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A Brisbane man has been cleared of the coronavirus as the death toll nearly doubles, & more in News in 5.

– With AAP.

1. A Brisbane man has been cleared of the coronavirus as the death toll nearly doubles.

Health authorities in Queensland have confirmed a man who was screened for coronavirus is clear of the deadly illness.

The man was quarantined earlier this month when he fell ill after returning to Brisbane from visiting family in Wuhan, where the virus broke out in December.

Queensland Health on Wednesday afternoon confirmed tests for the virus were negative, and the man was released from isolation.

Mamamia’s daily news podcast The Quicky explains Coronavirus. Post continues below audio.

The number of deaths linked to the new coronavirus in China has risen to 17 – a near doubling in the last 24 hours – according to officials in China’s Hubei province.

The virus, which causes pneumonia-like symptoms, was discovered in the metropolis of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, in late December.

Hospitals across the city have reportedly been overwhelmed by patients, the ABC reported.

Chinese officials had earlier counted 470 people infected across the country, with concerns the number could spiral in the days ahead as hundreds of thousands travel for the Lunar New Year celebration.

Incidents of the disease have also been reported in Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the US, as well as in the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau.

The World Health Organisation in Geneva is expected to convene a meeting on Wednesday evening to determine whether the outbreak constitutes a health emergency of international concern.

Several countries increased border health checks to guard against the disease’s spread, including Australia, the US, the UK and Russia.

North Korea has temporarily closed its border to all foreign tourists in response to the outbreak, according to a travel agency that operates tours to the country.

The new coronavirus belongs to the same family of viruses that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a disease that killed 800 people globally in a 2002-03 pandemic that also started in China.

Scientists in China said the new coronavirus may have been transmitted during the illegal trade of wild animals.

China’s Disease Control and Prevention Centre director Gao Fu said the virus is believed to have originated at a market in Wuhan, from where it mutated and became transmissible from person to person.

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“From what we know, the source was the wild animals sold at the seafood market,” Gao told journalists on Wednesday.

“The virus of this wild animal is gradually mutating.”

The SARS coronavirus is believed to have been transmitted by civet cats, a type of wild animal that is considered a delicacy in parts of China.

Authorities did not say what animal they suspected the new coronavirus came from.

Face masks were rapidly selling out in major Chinese cities on Wednesday, and authorities are asking people to avoid travelling to Wuhan – a city with an estimated population of some 11 million people – if possible.

The city on Tuesday said it had installed infrared thermometers at airports, railway and bus stations and was disinfecting public transport vehicles daily.

2. NSW fire crews are bracing for a return of severe fire conditions with temps set to soar today.

High temperatures and strong winds forecast across much of NSW has the state’s fire crews bracing for a return of severe fire conditions.

Although fire grounds across the state have received rainfall in the past week, the NSW Rural Fire Service has warned forecast high temperatures and winds could see fire activity increase on Thursday.

Temperatures are expected to reach 40C in Nowra on the South Coast, 43C in Penrith in western Sydney, 41C in Cessnock in the Hunter region and 42C in Bulahdelah on the mid-north coast.

NSW RFS spokesman Ben Shepherd said low humidity and very strong northwesterly winds have crews bracing for a potentially dangerous day.

“There is a broad area of severe and very high fire danger and areas of extreme fire danger,” Mr Shepherd told AAP on Wednesday.

“All fire grounds have received some rainfall and that has greatly reduced some fire activity but we might still see some fire grounds pick up and move tomorrow.”

Total fire bans are in place in NSW for Thursday in the greater Sydney, greater Hunter, Illawarra/Shoalhaven, southern ranges, central ranges and north western fire districts.

Severe fire danger ratings are also in place for these regions.

Air quality in Sydney on Thursday is forecast to be poor.

The Bureau of Meteorology on Wednesday issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds for parts of NSW’s south and west.

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Strong to gale force winds were forecast to continue into Thursday.

The BOM warned Thursday’s damaging winds may extend to the southern tablelands and parts of the central tablelands, the Illawarra and south coast.

The warning comes after severe thunderstorms hit Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong on Monday, leaving homes and businesses without power.

Almost 70 fires continued to burn across the state on Wednesday night.

3. An environmental group has filed for court action to block oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

The Wilderness Society has launched a court bid to try to block a plan to drill an oil exploration well in the Great Australian Bight.

The environmental group has filed action in the Federal Court in Adelaide challenging the oil and gas regulator’s decision to approve Norwegian energy company Equinor’s environmental plan to drill one exploration well about 400 kilometres off the South Australian coast.

SA Wilderness Society director Peter Owen says it will be argued that the approval from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority is invalid because Equinor failed to properly consult with community and other groups.

The court action is supported by local councils along the SA coastline and indigenous groups.

Mirning elder Bunna Lawrie said Equinor had also failed to consult properly with the traditional owners of the Bight.

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“We don’t want Equinor to put our sea and our place of the whales at risk. We don’t want pollution causing destruction and poisoning our sea and land,” Mr Lawrie said.

“I do not want my home, my tradition destroyed and lost forever.”

Equinor was first granted a petroleum title over areas in the Bight in 2011 and now has an accepted environment plan.

It must still have a well operations plan and a facility safety case approved before it can begin drilling its proposed Stromlo-1 well in water more than 2.2km deep.

If approved, Equinor plans to begin work in late 2020 with the operations expected to last for 60 days.

In a statement, the company said it was not appropriate for it to comment on a matter now before the court.

But it previously said it had held more than 400 meetings with more than 200 organisations across Southern Australia during the consultation process and would continue to engage with stakeholders.

NOPSEMA said it was also not in a position to comment directly on the legal proceedings.

However, it said it respected the right of individuals and organisations to seek a review of its decisions through the courts.

Holdfast Bay Council, which includes 11 kilometres of the Adelaide coastline, said it was particularly disappointed that its concerns over how an oil spill would impact on the coast had not been considered by NOPSEMA.

“It’s of extreme importance to us that the gulf remains a pristine environmental area because our economy is dependent on tourism,” Mayor Amanda Wilson said.

South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young also backed the court action.

“South Australians, and indeed the majority of Australians, don’t want our Great Australian Bight turned into an oil field,” she said.

“They don’t want a foreign oil giant destroying our coastline and one of our most precious and treasured assets.”

4. Ash Barty says she’s more worried about Australia’s bushfire crisis than an Australian Open win.

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Ever humble, Ashleigh Barty claimed she was more concerned about the country’s bushfire crisis than winning the Australian Open after sweeping into the third round at Melbourne Park.

After a fighting three-set win in her opener, normal service resumed as Barty blasted past big-hitting world No.48 Polona Hercog 6-1 6-4 in barely an hour on Wednesday.

The top seed’s victory set up a showdown on Friday with in-form Kazakh Elena Rybakina for a place in the last 16.

Champion in Hobart after finishing runner-up in the season opener in Shenzhen, Rybakina improved her impressive summer record to 11-1 with a 6-3 6-4 dispatch of Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen.

But as expectations continue to grow in Barty’s bid to break Australia’s 42-year Open title drought, the world No.1 played down the significance of winning the season-opening slam.

“Oh, look, tennis is a game. Honestly, there are so many bigger things going on in Australia right now,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone could care less if an Aussie wins it or not. First and foremost, it’s about the safety and the well-being of Aussies all across the nation, of wildlife, everything.

“It’s unfortunate it’s been going on for a couple of months. So I’d prioritise the safety and kind of rebuilding kind of parts of our nation that have been destroyed over a tennis match any day of the week.”

In reality, the French Open champion is carrying the hopes of the nation and did little to quell the hype with a stylish display on Rod Laver Arena.

Should she beat Rybakina, Barty will play either her Open doubles partner Julia Goerges or American world No.19 Alison Riske in the fourth round.

Goerges upset 13th seed Petra Martic 4-6 6-3 7-5 earlier on Wednesday, while Riske – who ended Barty’s 15-match European winning streak last year at Wimbledon – hammered Zhu Lin 6-3 6-1.

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5. Yellow Wiggle Greg Page has been discharged from hospital.

Yellow Wiggle Greg Page has been discharged from hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest during a fundraising concert for bushfire victims.

The Wiggles shared the news through their official Twitter account on Wednesday afternoon.

“Thank you all for your questions and concerns about Greg,” the statement read.

“We are happy to let you know that he has been discharged from hospital today and will now begin a journey of rest and recovery at home.

“Your thoughts and prayers for Greg have meant the world to him and his family, but moving forward, they ask for some privacy so Greg can focus on his recovery.”

Page, the original yellow Wiggle, was taken to Westmead Hospital after collapsing during the reunion concert at Castle Hill RSL.

He has since undergone surgery to have a stent inserted into his heart.

The Wiggles’ drummer Steve Pace, band staff member Kimmy Antonelli and off-duty nurse Grace Jones, who was in the audience, were credited with saving his life.

They performed CPR and used a defibrillator on him before ambulance officers arrived.

Feature image: Getty.

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