Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Wednesday plans to evacuate hundreds of Australians trapped in China and fly them to Christmas Island, where they will be quarantined for up to two weeks.
Mr Morrison said children and elderly who were recent arrivals in Wuhan would be assisted in the evacuation.
Officials said about 600 Australians were known to be in the area, which has been locked down in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.
An expert from the Chinese National Health Commission (NHC) said it could take 10 more days for the outbreak to peak.
The virus is thought to have emerged from illegally traded wildlife at a seafood market in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.
'I stress there is rather a limited window here and we are moving very, very swiftly to ensure we can put this plan together and put the operation together, ' Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
'I stress that this will be done on a last-in, first-out basis'.
The Australian Government will establish a pop-up Consular office in Wuhan as it seeks approval from the Chinese government to evacuate Australians from Hubei province and quarantine them on Christmas Island.
He also sought to downplay expectations about how many Australians could be evacuated from Wuhan.
Australian Medical Assistance Teams (AUSMAT) will be in place on Christmas Island to provide any necessary medical support and assessment.
Japan, the USA and the European Union are also repatriating their citizens.
Consular officials from Shanghai were now en route to Wuhan to provide a presence on the ground and co-ordinate evacuation plans, Mr Morrison said.
Five people are being treated in Australian hospitals for the virus, with four of those cases in NSW alone.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said there are now 6,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in China and 132 deaths, almost all in Hubei province.
All six have received medical treatment and are said to be in a stable condition.
Authorities are bracing for more infections to be confirmed in Australia, and are working to trace all human contact made by infected patients since they entered the country.
This development sparked an urgent meeting of Australia's top medical officers who now advise anyone who has recently returned from Hubei to isolate themselves at home for 14 days.