Ten Australians are being treated for the virus, and another five have already recovered.
A further 540 are still in quarantine in Darwin and on Christmas Island.
“It’s very likely we will see some more cases in Australia,” Brendan Murphy told ABC radio on Wednesday.
He said while Australia is still containing the virus, there is a risk of an outbreak in many provinces in China.
The worst-case scenario would be if the virus—now officially dubbed COVID-19—were very severe, and there was a significant pandemic in Australia.
“That would obviously be a very significant strain on our health system and on our economy,” he said.
“We are not anticipating that at the moment, but we are certainly prepared for all eventualities.”
The first group of people to be quarantined on Christmas Island could be allowed to leave on Monday.
Testing on one person is due to be completed on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
“If that was positive, that might require a small group that has been in contact with that person to remain in quarantine, but all the tests so far have been negative,” Prof Murphy said.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee will meet on Thursday to consider whether the travel ban on Chinese visitors should be lifted.
Prof Murphy said while the ban has had a huge impact on students and tourism and other economic factors, the government has taken expert clinical advice in the past.
The head of World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday said the virus poses “a very grave threat for the rest of the world.”
Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone said the message was timely.
Dr. Bartone said while Australia has been “very robustly” at the forefront of efforts, not everyone is doing their utmost to ensure “what is currently a very serious situation does not become a major calamitous outbreak”.
He declined to point the finger at any particular country.
However, Prof Murphy felt it was “very surprising” that no cases had been reported in neighboring and highly populated Indonesia.
“There should be a cause for some concern. There may be undetected cases,” he said.
Chinese authorities believe the spread of the virus has peaked, and it will be over by April.
Professor Murphy said it is too early to predict that the Chinese are getting on top of this at the moment.
“We are still seeing significant growth in the Hubei province and less growth in other provinces,” he said.
He believes there is still some way to go creating a vaccine, agreeing with the WHO estimate that it is still 18 months away.
By: Colin Brinsden