A leading business group has called for a partial lifting of the the travel ban that prevents tourists and students from mainland China entering Australia to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The federal government extended the two-week ban for another seven days this week on official medical advice.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg concedes these travel restrictions are having a significant impact on the economy given that 200,000 students from China come to Australia, while 1.4 million Chinese tourists arrived last year.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says keeping Australians safe from the virus is “absolutely paramount” but says it is a “savage blow” to Australian tourism.
“The ban on passenger air travel also impacts on a range of other industries that depend on frequent air movements to shift goods, including perishable products,” Australian Chamber – Tourism Executive chair John Hart said in a statement.
“Tourism and trade would greatly benefit from even a partial lifting of the ban from provinces in China that present a much lower risk to Australians.”
He said Beijing and Shanghai have tightly controlled COVID-19 virus and account for around 33 per cent of airline movements.
The city of Beijing has imposed a 14-day self-quarantine on people returning to the city from holidays and threatened to punish those who failed to comply.
The Chinese embassy was angered by Australia’s extension saying the ban is “extreme” and should be lifted.
Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond says the ban is another blow to the tourism industry with the Chinese inbound market worth some $700 million to Australia each week.
The National Union of Students has called on the government to lift the ban, saying it discriminates against international students and fails to account for the effects on higher education and student welfare.
No quarantined Australians at Christmas Island and Darwin have tested positive for the virus, with the first group of evacuees due to return home on Monday.
The Australian Border Force says it is making arrangements to transfer those quarantined on Christmas Island once they have been medically cleared.
“The government will continue to provide routine updates when appropriate,” an ABF spokesman told AAP.
Of the 15 coronavirus cases in Australia, six have been cleared and the remaining nine are all stable.
In China, the total number infected by the virus rose above 66,000 on Saturday, with the number of deaths passing 1500.
This includes 1700 Chinese health workers who have been infected and six deaths.
Australian Associated Press