A GLOBAL coronavirus pandemic is now likely, prime minister Scott Morrison has said as he announced a national emergency response plan.
The Australian government is now operating on the assumption that a pandemic will be declared soon, given the spread of the virus worldwide.
It comes in the same week several central Victorian councils endorsed influenza plans that could be used for pandemics like coronavirus.
The Loddon and Central Goldfields shires have backed the plan created by a cluster of councils which includes the City of Greater Bendigo's.
The Bendigo Advertiser understands that not all councils would have to formerly endorse the plan at a council meeting and could use it as a guide should an outbreak occur in their area.
The plan assumes that a "severe" pandemic would affect 40 per cent of the population unless authorities were prepared, in which case it could be more like 10 per cent.
In that "mild" event, Bendigo's council would assume 11,044 people would be infected.
Elsewhere, Central Goldfield's council would assume 1300 people would get sick, Campaspe's 3700, Mount Alexander's 1876 and Loddon's 750.
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The councils' plan could be used for any disease outbreak but would be especially pertinent to coronavirus, which the federal government says appears to spread in a similar way to influenza, though it appears to spread more slowly.
"It is suspected that individuals with the novel coronavirus may be less infectious prior to the onset of symptoms than those with influenza," the government says in its new emergency plan," the federal plan states.
"This would make isolation of identified cases more effective at reducing onward spread."
However, councils and the region's hospitals would take their cues from Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services in the event of a pandemic arriving.
That department is working "around the clock" with health services, the federal government and international agencies to respond to COVID-19, Victorian chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton said.
"Victorians can be reassured that our priority remains containing the spread of this virus," he said.
"The epidemic in mainland China and many other countries is of major concern. The situation in Australia is, however, significantly different at this point in time.
"Victoria has long-developed plans in place to manage and control the risks of new infectious diseases like COVID-19 and these plans are being reviewed and amended as further information about COVID-19 emerges."
The federal government's new plan says the country's health system is "well prepared" and has excellent prospects to deal with a pandemic.
The plan will guide responses but the government says it's a "living document" that could be updated depending on what happens and as scientists learn more about the disease.
The government says it is still in an "initial action stage" where it is minimising the risk of the virus spreading between people, managing initial cases and making sure data is being tracked properly.
That includes quarantining Australians flying back from affected areas and extending the travel restrictions by another week.
The Victorian government is characterising it as "containment mode".
Seven cases have been confirmed in Victoria, including in Melbourne. Australia-wide there have been 23.
With Australian Associated Press