Biosecurity control orders could soon be imposed to direct Australians suspected of carrying the coronavirus to remain in lockdown.
Human health “response zones” could also be declared, banning people from attending places of mass gathering like schools and shopping centres.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the laws were already used in a “limited and narrow” way at border points, if incoming travellers are suspected of being sick.
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“It’s very likely that these laws will get used on a larger scale,” Mr Porter told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“And it’s very likely that Australians will encounter practices and instructions and circumstances that they have not had to encounter before.”
Mr Porter acknowledged the laws would feel “strange and foreign” to many people.
“But they will become very important, I would suspect, over the next couple of months.”
South Australia is already rushing through new laws allowing for the immediate detention of people suspected of having coronavirus, including arrest powers that can be used against anyone who defies health orders.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says he’s not aware of any other states doing the same, but all jurisdictions are constantly reviewing their laws.
Australia’s efforts to contain the coronavirus have suffered a blow after the first person-to-person transmissions in the country.
Mr Hunt said one was a doctor from western Sydney, with the NSW government now scrambling to track down anyone he’s been in contact with.
It’s unclear whether he became infected in a work or community setting.
The other case of person-to-person transmission involves a woman who’s brother recently returned from Iran, where the virus is rapidly spreading.
Mr Hunt said more than 10,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out in Australia so far, with 33 people returning positive results.
They include 15 linked to China, who have all cleared the virus, and 10 people who became infected after travelling on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, before being evacuated to Australia.
Of the 10 aboard the ship, six have now cleared the virus and have been allowed to go home. One of the 10 was James Kwan, 78, the first Australian to die from the virus. His wife is also infected and she remains in hospital.
Chief health officers from all states and territories will meet on Tuesday to discuss ongoing containment and response strategies, as Australians were urged to limit physical contact.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has told people to stop shaking hands, and instead greet people with a pat on the back.
Travel bans remain in place for foreign nationals arriving from Iran and China, but the government has indicated further travel bans are unlikely to have any effect on the spread of the disease.
Globally there have been more than 88,500 infections and more than 3000 deaths spanning 67 countries and regions.
The health emergency has seen stock markets plunge across the world, triggering fears of a global recession.
The Australian market on Monday closed down almost one per cent, which was a vast improvement on the dive of more than three per cent in earlier trading.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison intends to meet with Reserve Bank heads to discuss the impact on the economy.
“This is a health crisis, not a financial crisis, but it is a health crisis with very significant economic implications,” Mr Morrison told parliament.
© AAP 2020