The Australian government has extended its travel ban on individuals who have travelled through China by another week, prime minister Scott Morrison has announced.
The ban, initially set for fourteen days and because of expire on Saturday, was extended on Thursday over the advice of Australia’s health authorities as well as the national security committee. The ban will be reviewed each week, Morrison said.
Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family are exempt from the ban, designed to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, now named Covid-19.
People who have been outside China for more than 14 days, and who show no associated with Covid-19, can also be allowed to enter Australia. The ban will not apply to those who left China before 1 February.
International students that have left China and spent 14 days within a third country before arriving in Australia will be allowed into the country after their 14-day period has elapsed.
The travel restrictions affect the Chinese mainland only: travellers from the special administrative elements of Hong Kong and Macau are not within the ban.
Overnight, the number of new cases of Covid-19 rose by 14, 887 in the Hubei province where it first emerged – a sevenfold increase on the day before. China recorded 245 new deaths, taking the national total to at least one, 359.
Globally, more than 60, 000 individuals have been infected by the herpes virus, and 1, 369 have died.
There were 15 cases of Covid-19 in Australia, with no deaths, and five people have recovered from the herpes virus.
There have been no recorded human-to-human transmissions of Covid-19 in the general community in Australia. All cases in Australia contracted the illness while in Wuhan, except for one individual who had contact, in China, with a person with the virus.
On Thursday Morrison said arrangements to protect Australia from coronavirus “are working”.
“This afternoon we have decided to accept the recommendations to steadfastly keep up the ban on entry restrictions on foreign nationals from mainland China for a further week. This is something we will continue steadily to review on a weekly basis, and consider all of the medical evidence on a weekly basis. ”
He encouraged Australians to support members of the Chinese-Australian community, who have been susceptible to a range of racist responses to the outbreak.
“As we go into the weekend I encourage everyone to guide Chinese-Australian businesses… they are this kind of integral section of Australian life and it is important that all Australians are putting their arms around them and supporting them, at all they can. ”
He also extended his thoughts to China, saying “we will bounce back together”.
The prime minister said he was “very mindful of the economic impacts” of the extended ban, but was not currently looking at providing financial help the tourism and education sectors.
International students contributed $34bn to the Australian economy a year ago, and the ban is expected to lead to $8bn of losses.
A variety of universities have delayed the beginning of semester, or allowed international students to enrol later. Earlier on Thursday it was revealed that China had decided to relax a number of its internet restrictions so students could study online as they waited to enter the country.
“It is still some four to six weeks before we reach some time when it’s going to start impacting on the [academic] year, ” Morrison said on Thursday. “They have place in measures like online learning which can address that for the time being. ”
Queensland state Labor MP Kate Jones said she “could not believe” Morrison hadn’t yet offered financial assistance, and that the state’s tourism council had written to him “crying out for funding”.
Everyone, including Australian citizens and residents, must isolate themselves for 14 days once they have left China, or should they have been in close contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19.
Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said the continued expansion of the outbreak not in the locked-down province of Hubei was the explanation for extending the travel ban. “We’ve recommended the continuation of the travel ban for an additional week at this time. There is significant growth in Hubei province, in other provinces in China there has been slower growth, not at exactly the same rate as we’ve seen previously, but nevertheless growth. ”“That is the reason why you want to maintain the travel ban at the moment, ” he said. Murphy said if Chinese authorities could actually stop small outbreaks outside Hubei, Australia would be able to review the ban. The chief medical officer said there was no new cases detected in Australia, and commended those Australians who’d returned from China and “behaved impeccably” in adhering to self-isolation. There are no confirmed cases among the 538 Australian citizens and permanent residents currently in quarantine on Christmas Island or Manigurr-Ma work camp in the Northern Territory.
The economic impact of the travel ban on Australia’s tourism and education sectors is estimated to slash 0. 5 percent from Australia’s GDP growth in the first quarter, according to analysts from ANZ bank.