us".
"I want to stress that these actions are being taken in an abundance of caution," said Mr Morrison.
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Mr Morrison said the plan was triggered to "contain the impact of this virus".
"Together we will get through this," he said.
The World Health Organisation has not yet declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, but Mr Morrison said based on "expert medical advice" the government has taken "steps necessary" to contain the pandemic.
Mr Morrison has asked the Commissioner of the Australian Border Force to strengthen Australia's ports of entry to identify persons who may require additional quarantine.
The PM also stressed the declaration of a pandemic does not place additional risk on vulnerable people in the community.
"There is no evidence before us that children are at any greater risk, but we do believe to take care of our kids that we needed an even greater abundance of caution," said Mr Morrison.
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"There is no need for us to be moving to stopping mass gatherings of people.
"You can still go to the football and the cricket and play with your friends down the street, you can go to the concert and you can go out for a Chinese meal.
"You can do all of these things because Australia has acted quickly, Australia has gone ahead of this at this point in time."
The Morrison government has also extended the travel ban on people coming from China for a further week and enacted an emergency response plan as the deadly coronavirus continues to spread globally.
WHY THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLAN WAS ACTIVATED
The turning point was new data showing the rate of cases being confirmed outside China was growing faster than those inside China.
Australia has so far had 22 cases of COVID-19, most of whom have been cleared and are now back in the community.
There has been no evidence of transmission within the community.
State and territory health ministers will meet with federal minister Greg Hunt on Friday to discuss the next steps.
Border Force has also been asked for advice on how to step up measures at ports of entry.
Education ministers will look at what steps can be taken to further protect children.
MARKETS PREPARE FOR CORONAVIRUS BLOODBATH
The Australian Government treating the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic will rock local markets after an already tumultuous week.
Some economists have cut their forecasts for next week's quarterly growth figures, as data pointed to a sluggish Australian economy even before taking into account the devastating impact of the coronavirus.
This week more than $140 billion has been lost off the ASX 200 as investors shy away from Australian stocks that rely considerably on trade with China.
LATEST FACTS AND FIGURES ON CORONAVIRUS
* 23 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Australia: 8 in Queensland; 4 in NSW; 7 in Victoria; 3 in South Australia; 1 in Western Australia.
* 15 of these cases are reported to have recovered. The remaining cases are in a stable condition.
* 8 cases are passengers who were on the Diamond Princess repatriation flight from Japan. They have returned to their home states for medical treatment.
* Across the world, there have been 81,310 confirmed cases and 2771 reported deaths.
* Of the confirmed cases reported globally, the case fatality rate is 3.4 per cent. The case fatality rate in countries and regions outside mainland China is 1.4 per cent.
* Australia's travel restrictions have been extended for a further week.
* Foreign nationals - excluding permanent residents - who have been in mainland China will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they left mainland China.
* Australian citizens and permanent residents will still be able to enter, as will their immediate family members (spouses, legal guardians and dependants only).
* People who have been in contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus must self-isolate for 14 days from the time they were in contact with that person.
* Australian government is operating on the basis that a pandemic will be declared soon.
Statistics courtesy of AAP
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/coronavirus-outbreak-australia-emergency-plan-activated-pandemic-phase/9c9c5a9c-d237-4e6d-bb10-936ae20cf85d