The month that has authorities worried
The risk of the deadly coronavirus spreading in Australia will increase over coming months as the mercury drops and instances of colds and flu spike, official modelling shows.
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has revealed that authorities are bracing for the worst, as the number of countries battling the virus passes 60 and the death toll hits 3000.
"The modelling indicates that potentially, in late April or May, there may be greater spread of the illness here in Australia, and at that point in time obviously we would need to ramp up some of our activities," Mr McGowan told reporters.
"The peak would then hit us in potentially August, which is obviously not a great month because our coldest months with the highest level of flu."
The emergency response to the virus entered a worrying new phase yesterday, with confirmation of the first human-to-human infection.
It's likely the government will enter an escalated phase of containment efforts in a bid to slow the spread.
Australian chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy said an outbreak in Australia was likely inevitable, stating "it's no longer possible to absolutely prevent new cases coming in".
Western Australia will host a meeting to assess its preparedness for a potential COVID-19 outbreak tomorrow, in the wake of the death of an elderly man in a Perth hospital.
The 78-year-old contracted the virus while on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship with his wife and the pair was transported back to Australia for treatment.
Sadly, he passed away yesterday. His wife, 79, remains in hospital in a stable condition.
Andrew Miller, president of the WA branch of the Australian Medical Association, told the ABC that the death should be "a wake-up call".
"I guess we're used to being warned about things, and as Australians we tend to say, 'She'll be OK and it will work out on the day', but in this instance we really do need to take a call to prepare very seriously."
Dr Miller likened the coronavirus to the deadly Spanish flu, a pandemic that killed 50 million people globally in the early part of the 20th Century.
"The truth is we probably haven't seen a virus like this one since 1918 with the Spanish flu, so I understand why it's been a little slow to get the wheels going," he said.
Although, he said the focus should be on preparing - not panicking.
"It's not a time to panic. It's not a time to be moving to the hills. It is a time to be thinking about what will we do if this hits, how will it affect our life and what can we do to help others."
Last week, Australia activated its emergency response plan for pandemics and the Commonwealth is working with states and territories to prepare for potential outbreaks.
Professor Robert Booy from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance told the ABC that Australia needed to focus on older people living in aged care and the elderly still living at home, as they were most at risk.
"People with chronic medical conditions of the lung or the heart also need to be closely monitored," he said.
More than 87,000 people worldwide have been infected, with the virus appearing on every continent but Antarctica.