Australia is preparing to use strict biosecurity laws to force people suspected of carrying the coronavirus into hospitals or into quarantine. People at risk of spreading coronavirus could be detained by police under new laws expected to be introduced into the South Australian state parliament on Tuesday.
Coronavirus patients could be forcibly detained in Australia. Under biosecurity laws passed in 2015, the authorities have the power to hold and decontaminate people with the Covid-19 virus and stop them going to sporting events, schools and shopping centers.
Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that detaining patients would be a last resort.
“I mean, there will be certain circumstances where there are penalties for failing to abide by an order. Detention can occur under the Act but it is rare and very much a last resort and it exists for the types of requirements like compelling someone to stop to a medical facility,” he said.
Australia has more than 30 verified cases of the disease, but experts believe a mass outbreak is still avoidable. For the first time person-to-person transmission has also been confirmed in two patients in Sydney.
Australia’s first coronavirus death was recorded at the weekend. The 78-year-old man died more than a week after being put into isolation in hospital in the city of Perth. He had been in quarantine since being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship held in the Japanese port of Yokohama. His wife has tested positive for the covid-19 virus, and is reported to be in a stable condition.
Australia has imposed a travel ban on foreigners arriving from Iran because of the outbreak. Similar restrictions have applied to mainland China for more than a month.