Journalist Rebekah Holt has said she has spoken to the Tamil family from Biloela now detained on Christmas Island.
“They have not been told by staff about centre being used for quarantine purposes. My call was the first they knew of it.”
In Tokyo, passengers from the evacuation from Wuhan have spoken to media.
Takeo Aoyama, who works for Nippon Steel Corp, and Takayuki Kato, who works for Intec, said they felt relieved but also exhausted, Associated Press reports.
Kato said he was “shocked when all transportation systems were suspended. That’s when the situation drastically changed.”
Aoyama said many people who wished to go home to Japan were still in Wuhan, including workers at a Japanese supermarket chain staying open to supply food.
The news that Christmas Island will be used to potentially quarantine Australians with the coronavirus has led to renewed calls for the government to release a family of Tamil asylum seekers from Biloela currently detained there.
Priya and Nadesalingam, and their Australian-born children, Kopika and Tharunicaa had fled the Sri Lankan civil war, and lived in the Queensland town of Biloela since 2014.
The government moved to deport the family in 2018, and they have been held in detention as a court assesses various legal challenges.
They have been held on the remote Christmas Island – a former immigration detention centre – since August. The petition to bring them Home to Bilo has since received 260,000 signatures.
Today it was updated, in light of the plan to use Christmas Island in the Wuhan evacuation.
“We at the Home to Bilo campaign would like to extend our thoughts to those currently caught in the coronavirus outbreak,” the petition says.
“We understand that Christmas Island will be used as a quarantine area for Australians being evacuated from Wuhan and Hubei province.
“We will be monitoring the situation to ensure that Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharunicaa are not put at risk during this process.
“We have repeatedly called for Priya, Nades, and their two young daughters to be returned to mainland Australia. Their ongoing detention on Christmas Island has isolated and traumatised this young family. This new development confirms that the most appropriate place for them is in their home, Biloela.”
Our correspondent Rebecca Ratcliffe has spoken to British citizen Nick, who is a teacher in Wuhan and who is among up to 200 people waiting to be evacuated.
He called the Foreign and Commonwealth Office crisis line earlier this morning and was asked if he would be prepared to leave his wife behind, because she is Indonesian and doesn’t currently have a UK visa. They have two children, aged nine and 12, also in Wuhan.
“He said that she would probably not be able to get on the plane,” said Nick. “I feel like we are being hung out to dry”.
Other Britons who have Chinese partners fear their wives or husbands will also be unable to get on the plane.
It is not clear how many people will be given a seat on the flight, which is also likely to be carrying consulate staff. Some British people in Wuhan have been receiving calls and told that there will be a flight tomorrow, others are still waiting for news.
Number of Coronavirus cases in China exceed Sars
AFP reports that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in China reached 5,974 on Wednesday, overtaking the number of people infected in the mainland by the Sars epidemic in 2002-3.
There were 5,327 confirmed cases in mainland China during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome epidemic.
That outbreak killed more than 770 people globally, including 349 in mainland China.
Malaysia has confirmed that seven people have the coronovirus, three more than yesterday, according to Reuters.
The three new cases are a 4-year-old girl, a 52-year-old man and the mother of two children confirmed infected earlier, the health ministry said in a statement.
All seven people are Chinese citizens.
Authorities said the mother had initially tested negative and had stayed in Malaysia to take care of her children – grandsons of a 66-year-old man who tested positive in Singapore for the coronavirus last week.
Separately, Malaysia’s communications regulator said it has detained one person accused of spreading fake news on the coronavirus. The person was arrested over a Facebook post that contained false information on the outbreak, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission said.
Malaysia this week imposed a temporary ban on Chinese nationals arriving from Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.
In that press conference, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison also announced that the government would distribute 1 million masks around Australia.
However, the chief medical officer stressed that the masks are only necessary for people travelling through China, and for doctors and nurses.
“The masks are for patients with the relevant travel history and symptoms and their doctors who are assessing them, we’re not recommending the general Australian public wear masks or take protection,” he said.
The masks are being sent to pharmacists via the Primary Health Networks, Morrison said.
But “bushfire responses have depleted some of those stocks in various places”.
Our correspondent Michael Standaert in Sichuan, writes that there have been no real updates of an evacuation among British citizens in Wuhan.
This comes amidst the US and Japanese airlifts this morning, and the announcement of an attempted Australian evacuation a few minutes ago.
“The biggest problem for everyone now is how to get to the airport. They are supposed to provide their own transport and that’s nearly impossible for some since there are no taxis, no ride hailing available, no buses.”
The prime minister is asked whether he has been briefed on the virus’s potential economic impact on Australia.
“We share a concern, particularly in the wake of the bushfire crisis, of the impact on our tourism industry and related things. And that is obviously of concern to us.
“But to be honest, right now, my focus is on people’s health and their wellbeing. And these issues will be addressed in time when a clearer picture emerges.”
Morrison says that parents should follow the advice of NSW Health and the chief medical officer when it comes to sending kids to school.
“My kids went back to school this week as many other kids have.
“I understand the issues and concerns that parents would have. Being one of them myself. And that is why it is important to take the advice, and I think the chief medical officer today has set out the situation very soundly.”
Morrison is asked if he can estimate how many people could be evacuated. He says it is too early to know.
“At this stage we are simply saying that we are putting plans in place.”
New Zealand “has a much smaller number of people impacted than Australia”, he says.
He says some of the Australians in Wuhan may have lived there for some time.
“There are some people who will be there for some time and effectively have been living there for some period of time. We are talking about [evacuating] people who are there not in those circumstances, those who don’t have support structures in that place.”
Foreign minister Payne is asked how long it will take for the Chinese government to approve an evacuation.
“We must be prepared to be patient as this process is undertaken. Australia is not the only country seeking diplomatic support and clearances for these activities. But we are seeking permission from the Chinese authorities as I indicated in my opening remarks.”
There are 600 Australians in Hubei province who have reached out either for advice or assistance, foreign minister Marise Payne says.
The focus of the evacuation is on “isolated and vulnerable Australian citizens”, she says.
That means the young and the elderly, Morrison said earlier.
Australia’s chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, is now speaking.
He stresses that “there is no evidence of human to human transmission in Australia”.
“We have tested a large number of Australians with a relevant travel history and relevant symptoms and a great majority of those have been negative,” he says.
“All of the 5 cases in Australia are in a stable condition. The World Health Organisation have estimated that only 20% of people with this condition have a severe disease.
“The majority of people have a mild disease and still most of the deaths are in people who are older and the Chinese are reporting them to have comorbidity…And we want to stress that there is no evidence of human to human transmission in Australia”
“The risk is extremely low”.