Australia will evacuate Australians from Wuhan and use Christmas Island as a quarantine station.
A plan to evacuate Australians from Wuhan and the Hubei province in China is being developed as the Australian government ramps up its response to the spread of coronavirus across the world.
Chief Medial Officer Brendan Murphy upgraded the health advice for the disease on Wednesday afternoon, saying anyone who has travelled to the Hubei province in China, or had contact with an infected person, should isolate themselves for 14 days on leaving the area.
The advice doesn't include people who have travelled to other areas of China. Professor Murphy said authorities were aware of a case where the disease had likely been transmitted by a person before they began to show symptoms of the disease, but that data was limited and they still believed most infections were transmitted from people already showing symptoms.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the spread of the disease a "serious and evolving situation" and said the government was developing a plan to help vulnerable people who had been in Wuhan for a shorter period of time to be able to leave the city.
Christmas Island would be used to quarantine the people who were evacuated from the area. They would need to stay there for 14 days, Mr Morrison said.
The operation would be undertaken in partnership with New Zealand, and some other Pacific neighbours.
The death toll from a new coronavirus in China has risen sharply to 132 with nearly 1500 new cases, heaping pressure on Beijing to control the disease.
LATEST CORONAVIRUS STATISTICS:
- More than 6000 people have been diagnosed.
- All deaths so far have been in China, 132 have been confirmed.
- Eighty-four cases have been exported to other countries.
- There are five confirmed cases in Australia, all are in a stable condition.
- The World Health Organisation estimates about 20 per cent of people with this condition have a serious disease.
Fears of the spreading virus have already pushed airlines around the world to reduce flights to China and global companies to restrict employee travel to the country, while sectors from mining to luxury goods have been shaken by concerns for global growth in the event of a worst-case pandemic.
China's National Health Commission on Wednesday said the total number of deaths from the flu-like virus rose by 26 on Tuesday to 132, while the number of confirmed cases rose by 1459 to a total of 5974.
Mr Morrison said there was a limited window in which to enact the plan and Australian authorities were working quickly to put the operation together.
Evacuations would be done on a "last in, first out". Australians who have been travelling to the area for a short time and don't have established support infrastructure will be prioritised over those who have been living in the city for a long time.
"We're particularly focused on the more vulnerable components of that population. That's young people, particularly infants, and those who are elderly and that would be our priority in any operation we're able to put in place," Mr Morrison said.
The "assisted departure" mission would need to be approved by the Chinese government, and Mr Morrison said there was a process to work through with local authorities.
Qantas had offered to help with the evacuation but those evacuated will have to commit to contributing to the cost of their removal from the city.
The Prime Minister emphasised the difficulty of the operation.
"We cannot give a guarantee that this operation is able to succeed and I also want to stress very clearly that we may not be in a position if we're able to do this on one occasion to do it on another occasion," he said.
"There are many complications and many issues that we're going to have to overcome."
The government hadn't been slow to react, Mr Morrison said, emphasising the announcement had been the work of days of planning.
He also said the Australian operation was different from that of the United States, which only sought to remove consular officials and their families from the city.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the decision to evacuate people and force them to be quarantined meant Australia was one of the "most forward leading" countries in its response.
"With these decisions we have become one of the world's most cautious and conservative countries with the decisions we've taken," Mr Hunt said.
"It's been done on the basis of the medical advice."
Residents in Christmas Island would be assisted and kept separate from the quarantined population, and the Defence Force would identify possible overflow points.
Australians have been told to reconsider their need to travel to China, and not to travel to the Hubei province.
A consular team from Shanghai is in the middle of moving to Wuhan in order to set up a temporary consular office to assist with the evacuation.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said there were just over 600 Australians registered in the province.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the government was releasing one million face masks from national stocks, to be issued through primary health networks and pharmacies for people "with a relevant travel history".
They are not for the general population.