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NSW Health Confirms First Cases Of Person-To-Person Coronavirus In Australia

Two Australians who are being treated in NSW are 'highly likely' to be the first cases of human-to-human transmission of coronavirus inside Australia.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Monday afternoon said three new cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in NSW, taking the state's total to nine.

The state's health service confirmed they are treating two cases of the virus that are 'highly likely' to be a result of human-to-human transmission.

It includes a 53-year-old male health worker who was treating a female patient who had arrived on a flight from Iran to Sydney last week.

The Health Minister said the worker had not travelled overseas for many months. The health worker and the patient are now both being treated at Sydney's Westmead Hospital for coronavirus.

The second case involves a 41-year-old woman who is the sister of a 43-year-old Iranian man who recently returned to Australia.

The two cases are the first known cases inside Australia where a person has been said to have caught the virus without leaving the country.

Up until now all cases of coronavirus locally have involved people who have recently travelled overseas.

No Longer Possible To Prevent New Cases

It comes as the nation's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy had a sobering statement for Australians on Monday: "It is no longer possible to absolutely prevent new cases coming in."

Efforts are now focused on quickly isolating newly infected people, dissuading Australians from heading to virus hotspots, and in the case of Iran using a travel ban to slow down that route of infection.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy. Image: AAP

Australia has had more than 30 confirmed cases, including 15 Chinese tourists or residents who had visited China, 10 passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, and four people who recently returned from Iran.

Fifteen of those cases have been cleared.

Australia also recorded its first coronavirus death on the weekend when James Kwan, 78, died in a Perth hospital.

He and his wife were among evacuees from the Diamond Princess, with both falling ill after being taken to Darwin for two weeks in quarantine.

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Health Minister Greg Hunt explained on Monday why Australia has imposed a travel ban on arrivals from Iran, but not from other high-risk countries including South Korea and Italy, where cases doubled to over 1000 in one day.

Passengers wearing protective masks fly on the plane from Melbourne, Australia, to Shanghai, China. Image: AAP

He said he'd accepted the advice of chief medical officers including Professor Murphy, who said the outbreaks in Italy and South Korea were not considered as risky as Iran's because they were contained and localised.

Prof Murphy said it was a different situation in Iran, where alarm bells had been ringing after more than 50 deaths from about 1000 cases.

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  • With AAP