Australia pushes out $2.4 billion virus aid package

PERTH, Australia (AP) — The Australian government on Wednesday announced a $2.4 billion (US $1.6 billion) package to help tackle the virus outbreak that has infected nearly 120,000 people worldwide, rocked financial markets and disrupted travel.

Australia, which has recorded 106 cases of the virus and three deaths, is rushing to improve its prepareness.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said up to 100 coronavirus fever clinics will be set up in areas of need across the country, as part of the health package.

“This package is about preventing and treating coronavirus in the coming weeks,” he told reporters. “Australia isn’t immune but with this $2.4 billion boost we’re as well prepared as any country in the world.”

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The package also includes funding for bulk-billed video consults for people in self-isolation and quarantine.

According to The Australian newspaper, Morrison plans to announce Thursday a $10 billion (US $6.5 billion) stimulus package that could include subsidies for small businesses.

Australia also announced on Wednesday that Italy has been added to its travel ban list alongside China, Iran and South Korea.

Italy has enforced a sweeping lockdown of the country as infections soared past 10,000 – the second highest behind China.

Australian citizens and permanent residents traveling from those countries are exempt from the ban, but will need to isolate themselves for 14 days.

“Italy itself has effectively put itself into lockdown with travel now, and this largely closes that loop,” Morrison said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

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