China Unhappy as PM Extends Travel Ban

Friday, February 14th, 2020

The Chinese embassy in Australia is unhappy with the federal government’s “extreme” decision to extend a coronavirus-related travel ban for another week.

From Friday, foreign nationals who have been in mainland China will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they left.

“We did not take this decision lightly,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.

“We are very mindful of the disruption and economic impacts of these arrangements, but I note Australia is one of 58 countries that has introduced some form of travel restrictions.”

But the Chinese embassy said the ban should be lifted, saying the World Health Organisation didn’t recommend travel or trade restrictions on China.

“We express our deep regret and dissatisfaction over the Australian government’s announcement,” a spokesman said in a statement.

“Only Australia and a small number of countries have taken such extreme measures which are an overreaction indeed.”

Australian citizens and permanent residents will still be able to enter, as will their immediate family members, but they must self-isolate for 14 days from the time they left mainland China.

The restrictions will be reviewed in one week.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the key concern was the spread of the virus, officially known as COVID-19, across China.

There are now more than 60,000 confirmed cases of the virus, most of them in the province of Hubei where it was first detected, and 1357 people have died.

More than 240 deaths were reported on Wednesday alone, the highest number of fatalities on a single day since the virus was first reported in December.

Of the 15 cases in Australia, six have been cleared and the remaining nine are all stable.

No quarantined Australians at Christmas Island and Darwin have tested positive for the virus, with the first group of evacuees due to return home on Monday.

Universities are contacting their Chinese students to ensure they understand how the extension of travel restrictions affect them and to provide support.

Work is underway on extending existing domestic tourism campaigns to help businesses impacted by the downturn in foreign visitors.

An Australian public health expert is being sent to Japan to look at the handling of the cruise ship Diamond Princess’ quarantine process and provide advice to the government.

More than 200 Australians are passengers on the ship, with 11 of them testing positive for the virus.

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