Morrison, Albanese warn of virus racism

The prime minister and opposition leader have come together to warn against racism in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
The prime minister and opposition leader have come together to warn against racism in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

SCOTT Morrison and Anthony Albanese have urged Australians to “stand up and speak out” against racism in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The call came as the quarantine period for the first Australian coronavirus evacuees from China is set to expire next week, meaning they are free to leave Christmas Island on Monday and Wednesday.

Restaurants and shops run by Chinese-Australians have reported drops in customers in recent weeks.

The prime minister said the parliament “stands as one” on the issue of supporting the Chinese-Australian community at a challenging time.

“This is a very significant challenge and the Chinese-Australian community has risen to that challenge, they deserve our great appreciation and support,” he said on Tuesday.

The Labor leader told parliament Chinese-Australians had been undeservedly targeted as a result of the virus.

“The fact is any racism behaviour will not be tolerated and it must be called out,” he said.

“All of us must stand up and speak out against the ugly, divisive and racism behaviour which has been directed to some of our fellow Australians.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy also moved to remind the public that the risk population is those who have come from China from February 1, not people of Chinese background.

He said there was no need to wear a mask and said that quarantine facilities had been effectively protecting the Australian community.

“We are very concerned about xenophobia and any sort of racial profiling, which is completely abhorrent,” he said.

“There’s no reason for people to avoid anybody of any particular background or appearance.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the evacuees on Christmas Island would face a final health check before leaving the island on Monday and Wednesday, after spending 14 days in quarantine.

“They will be able to go home subject to having a very clear process of having been checked and been declared disease-free,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Canberra.

The first passengers arriving at Christmas Island. Picture: AAP Image/Supplied

A total of 530 Australians have been evacuated from China following the virus outbreak, heading into quarantine on Christmas Island and a worker camp near Darwin.

One person on Christmas Island is currently being tested for suspected coronavirus but Mr Hunt said doctors had advised there is a low probability of the person being positive to the virus.

So far there have been 15 confirmed cases in Australia, with five recovering and the other 10 still in isolation and in a stable condition.

As well, the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan has 229 Australians on board, 11 of whom have been diagnosed with coronavirus and given medical treatment off the boat by Japanese authorities.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is seeking to contact all of the passengers by email.

Worldwide there are 42,723 cases confirmed cases and 1013 have died.

Professor Murphy said the rate of growth appeared to be “flattening a little bit”, but it was too early to draw any conclusions.

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