Why Qld is the safest place in viral outbreak

QUEENSLAND is leading the nation in preparing emergency accommodation to deal with any coronavirus outbreaks on our shores, with 16 fever clinics ready to pop up within hours of a viral surge.

But it can also be revealed the nation does not currently have enough masks to cope with a moderate or severe outbreak.

It comes as the chief medical officer warned of the 'very strong likelihood' Australia will be struck with the disease. It has now spread into 49 countries, with another seven reporting incursions in a span of just 24 hours.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy

Australian share values have continued to plummet, in the worst week since the global financial crisis, with $240 billion wiped off the market since February 20.

Following a meeting of the nation's health ministers in Melbourne yesterday, Federal Minister Greg Hunt said the spread of the virus overseas justified Australia enacting its pandemic emergency response.

He said state governments would be in charge of preparing specialised respiratory or fever clinics, praising Queensland for its advanced status.

"Those elements should provide confidence to the Australian people," Mr Hunt said.

State Health Minister Steven Miles confirmed up to 16 fever clinics were prepared to be set up within hours of a surge in cases, with major hospitals from Cairns to the Gold Coast having logistics in place.



"They will be able to fast-track potential coronavirus cases to be tested quickly and isolated quickly if necessary, while also keeping the regular emergency department flowing," he said.

Major urban centres are where the virus is most likely to first appear, with patients who present in more regional facilities most likely to be transferred to a larger hospital. Suburban medical centres could also be turned into fever clinics if required, while there are discussions about doctors video conferencing with patients to limit exposure.

Mr Miles said aged care facilities were the highest concern, with older people more susceptible to the disease.

"The most urgent preparation is to ensure staff and residents get their flu vaccinations in April, so we're not facing flu and coronavirus outbreaks at once," he said.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles (right)
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles (right)

While Australia has more than 20 million medical masks and other laboratory consumables stockpiled, Mr Miles said there was not currently enough in the event of a moderate or severe outbreak.

"The modelling suggests we need more. The problem is that every health system in the world is trying to get these, while actual production has slowed because of factories closing in China," he said. "Wuhan was one of the biggest producers of surgical masks."

Mr Hunt said the government was working with a factory in Victory which has the capacity to ramp up production.