Australia has extended its ban on travelers from mainland China for at least another week because of the coronavirus outbreak. The country’s chief medical officer has also condemned xenophobia towards Chinese Australians as the number of deaths from COVID-19 continues to grow.
Foreign nationals traveling from China are not allowed to come to Australia until at least February 22. The ban, originally for two weeks, has been extended by seven days and is preventing thousands of Chinese students attending Australian universities and colleges.
The restrictions also bar Chinese visitors from Australia during the usually busy summer vacation period.
The tourism industry here believes the financial impact of the coronavirus will be worse than the damage caused by the bushfire crisis.
Chinese-Australians say they have faced an increase in hostility both online and in-person since the outbreak began. Some have said on social media that they fear for their safety. A young boy was reportedly bullied at school by pupils demanding he be tested for the virus.
Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy says the discrimination is unacceptable.
“We are very concerned about xenophobia and and any sort of racial profiling which is completely abhorrent," Murphy said. "There is no community transmission of this virus in Australia. There is no reason for people to be wearing masks, there is no reason for people to avoid anybody.”
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia remains at 15. Six patients have recovered.
Two planeloads of Australians flown out of the virus epicenter at Wuhan in China’s Hubei Province continue to be held in quarantine on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean and at an abandoned mining camp near the city of Darwin.
No cases of the disease have been diagnosed among those in isolation.