Morrison, Albanese warn of virus racism

Eleven of the more than 200 Australians on the Diamond Princess have tested positive for the virus.
Eleven of the more than 200 Australians on the Diamond Princess have tested positive for the virus.

Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese have urged Australians to "stand up and speak out" against racism following the coronavirus outbreak.

The call came as the first Australian coronavirus evacuees from China will be free to leave Christmas Island on Monday and Wednesday when their quarantine period expires next week.

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

The prime minister said 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."

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

He said there was no need to wear a mask and 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 have a final health check before leaving the island next week 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.

A total of 530 Australians have been evacuated from China following the virus outbreak and are being held in quarantine on Christmas Island and a mining workers camp near Darwin.

One person on Christmas Island is currently being tested for the coronavirus but Mr Hunt said doctors had advised there is a low probability the result will be positive.

The test result is due on Wednesday.

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.

Meanwhile, 11 of the 229 Australians on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan have been diagnosed with coronavirus and given medical treatment on land by Japanese authorities.

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

Worldwide there are 42,723 confirmed cases and 1013 people 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.

The Senate was told 145 flights from China to Australia had been cancelled since new border measures were put in place on February 1.

Thirty arriving passengers had their visas cancelled, 19 of which were reissued, while 234 passengers were refused permission to board their flight to Australia.

With agencies

Australian Associated Press