Housing coronavirus patients on Christmas Island would turn it into a ‘leper colony’, says mayor


Housing coronavirus patients on Christmas Island would turn it into a ‘leper colony’, says mayor as he slams government plan – but Peter Dutton hits back

  • Plan to isolate Australian coronavirus evacuees on island criticised by its mayor 
  • Chinese officials said on Thursday infections in country had jumped 30 per cent
  • Australian government announced plans to quarantine evacuees on Wednesday
  • Christmas Island president said decision would turn island into ‘leper colony’ 
  • He said isolating them on island created ‘convict settlement for innocent people’ 

A plan to quarantine Australian coronavirus evacuees on Christmas Island has been labelled a ‘colonial-era idea’ by the remote territory’s mayor. 

The Australian government on Wednesday announced the ‘humanitarian’ mission to get its citizens out of the disease epicentre in the Chinese province of Hubei as more than 600 Australian citizens in the region registered for advice or assistance.

Chinese officials confirmed on Thursday the country’s death toll had risen to 170 from 132 the day before, while the number of infections jumped 30 per cent to 7,700.

With infections continuing to rise, medical teams are bound for Christmas Island to deal with Australian coronavirus evacuees in a bid to protect the mainland from the deadly disease. 

The plan to use Christmas Island detention centre (pictured) as a quarantine site for Australians evacuated from coronavirus-stricken Hubei province has been slammed

The plan to use Christmas Island detention centre (pictured) as a quarantine site for Australians evacuated from coronavirus-stricken Hubei province has been slammed 

Christmas Island Shire president Gordon Thomson told ABC News the decision would turn the island into a ‘leper colony’.

‘Saw PM’s announcement. Regressive colonial era ideas since 2001. Create convict settlement for innocent people – now we’ll be a leper colony,’ Mr Thomson said in a text message. 

It is unclear how many evacuees will be put into quarantine on Christmas Island, which sits 1,650 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia.

Earlier, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton defended the Christmas Island plan, saying it would help keep Australia safe.

‘I can’t clear a hospital in Sydney or Melbourne to accommodate 600 people. We don’t have a facility otherwise that can take this number of people,’ he told the Nine Network on Thursday.

Australian diplomats are continuing negotiations with Chinese authorities to clear the way for the evacuation mission.

Officials at Thailand's Bangkok airport prepare to disinfect the cabin of an aircraft to prevent the spread of coronavirus on Tuesday

Officials at Thailand’s Bangkok airport prepare to disinfect the cabin of an aircraft to prevent the spread of coronavirus on Tuesday

Christmas Island Shire president Gordon Thomson said the quaratine decision would turn the island (detention centre, pictured) into a 'leper colony'

Christmas Island Shire president Gordon Thomson said the quaratine decision would turn the island (detention centre, pictured) into a ‘leper colony’

Qantas has offered its aircraft for use in the evacuation, which is a joint operation with New Zealand.  

On Thursday, Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed two Australians in China’s Guangdong Province had contracted the virus, but had been treated and appeared to be okay.

‘They have been treated and the advice that I have – and I would want to be cautious on this – is that they have been released and are not seeking consular assistance at this stage,’ he told reporters.

Mr Hunt said Australia’s actions were driven by medical advice, and the World Health Organization was strong in its support for quarantine measures to stem the spread of the virus.

‘Our job is to protect Australians and provide support for citizens overseas and the best way to do that is to find a place which was designed to deal with people who were coming (from) overseas… and to do that in a way which is humane,’ Mr Hunt said.

‘This is a humanitarian mission. … It protects Australians home but it provides a pathway home for those Australians who are in Hubei.’

Mr Hunt said the National Critical Care and Trauma Centre had secured the personnel they need for Christmas Island, and teams would begin heading there later today. 

There are seven confirmed cases of the deadly virus in Australia: four in New South Wales, two in Victoria and one in Queensland, and others are being tested in various states. 

Two Australians have been diagnosed with the virus in China.  

CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA

NEW SOUTH WALES: 4

Four people in NSW have been diagnosed with coronavirus, including three men and one woman.

January 25

  • Three men aged 43, 53, and 35 who had recently travelled to China are confirmed to have contracted the disease.
  • Two flew in from Wuhan while the other arrived in Sydney from Shenzhen, south China.
  • They are being treated in isolation at Westmead Hospital and are in stable condition.

January 27

  • A 21-year-old woman is identified as the fourth person to test positive for the illness in NSW.
  • The woman, a student at UNSW, flew into Sydney International Airport on flight MU749 on January 23 and presented to the emergency department 24 hours later after developing flu-like symptoms.
  • She is being treated in isolation at Westmead Hospital.

VICTORIA: 2 

January 25

  • A Chinese national aged in his 50s becomes the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Australia.
  • The man flew to Melbourne on China Southern flight CZ321 from Wuhan via Guangzhou on January 19.
  • He is now in quarantined isolation at Monash Hospital in Clayton in Melbourne’s east.

January 29

  • A Victorian man in his 60s is diagnosed with the coronavirus.
  • He became unwell on January 23 – two days after returning from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
  • The man was confirmed as positive on January 29 and was subsequently seen by doctors at the Monash Medical Centre. He was assessed as being well enough to stay at home.

QUEENSLAND: 1 

January 29 

  • Queensland confirms its first case after a 44-year-old Chinese national wass diagnosed with the virus.
  • He is being treated at Gold Coast University Hospital.  

CHINA: 2, January 30: Two Australians have been confirmed as having the virus in Wuhan itself. Australia has raised the travel alert level to ‘do not travel’ for the city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak – and for the entire Hubei province.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says unless people have contact with someone who is unwell and has come from that part of China, there is no need for current concern.  

 

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