Factbox: Australia prepares to use strict quarantine powers as coronavirus spreads

(Reuters) – Australia will use strict biosecurity measures – in place for years to protect the country’s agriculture – to detain people who may be infected with the coronavirus, cancel sporting events and even restrict movement, the attorney general said Tuesday.

The following contains more information about the biosecurity measures:

– Australia in 2015 replaced century-old biosecurity laws designed for a time when most cargo reached the island nation by ship.

– Australia’s health minister can use the new quarantine laws to close schools and offices, and restrict movement if it is deemed likely that a disease will spread quickly through an area. Anyone who breaks an order under the laws faces up to five years in prison.

– The new biosecurity law has been enforced only in limited cases at airports and ports, but Attorney General Christian Porter said Tuesday it would probably be used on a larger scale if an outbreak hits Australia.

– The country’s main football leagues, where crowd numbers run into the tens of thousands, start their season in March, ushering in a busy sporting schedule.

– Australia, which has 34 confirmed cases of coronavirus as on Tuesday, confirmed its first death from the disease on Sunday.

– Australia’s chief medical officer said it was no longer possible to completely prevent people with the coronavirus from entering the country.

– Australia’s Minister for Health will issue any quarantine orders after consultation with state health officials and the director of biosecurity.

Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Gerry Doyle

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