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Chief Medical Officer Says Going To The Gym Is 'Fine' During Coronavirus Outbreak

Australians should try social distancing as coronavirus cases grow, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy says, but they do not have to avoid going to the gym and movie theatres just yet.

Appearing on ABC's Insiders program on Sunday, Murphy said while health advice is constantly evolving, people don't need to avoid going out in public totally, and said things like shaking hands were still OK.

When asked whether Australians should avoid visiting cinemas, Murphy -- appearing alongside health minister Greg Hunt -- said "the risk is relatively low at the moment because we've only got 250 cases."

Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians should avoid gatherings of more than 500 people. On Sunday, Murphy said that things like going to the gym or movies is "fine", and that people don't need to stop using public transport.

"The move to reduce mass gatherings is a pre-emptive move," he said.

"I think the gym is fine. Everybody at the moment needs to practise very good hygiene," Murphy continued.

"If you're going to the gym, I would be very focused on hand washing, using hand sanitisers, all of those social distancing, good hygiene measures."

The Chief Medical Officer also said Australians didn't need to stop shaking hands, unless they'd recently returned from overseas.

"At the moment we're strongly suggesting returned travellers practise what we call social distancing. That's keeping a distance of one and a half metres from people, not getting close contact, not shaking hands, avoiding all public gatherings," Murphy said.

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He said Australians should only get tested for COVID-19 if they have recently travelled overseas and are showing symptoms, or if they have been in contact with someone who had tested positive.

"It's important we follow the medical advisers and not the armchair experts. Our social distancing measures may well change. At the moment we're ahead of the curve," Murphy said.

While Australia has relatively low cases of coronavirus, Murphy did not rule out the country instituting a future lockdown of public spaces -- similar to those enacted by Spain and Italy.

"It is potential... One of the things we know about outbreaks of infections is that they can affect one part of a country, not another," he said.

"Everything is up for consideration."

Hunt said Australians should stick together.

"Our task is to not only prepare but to say to Australians: 'these will be challenging times but if we all work together and have that wartime spirit, then we will get through this'," he said.