• Labor senator Malarndiri McCarthy said on Friday morning that she was not informed of the Christmas Island evacuees. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Federal Government has announced plans to evacuate Australians from Wuhan and surroundings to Christmas Island, which will become a quarantined zone.
Brooke Fryer

31 Jan 2020 - 3:10 PM  UPDATED 31 Jan 2020 - 3:10 PM

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, on Thursday the Federal Government announced plans to evacuate Australians from the Chinese city of Wuhan and quarantine them on Christmas Island.

Christmas Island falls under the electorate of Northern Territory Senator Malarndiri McCarthy, who said on Friday morning that she was not informed of the plans. Ms McCarthy said she, and permanent residents, found out about the proposal through social media.

"I appreciate there is a crisis here, but it is important that the residents who live in the location, it is important the government are communicating directly to the resident as well," Ms McCarthy told NITV News.

"There are around 1800 residents that live on Christmas Island and they have questions to ask about the process here for them and their families."

Ms McCarthy said she is doing her best to find out as much information possible.

"I understand there is an emergency group which has been set up to start preparing and becoming more involved in what the federal government wants to do," she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the island would be used "as a quarantine area" where the evacuees would stay for 14 days.

However, the government remains locked in agreements with China on how to execute its plan to evacuate up to 600 Australians, currently in the locked-down city of Wuhan - where the virus is believed to have originated.

Global Health Emergency

The World Health Organisation has declared a global emergency over the new coronavirus as it continues to spread.

The director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the decision after a meeting with its emergency committee confirmed the virus' spread to 18 countries.

"The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries," said Mr Ghebreyesus.

"Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it."

The death toll in China now stands at 120 people with another 98 cases in 18 countries, but no reported deaths. There are nine confirmed cases in Australia.

WHO has declared five global public health emergencies in the past: swine flu in 2009, polio in 2014, zika in 2016 and ebola in 2014 and 2019.

There were plans to declare the coronavirus a Global Health Emergency last week, but the committee were initially divided over the issue.

Governments, companies and people worldwide are taking extreme measures to ensure the illness is contained.

Mr Ghebreyesus said restricting movements to and from China "may be ineffective and may divert resources from other interventions".

However, major airlines like Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa have either suspended or cut back travel to and from the country. Russia announced it is closing its far eastern border with China.

While travel to China is still possible, many countries - including Australia - are urging their citizens to avoid it.