SYDNEY: Australia unveiled a A$2.40 billion (US$1.56 billion) health package on Wednesday (Mar  11) that proposes to set up fever clinics and offer cost-free facilities for people to consult doctors over video calls, as it combats the spread of the coronavirus.

“Just under US$1.2 billion of that will actually, we anticipate, be spent this financial year, particularly as the virus and its impacts ramp up in the months ahead,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Canberra.

Australia has also extended its travel ban to Italy from 6pm local time (0700 GMT) on Wednesday, after Italy expanded a lockdown to cover the entire country to contain the spread of the virus.

READ: Italy’s transport links in chaos amid travel restrictions to contain COVID-19

The virus has wreaked havoc on the tourism and education sectors, both big money spinners for Australia, with the Treasury department estimating that the epidemic will cut 0.5 percentage points off economic growth in the first quarter.

Morrison has said big businesses in the country should step up and assist the government in its economic recovery efforts.

Two Sydney high schools closed on Monday after three students tested positive for COVID-19 as health authorities ramped up preparations for a larger outbreak.

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