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New guidelines for frontline virus heroes

FEDERAL Health Minister Greg Hunt says medical workers will become our national heroes in the battle against COVID-19, which has now claimed the lives of three Australians.

Mr Hunt said the Federal Government will this week release updated guidelines for doctors and health staff working on the front lines.

"Over summer, our firefighters and our emergency service workers were our heroes," he said.

"In the coming months, it will be our health and medical service workers who will be our national heroes so we need to support them."

Seventy-six Australians have now tested positive for the virus and three people have died.

A woman from the Gympie region yesterday become the 15th confirmed coronavirus case in Queensland.

The 38-year-old was being treated in the Sunshine Coast University Hospital in a dedicated isolation unit and is in a stable condition, Queensland Health said.

The patient travelled to Australia from London via Dubai but it was unclear if she had developed symptoms before the flight, Health Minister Steven Miles said.

 

 

"Queensland Health is working with her to trace possible contacts and provide them with health advice," Mr Miles said.

Authorities are trying to contact passengers seated two rows in front and behind, as well as two seats beside any travellers who later test positive to the virus.

But the risk is believed to be low for most passengers on the same flight.

Mr Miles said Queensland Health was not "especially concerned" about most passengers but was carrying out checks.

Authorities are also tracing passengers seated near an 81-year-old man on Thai Airways Flight TG473 from Thailand to Brisbane on February 26, and those near a 29-year-old woman who travelled on Qantas Flight QF2 departing on February 29 from London to Singapore, then QF52 from Singapore, arriving in Brisbane on March 2.

Passengers on these flights are only advised to contact a doctor if they become sick because those considered at risk are being checked by authorities.

Seventy Victorians who were treated by a doctor now confirmed to have the killer coronavirus are in self-quarantine, waiting to see if they develop symptoms. None had fallen sick last night, despite being treated by Toorak doctor Chris Higgins, father of singer Missy Higgins, who was this weekend named as Victoria's 11th confirmed case.

 

 

Dr Higgins wants an apology from Victoria's Health Minister Jenny Mikakos over her comments that she was flabbergasted a doctor with flu-like symptoms had continued to treat patients.

Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone said Dr Higgins acted with informed clinical judgment to test himself, despite not being required to under the guidelines as he had a mild cold which resolved itself after his return from the US.

It comes as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 climbed to 38 in NSW - including two Australian Defence Force members - and an 82-year-old Sydney man became Australia's third fatality.

There are growing calls to step up public information as patients are discovered.

The ADF yesterday announced two officers had contracted coronavirus in unrelated circumstances, alerting the public between 42 and 16 hours after the cases were confirmed. The ADF was advised a navy officer tested positive to COVID-19 at 5pm on Friday, and also a second officer - a man in his 40s - at 7pm on Saturday, but did not release a statement until 11.30am yesterday. The man in his 40s was a family member of a confirmed case from a cluster outbreak in Ryde.

 

 

He travelled on two flights between Sydney and Canberra for a meeting at Defence Headquarters on February 28 when he may have been infectious, but was not aware of his connection to a confirmed case.

As a precaution the ADF has now ordered all staff and contractors to self-isolate and seek testing if they present with any flu-like symptoms.

Mr Hunt urged anyone who thought they could be infected to contact their GP.

"If in doubt, get yourself tested," he said.

"That's the important message - even though it can be a little bit of a stress on the system, we would rather people over-test, rather than under-test."

The Federal Government is developing a frontline response plan including scaling up teleconference abilities from GP consultations.

"It will reduce the load on emergency departments and hospitals," Mr Hunt said.

Amid growing concern about people panicking about the virus and stockpiling essentials, Coles has imposed a new limit of one pack of toilet paper per customer after stores started running out within an hour of delivery.

Coles Group chief executive Steven Cain said it would mean more toilet paper was available for the elderly and ­people unable to purchase in large volumes.