AUSTRALIANS have been advised to stockpile food and water after the World Health Organisation raised its swine flu alert to phase five yesterday, indicating an imminent pandemic.
The Federal Government’s pandemic plan, a 132-page manual issued to medics, media and the public, insists that once the world reaches phase five, Australians should stock their pantries with food and bottled water to last 14 days, check on elderly neighbours and put emergency numbers by the phone.
But yesterday a spokesman for the Department of Health and Ageing called for calm, saying the Government did not want to spark panic buying – ignoring its own plan, already issued to hospitals across the nation.
“I agree that is it confusing,” the spokesman said, admitting he had not read the pandemic plan despite being employed to answer questions about it from national media. “The manual may say people should be preparing but we don’t want a run at the shops,” he said.
WHO’s updated alert, one step short of a full pandemic, was announced yesterday after a toddler in the US became the first to die of the disease outside Mexico.
Thermal scanners, used to detect travellers with elevated body temperatures, were turned on last night at Australia’s eight international airports. Travellers with fevers were referred to doctors and made to submit to nose and throat swabs. From tonight all travellers entering the country will have to fill out health declaration cards, giving their contact details so they can be traced if swine flu is later detected among fellow passengers.