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Wuhan plane lands in Sydney as Chinese city quarantined over virus

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A plane carrying passengers from the Chinese city of Wuhan at the centre of the deadly outbreak of coronavirus has arrived in Sydney, on the day the Chinese Government plans to shut down flights and trains out of the city in a bid to quarantine it.

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The China Eastern Airlines flight from Xian via Wuhan arrived at Sydney airport just after 11am on Thursday.

Biosecurity measures have been ramped up and passengers will now be checked by heath professionals as they depart the plane.

The team will include four NSW Health doctors and nurses experienced in public health and infection control alongside virology experts from Westmead Hospital and elsewhere.

They will wear masks and gloves when examining anyone with symptoms, NSW Health protection executive director Dr Jeremy McAnulty said.

“If it looks like they may have an infection … we can arrange for testing and management of that person right away,” McAnulty said.

McAnulty says identifying potential carriers at the airport is “not foolproof by any means” because people who’ve been exposed to the virus may not display symptoms for days.

Fu Gui, who was waiting for her sister and parents to arrive from Shenzhen, told AAP it was concerning the plane from Wuhan was arriving into Sydney.

“I’m a little worried but I think the staff here will test them all,” she said.

The coronavirus has so far infected a confirmed 571 people, and killed 17.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said people have been asked not to leave the city of 11 million people without specific reasons.

Chinese health authorities have urged people in Wuhan to avoid crowds and public gatherings, after warning the new viral illness could spread further.

Worries have been heightened by the Lunar New Year holiday rush, when millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad.

The World Health Organisation has decided not to label the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” for the time being.

A committee of experts who advise the WHO saw no reason to for such a declaration on Wednesday, but still wants to meet on Thursday.

Several countries increased border health checks to guard against the disease’s spread, including Australia, the US, the UK and Russia.

The illness comes from a newly identified type of coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as the SARS outbreak that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003 and killed about 800 people.

Authorities in Thailand on Wednesday confirmed four cases, a Thai national and three Chinese visitors.

Japan, South Korea, the US and Taiwan have all reported one case each. All of the illnesses struck people from Wuhan or those who recently travelled there.

Macao, a former Portuguese colony that is a semi-autonomous Chinese city, reported one case on Wednesday.

Some experts said they believe the threshold for the outbreak to be declared an international emergency had been reached.

The Matildas, Australia’s women’s soccer team, has been caught up in the emergency after travelling to China to play Olympic qualifiers.

Those matches had been due to go ahead in Wuhan but will now be played in Nanjing, with the Asian Football Confederation saying there was no option but to move the qualifiers in the face of the evolving crisis.

The Australian government updated its travel advice on Thursday and urged all Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Wuhan.

-with AAP

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