Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says new checks on people entering Australia from Ebola-affected countries are in the nation’s interest.
Australia has temporarily closed the door to people seeking humanitarian entry from Ebola-affected west African countries.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s department is no longer processing any applications from the affected countries, which include Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
The government is also cancelling and refusing non-permanent or temporary visas held by people from Ebola-affected countries who haven’t yet departed for Australia.
Permanent visa holders from these countries who have yet to arrive in Australia are being required to submit to a 21-day quarantine period before departure.
Nineteen people from four west African families are currently in home isolation in Queensland after travelling to the state under a humanitarian program earlier this month.
One of them, an 18-year-old woman, came down with a fever, but tested negative to Ebola on Monday and will be retested on Wednesday.
Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young said the federal government had advised her department the four families would be arriving from west Africa but wouldn’t identify their countries.
Dr Young said all of them agreed, before coming into Australia, to go into home quarantine.
New checks at airports have to date identified 830 people entering from west Africa who could have been in Ebola areas, but none has been to a hospital since their arrival.
“The government’s systems and processes are working to protect Australians,” Mr Morrison told parliament on Monday.
The measure came as the government said it was in talks to send in medics to west Africa to collect blood to help researchers develop a treatment for Ebola.
Australia has provided $18 million to the international effort to tackle Ebola, but has yet to commit any health workers to Africa.
Health Minister Peter Dutton had a telephone hook-up with medical firm CSL and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday to discuss how plasma could be collected from patients who have recovered from the virus.
“That provides some promise for those people who have the disease now and that seems to be the most immediate impact that we could provide assistance to,” Mr Dutton said.
“There is a further financial investment we can make.”
CSL is working with the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organisation on a treatment for the disease that has this year killed 4500 people in west Africa.
It’s investigating the use of “hyper immune” blood plasma products, but admits it’s “very early days.”
CSL already uses so-called hyper immune products to treat tetanus and rabies.
However, getting medical staff on the ground was very difficult due to a lack of infrastructure in the worst-affected areas.
In parliament, Labor continued its criticism of the government for not yet sending in health workers to join the international effort.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had yet to receive a guarantee any health workers sent into Ebola-hit areas could be properly treated and evacuated.
Mr Abbott said the focus was on getting the domestic health response right and being prepared for an outbreak in the Asia-Pacific region.
A 20-member “ready-reaction” team of doctors and nurses is on call in Darwin.