Virus travel ban set to be extended
THE two-week China travel ban was all but certain to be extended beyond Saturday, Health Minister Greg Hunt warned, as he condemned any racial discrimination against Chinese Australians over the coronavirus.
The international death toll has now topped 1000 people, all but two within China, while the virus is continuing to rapidly spread within the country and to a lesser extent abroad.
Mr Hunt used his strongest language yet to warn the travel ban, due to expire at the weekend, would likely be extended when a decision was made at the end of the week.
"We don't want to set a false expectation that is likely to change yet at this point," he said.
"We're going to have a very serious consideration of that at the end of this week."
He said the travel advice for Australians regarding China remained "do not travel", but would not be drawn on for how long the ban for entrance to Australia from China would be extended.
"We follow the medical advice … everybody understands the huge implications of these travel bans, and if there's any reason or basis for relaxing them, that advice will come as soon as it's there," Mr Hunt said.
Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy acknowledged the Chinese Australian community had suffered a backlash, saying he was concerned over xenophobia and racial profiling.
"Our risk population is people who have come from China from 1 February. Not people of Chinese background, people who have come from China, whatever their background is," he said.
"There is no reason for people to be wearing masks. There's no reason for people to avoid anybody of any particular background or appearance."
Mr Hunt said he denounced any discrimination of the Chinese Australian community.
"The shopping centres are safe and if there are shopping centres in areas that have particularly strong concentrations of people with Chinese-Australian background, there is no reason not to be there," he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been reaching out to the Chinese community within Australia via Chinese social media platform WeChat.
Queensland Chinese Forum honorary president Dr Kee Cheung OAM has previously said the Brisbane Chinese community was being unfairly discriminated against and that "malicious messages" were circulating the community.
There were more than 42,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus world wide yesterday evening, including 1013 deaths.
There have been 15 cases confirmed within Australia, all people who had recently travelled from the virus epicentre in Wuhan or had direct contact with someone who had.
Five of those cases have now recovered and have been cleared of the disease, while the others are stabled and recovering.