The Federal Government has increased its powers of surveillance, detention and disinfection to combat swine flu, as the number of possible Australian cases under investigation rises to 111.
Health Minister Nicola Roxon says she has no intention of forcibly detaining or isolating people, but has nevertheless sought the extra powers just in case the problem escalates and authorities need to act quickly.
The nation’s health authorities are now trying to track down 22 Australians who were on the same plane as three New Zealand students who have contracted swine flu.
Ms Roxon says Governor-General Quentin Bryce consented to the sweeping new quarantine powers for health officials last night.
She says the powers range from using disinfectant on planes or at ports through to the “far more extreme” measures of “making sure that people are isolated, perhaps detained, if they don’t cooperate and are showing symptoms of this disease.”
The powers are assigned to the Chief Medical Officer, and already exist for a raft of quarantinable diseases. Swine flu has now been added to that list.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Ms Roxon insists they are reserve-like powers, sought only as a precaution, and stresses there is no reason to believe Australians will be anything other than cooperative.
“It means that we can act nationally, we can act quickly,” she said.