Coronavirus: China condemns Australian decision to extends travel ban for a week

Ben Doherty and Naaman Zhou
Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The Australian government has extended its travel ban on people who have travelled through China by another week, Scott Morrison has announced.

The ban, initially set for 14 days and due to expire on Saturday, was extended on Thursday on the advice of Australia’s health authorities and the national security committee. The ban would be reviewed every week, the prime minister 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.

In its original statement on 1 February, the government said foreign nationals in mainland China “will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they have left or transited through mainland China”.

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The ban does not apply to people who left China before 1 February, or to travellers from Hong Kong and Macau.

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 1,359.

Globally, more than 60,000 people have been infected by the virus, and 1,369 have died.

There have been 15 cases of Covid-19 in Australia, with no deaths, and five people have recovered from the 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 disease while in Wuhan, except for one person 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 agreed to accept the recommendations to maintain the ban on entry restrictions on foreign nationals from mainland China for a further week. This is something we will continue to review on a weekly basis, and consider all the medical evidence on a weekly basis.”

He encouraged Australians to support members of the Chinese Australian community, who have been subject to a range of racist responses to the outbreak.

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“As we go into the weekend I encourage everyone to support Chinese-Australian businesses ... they are such an integral part of Australian life and it is important that all Australians are putting their arms around them and supporting them, in any way 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 assistance to the tourism and education sectors.

International students contributed $34bn to the Australian economy last year, and the ban is expected to result in $8bn of losses.

A range of universities have delayed the start of semester, or allowed international students to enrol later. Earlier on Thursday it was revealed that China had agreed to relax some 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 a period of time when it will start impacting on the [academic] year,” Morrison said on Thursday. “They have put in measures like online learning which can address that for now.”

Queensland state Labor MP Kate Jones said she “could not believe” Morrison had not yet offered financial assistance, and that the state’s tourism council had written to him “crying out for funding”.

All people, including Australian citizens and residents, must isolate themselves for 14 days after they have left China, or if 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 outside of the locked-down province of Hubei was the rationale for extending the travel ban.


“We’ve recommended the continuation of the travel ban for an additional week at this time. There has been significant growth in Hubei province, in other provinces in China there has been slower growth, perhaps not at the same rate as we’ve seen previously, but still growth.

“That is the reason why we would like to maintain the travel ban at the moment,” he said.

Murphy said if Chinese authorities were able to stop the smaller outbreaks outside of Hubei, Australia would be able to review the ban.


The chief medical officer said there had been 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% from Australia’s GDP growth in the first quarter, according to analysts from ANZ bank.