The Australian government has drawn the ire of the Communist Party over its decision to continue the ban on anyone entering the country that has been in China during the past two weeks.
As of Friday, Feb. 14, foreign nationals who have been in mainland China will be unable to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they left there.
The Chinese Embassy in Australia has called the decision to extend the travel ban for another week as “extreme.”
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the government is sympathetic to the Chinese situation, but its main priority is to keep Australian citizens safe. “Our responsibility is to make sure that we keep Australians safe,” he told Today. “We will assess it week by week … we will be doing what is in our country’s best interests.”
“They want there to be a normalized arrangement and countries like Australia, like the UK, others, have decided to make sure that we deal with the difficulty that we face. We have brought people back who have been stuck in Wuhan,” he said.
“The medical advice was clear. Over the next week maybe that changes and maybe they take a different view. We are very conscious of the impact on the Australian economy, on tourism, on the international student market, and many other businesses that obviously are impacted,” he added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday, “We did not take this decision lightly,” adding, “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,” reported 9 News.
The Chinese Embassy expressed its dissatisfaction with the ban, “We express our deep regret and dissatisfaction over the Australian government’s announcement,” it said in a statement. “Only Australia and a small number of countries have taken such extreme measures which are an overreaction indeed.”
The ban is to be reviewed in another week. Australian citizens and their immediate families, and permanent residents will still be allowed entry, they are required to self-isolate for 14 days.
There have been 15 reported cases of the coronavirus in Australia, six have been given the all-clear, with the remaining nine in a stable condition.
More than 200 Australians are in quarantine on the cruise ship the Diamond Princess in Japan, 11 of them have tested positive for the virus. A public health expert from Australia has been sent to the liner to help with the quarantine process and provide advice to the Japanese government.
Official figures for the number of infections worldwide is more than 60,000, with 1,370 recorded deaths. However, the numbers are expected to be much higher than that, as testing in China has been inaccurate due to a lack of test kits, and also the Communist government has tried to hide the total number of infections and deaths from the rest of the world.