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Australia activates emergency coronavirus plan, what does it mean for ASX shares?

In another escalation of coronavirus events, Australia has activated its emergency virus plan, which is called the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan For Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Catchy name, right?

For anyone wanting to read the whole thing, here is a PDF version of the 56-page plan.

It outlines the strategy of how it plans to approach things if there’s a low level outbreak, a medium level outbreak or a large level outbreak.

The plan says that “Australia is well prepared and has excellent health systems to deal with the virus. All areas of the health sector are well informed and actively engaged in the national response.”

However, it went on to say that “the novel coronavirus outbreak represents a significant risk to Australia. It has the potential to cause high levels of morbidity and mortality and to disrupt our community socially and economically.”

In response, Australia will: monitor and investigate outbreaks as they occur, identify and characterise the nature of the virus and the clinical severity of the disease, research respiratory disease-specific management strategies, respond promptly and effectively to minimise the novel coronavirus outbreak impact, undertake strategies to minimise the risk of further disease transmission, and contribute to the rapid and confident recovery of individuals, communities and services.

San Francisco has also announced a state of emergency in preparation, so there is growing concern around the world.

What does this mean for ASX shares?

Well, specifically, it doesn’t mean anything yet and most shares continue to fall. Though the longer this goes on the more likely there will be an effect to earnings.

Some travel-related shares have already said there has been a hit to earnings because of the lower travel with China. Two obvious large shares are Qantas Airways Limited (ASX: QAN) and Sydney Airport Holdings Pty Ltd (ASX: SYD). If travel were to be impacted further, perhaps with Japan, South Korea and Europe, then Qantas and Sydney Airport would be impacted further.

Other travel shares like Webjet Limited (ASX: WEB), Corporate Travel Management Ltd (ASX: CTD) and Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd (ASX: FLT) have also been affected. It could be the travel businesses that bounce back the strongest in the six months subsequent to the coronavirus spread ending. 

I wouldn’t be surprised to see businesses like Woolworths Group Ltd (ASX: WOW), Coles Group Limited (ASX: COL) and Australian Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (ASX: API) experience customers stocking up on certain items.

Resources giant BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP) has already warned that if the coronavirus isn’t resolved by the end of this quarter it might see problems.

It seems as though there’s going to be a lot more volatility to come, but I think some opportunities are opening up. I plan to keep investing during the volatility and take advantage of these lower prices.

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Motley Fool contributor Tristan Harrison has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of and has recommended Corporate Travel Management Limited, Flight Centre Travel Group Limited, and Sydney Airport Holdings Limited. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Webjet Ltd. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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