A ban on tourists travelling from mainland China to Australia has been extended for another week amid ongoing concerns about coronavirus.
The Federal Government’s national security committee met on Thursday afternoon following briefings from health officials and decided to extend a previously announced 14-day travel ban.
The existing travel restriction introduced in response to the coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak was due to expire on Saturday.
The new ban is set to end on February 22 but will be reviewed again before then.
“This is something we will continue to review on a weekly basis and to consider all of the medical evidence that is coming forward,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
“There is an enormous amount of work that is taking place.”
The Government implemented strict new border control measures in an effort to halt what it dubbed an “escalating threat” of the coronavirus.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has advised Australians not to travel to China, having asked those who have returned from the country to self-isolate for 14 days.
“We did not take this decision lightly, we are very mindful also of the disruption and economic impacts of these arrangements,” Mr Morrison said.
“But I note Australia is one of 58 countries that has introduced some form of travel restrictions.
“And I just want to assure all Australians that we are doing everything we can to keep Australians safe at this time.”
The number of confirmed cases in Australia remains at 15, with five of those people having made a recovery.
“All of the 15 cases that are here have had some association with the Hubei province, or someone who’s come from that province,” chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said.
“We haven’t had anyone who’s come from China since the travel ban was introduced develop the disease.”
The travel ban means more than 100,000 Chinese students have been unable to start their university and TAFE classes in Australia.
University of Melbourne student Lisa Liu is among the students in Beijing waiting to be able to return to Australia.
“It feels like the Australian Government doesn’t care about the international students’ lives as long as we pay the tuition,” she told the ABC.
“After all, we don’t have a say. Though we pay four times the price locals pay and feed over half of the uni.”
The travel restrictions apply to the Chinese mainland only, and the Australian Government is not including the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau in the travel ban.
Mr Morrison acknowledged the financial impact the travel ban was having on businesses, including within the tourism sector.
“This is why we are on a weekly rotation on the review of this and we are looking at all options that are available to us to mitigate the impact where possible,” he said.