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Prime Minister Scott Morrison declares a coronavirus pandemic is 'very much upon us'

Scott Morrison has declared a coronavirus pandemic is 'very much upon us' as he launched an emergency plan.

The Prime Minister has instructed Health Minister Greg Hunt to identify 'capability gaps' in Australia's state-based health services to combat the spread of the deadly, flu-like illness from China.

'We believe that the risk of a pandemic is very much upon us,' he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday. 

'We need to take the steps necessary to prepare for such a pandemic.'

Scott Morrison has declared a coronavirus pandemic is 'very much upon us' as he declared an emergency

The Prime Minister said that during the past 24 hours, the 'rate of transmission of the virus outside of China is fundamentally changing the way we need to look at how this issue is being managed here in Australia'. Pictured are commuters in Tokyo wearing face masks

Mr Morrison said that during the past 24 hours, the 'rate of transmission of the virus outside of China is fundamentally changing the way we need to look at how this issue is being managed here in Australia'.

'As a result, we've agreed today and initiated the implementation of the coronavirus emergency response plan,' he said.  

'There is every indication the world will enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus.'

The Australian government has declared the emergency response plan a day after the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention forecast it would turn into a pandemic.

The Prime Minister on Thursday also extended the travel ban to China for another week. 

The COVID-19 coronavirus has infected 80,000 people worldwide since it originated in December at an animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

That included 24 people in Australia.

Another eight Australians had been flown from the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama in Japan to a quarantine centre near Darwin, where they tested positive.

Eight Australians had been flown from the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama in Japan to a quarantine centre near Darwin, where they tested positive. Pictured are evacuees at Darwin International Airport

Coronavirus has killed more than 2,600 people globally and can cause severe lung damage and trigger multiple organ failure, particularly among the elderly or frail.

Australia is still in the containment stage of coronavirus. 

The Prime Minister launched the coronavirus action plan just hours after a leading infectious diseases expert told Daily Mail Australia COVID-19 was likely to kill a greater proportion of elderly Australians, compared with China.

Professor Raina MacIntyre, the head of Biosecurity at the University of New South Wales's Kirby Institute, warned hospital intensive care units would be overwhelmed should coronavirus turn into a pandemic.

'The disease, it's clearly more severe the older you get,' she told Daily Mail Australia on Thursday.

'So we would see proportionately more severe disease because we have more older people than China does.'

In Australia 16 per cent of the population are over 65, compared to just nine per cent in China, where some 2,700 have died.

Professor Raina MacIntyre, the head of Biosecurity at the University of New South Wales's Kirby Institute, warned hospital intensive care units would be overwhelmed should coronavirus turn into a pandemic

CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA

NEW SOUTH WALES: 4  

January 25

January 27 

VICTORIA: 7

January 25

January 29

January 30

February 1

 February 22 

QUEENSLAND: 8

January 29

January 30

February 4

February 5  

February 6

February 21                                                                                                                                      

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: 3

February 1

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: 1

February 21

JAPAN/DARWIN: 22