As health authorities prepare for the arrival of coronavirus, airport screening will be ramped up over the coming weeks and dedicated clinics are likely to be set up to assess patients who will be asked to self-isolate at home.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was not realistic for Australia "to completely lock itself off from the world", but he had asked the Border Force Commissioner for "quite specific plans on what they will be able to lift up over the course of the next week or two".
"People might be coming from the UK, but they might have been in Japan, people might be coming from Singapore and they might be coming through the United States. It doesn't matter where people are coming from now, once things get to a pandemic stage, then you need to be lifting your overall level of protection at the entry point," he said.
Also on Friday, the Australian National University wrote to as many as 4000 stranded students telling them it was working on an assistance package. The university, which has so far resisted payments for students, gave no detail but told students it would email with details early next week.
Melbourne University is offering up to $7500 to reimburse expenses such as flights and accommodation. The ANU has already offered fee concessions.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said on Friday authorities were working on scenarios including a slow spread of infection over two or three months, with a small number of people needing hospital treatment for severe pneumonia.
"We probably will be setting up dedicated primary care clinics either through state and territories or GP practices, trying to get people who get infection to isolate at home and delay the spread," professor Murphy said.
As the coronavirus continued its spread around the world, seven countries were added to the list on Thursday, bringing the total to 49. New Zealand recorded its first case, in a man reported to have travelled from Iran, via Bali, on an Emirates flight to Auckland. The virus also reached Nigeria.
Stock markets took a huge hit on Friday, the Australian share market losing $65.1 billion, the Australian Financial Review reported.
Health minister Greg Hunt said the likelihood that the virus would appear in the Australian community was high.
But Professor Murphy urged people not to panic.
"Nobody should go around wearing and wasting face masks, please," he said.
"We are not wanting the community to panic. But we are obviously being transparent with the community that we think the international situation does mean it that it is very likely that we will get some more cases in Australia in coming weeks."
State and territory health ministers met in Melbourne on Friday, where they agreed the states and territories would head preparations for hospitals, with some establishing separate respiratory clinics.
The ACT is yet to provide details of its plans, including which hospital will be used for coronavirus cases.
The Commonwealth is heading preparations for primary care, including GP care, and aged care. Mr Hunt said the median age of people dying of the virus was 71, making the elderly and people with compromised immune systems the most at risk and the top priority.
Professor Murphy would lead a workshop with the aged care sector, with a plan that involved "rings of containment", Mr Hunt said. People would be isolated within a hospital in the first instance. In an advanced epidemic, isolation would be arranged inside aged care, and beyond that alternative arrangements would come into play.
The Commonwealth is also leading the stocktake of the national medical stockpile and medical supply chains, given the reliance on China for medical supplies and medicines. The stockpile currently contained 20 million masks.
Christmas Island remained the main national quarantine facility but Mr Hunt said the Commonwealth was working with states and territories on other quarantine centres.
"It would have to be something the Commonwealth felt was a sufficiently secure quarantine facility, but which was approved and considered appropriate by each individual state," he said.
Professor Murphy authorities were also preparing for a scenario where the virus became endemic and remained in the community over a long period.
"We don't quite know how this virus, if it comes to Australia, will behave, whether it's a slow spread or a more rapid spread," professor Murphy said.
"We just need to be prepared for all eventualities and we need to be flexible. I don't think it's helpful to make any absolute predictions. We made them in the swine flu pandemic and we got them wrong."
Australian government figures on Friday showed 82,704 cases and 2814 deaths, with a fatality rate of 3.4 per cent. In Canberra, 105 people have been tested, all negative.