Australian Politician Defends Virus Travel Ban Extension After China Calls It ‘Extreme’

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
February 13, 2020Updated: February 13, 2020

Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has spoken to ease concerns from China after Australia extended a coronavirus travel ban for another week.

The Chinese embassy in Australia has lashed the federal government’s “extreme” decision.

“Of course we want to work very closely with the Chinese government but our responsibility is to keep Australians safe,” Dutton told the Nine Network on Friday. “You can understand it from the Chinese perspective.”

For another week from Feb. 15, foreign nationals who have been in mainland China will be banned from entering Australia for at least 14 days from the time they left.

The Chinese embassy says the ban should be lifted, given the World Health Organisation has not recommended travel or trade restrictions on China.

Australia is among 58 countries that have introduced some form of travel restrictions on passengers who have traveled through mainland China, the government said.

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.

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

No quarantined Australians at Christmas Island or 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.

Meanwhile, 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 assistance to the government.

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

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