CANBERRA, March 11 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government has extended its travel ban to Italy and announced a 2.4-billion-Australian-dollar (1.55-billion-U.S. dollar) medical response to COVID-19.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy detailed the emergency health package on Wednesday after it was signed-off by the government.
It includes 206.7 million Australian dollars for up to 100 pop-up respiratory clinics across the country that will ease pressure on General Practitioners and hospital emergency departments.
The clinics, which will be capable of seeing up to 75 patients per day, will treat patients presenting with mild COVID-19 symptoms, leaving hospitals to treat only the most severe cases of the virus.
Some 100 million Australian dollars will be spent subsidizing telehealth consultancies between patients and medical and mental health staff in an attempt to reduce the risk of exposure for healthcare workers.
The aged care sector will also be boosted by more than 100 million Australian dollars, with two of the three COVID-19 deaths in Australia having occurred in nursing homes.
The package also includes an already-announced partnership between the federal, state and territory governments to split the cost of responding to the announcement and 30 million Australian dollars for a national awareness campaign.
"We're ensuring our health system is well prepared and has the resources it needs for our fight against coronavirus," Morrison told reporters on Wednesday.
"Australia isn't immune but with this 2.4 billion boost we're as well prepared as any country in the world.
"Our government alongside the country's leading medical experts is working around the clock to ensure we have the right tools, information and resources to keep Australians safe."
Morrison, Hunt and Murphy also announced that Australia's coronavirus travel ban will be expanded to include Italy from 6:00 p.m. local time on Wednesday.
Under the ban, anyone who has been in Chinese mainland, Iran, South Korea or Italy will not be allowed into Australia for 14 days from the time they left those areas.
Australian citizens and residents will be allowed in but will be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
As of 11:00 a.m. local time Wednesday, the Department of Health has confirmed 112 cases of COVID-19 in Australia, including three deaths, in the country.
Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will reveal their coronavirus stimulus package, which is expected to be worth up to 10 billion Australian dollars on Thursday.
"It's a health crisis. It's a health contagion," Morrison said on Wednesday.
"There are many other implications of this and the economic consequences of this are very serious, as I've already outlined on numerous occasions. And tomorrow, the treasurer and I will be making announcements in relation to that response." (1 U.S. dollar equals to 1.54 Australian dollars)