Coronavirus vaccine a long way off
Australia's chief medical officer has warned there is no realistic prospect of a vaccine to the deadly coronavirus anytime soon.
As a group of Australians were released from 14 days in quarantine on a Darwin camp after being evacuated from China's Hubei province, Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said a vaccine to COVID-19 is still "a long, long way away":
"We're hopeful that progress will be made but there is no realistic prospect of a vaccine in the short-term," Professor Murphy told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
Even so, 266 people have left the Howard Springs quarantine camp on Sunday, after they were evacuated earlier this month from the epicentre of the coronavirus at Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province.
"It's fantastic news for them and fantastic news for their families," Prof Murphy said.
One of the evacuees, Brian Leng said he was initially concerned about spending a fortnight in quarantine but was glad he made the decision to leave Wuhan.
"What they don't tell you is the people here are really supportive and really lovely and accommodate pretty much all your needs," he told the ABC.
"In hindsight, really happy to have made the decision to take this evacuation flight."
Evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan are still facing several more days of quarantine at another camp.
Seven cases have now been confirmed among the group of 164, who are also being kept at the facility near Darwin after leaving the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama on Thursday.
Prof. Murphy said all seven are in good health and stable at the moment.
"We always expected to have some more cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship," he said.
"The risk ... was significantly higher than the Wuhan returnees, because of the evidence of maintained transmission in the last few days when they were on the ship."
Two people from Victoria tested positive to the virus on Saturday and will be repatriated to their home state's health system, while the Queensland woman will be transported to her home state on a specialised medical retrieval plane on Monday.
Two other Queensland women aged 54 and 55 who tested positive on Friday night have been flown to a Brisbane hospital for further treatment.
A 78-year-old man from Western Australia was transferred to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth on Friday, while a 24-year-old woman from South Australia has been transferred to Royal Adelaide Hospital.
It brings the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country to 23, including 10 people who have recovered from the illness.
Health authorities have declared the coronavirus contained within the general Australian community.
Medical advice has also resulted in some Year 11 and 12 students outside Hubei province enrolled in Australian schools being able to apply to get back into the country as long as they are not unwell.
The process to return to Australia comprises of 13 steps, with states and territories to have the final say on whether to let students return.
A similar relaxation of travel restrictions will be considered for university students this week, but no decision has been made yet.
The federal government extended the travel ban on foreign visitors from mainland China to another seven days last week.