China travel ban: Non-Australians denied entry

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced strict new rules for anyone travelling to and from China in the wake of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

All Australians returning from mainland China - not just Hubei province - will be required to "self-isolate" for 14 days from the time they leave.

Anyone coming from China who is not an Australian citizen, permanent resident, dependants, legal guardians or spouses will not be allowed to enter the country. .

As of today, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have issued a "do not travel" warning to all Australians.

"Our first responsibility is Australians and Australia's national interests, and that means the health of Australians and their wellbeing and that is what is driving our decisions," Mr Morrison said.

"Obviously we appreciate the challenges that the Chinese government are facing at the moment with this very serious issue, and we do thank them for the engagement that we have had".

Earlier today Qantas announced it will suspend two direct services to mainland China.

The airline will temporarily cease flying to Beijing and Shanghai from Sydney between February 9 and March 29.

Strict flying conditions imposed by other countries brought on by the global health scare surrounding coronavirus have caused "logistical challenges" for Qantas.

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"This follows entry restrictions imposed by countries including Singapore and the United States, which impact the movement of crew who work across the Qantas International network," the airline said in a statement.

"These entry restrictions pose significant logistical challenges for rostering crew to operate mainland China services, leading to the need to temporarily suspend these flights."

Explaining why they are waiting eight days before implementing the suspension, Qantas says it is "working to balance high passenger numbers in both directions - including Australian residents wanting to return home from China - with the various travel restrictions being applied."

The move comes after The Daily Telegraph questioned why Qantas hadn't followed other international airlines in suspending flights to China. Wuhan, a city in the country's central province of Hubei, is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

British Airways, Delta and United are among a number of major carriers who have halted all travel to mainland China.

The Transport Workers Union called for the suspension of all direct flights from China over the coronavirus outbreak despite top health bureaucrats saying the measure would be ineffective.

The backflip comes after Qantas employees were threatened with disciplinary action if they refused to work on flights from China due to concerns about the potentially fatal virus.

The virus has spread to at least 18 countries including Australia, which has nine confirmed cases with more expected.

A Qantas 747 flight reportedly landed in Hong Kong - where schools and kindergartens have been suspended until March 2 at the earliest - at 8am Saturday morning (AEDT) on its way to Wuhan to rescue 600 Aussies locked down in the city where the virus originated.

Qantas is just one of 10 airlines flying a total of 50 flights a day to and from China. The flying kangaroo makes up just 10 per cent of the total direct flights to China with China Southern, China Eastern, Air China and Hainan Airlines doing the bulk of the flying.

Earlier Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government's plan to take evacuees from Wuhan to Christmas Island where they would be detained for 14 days.

 

As an Australian scientist warned the virus could become more deadly as it spreads, Nine Entertainment newspapers reported that a panel of economists believed the bushfires alone could knock up to 0.5 per cent - almost $10 billion - from GDP, while the coronavirus could clip another 0.2 per cent from growth over the same period.

'STOP CHINA FLIGHTS INTO AUSTRALIA'

Meanwhile, Beijing sharply criticised the United States for warning American citizens to avoid China and for urging those already there to leave due to the coronavirus health emergency.

China last week stopped flights from Wuhan - the epicentre of the virus - but the TWU now wants Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene and restrict all incoming flights from China.

The union's national secretary, Michael Kaine, said there is a high level of uncertainty about the virus and the "precautionary principle" should apply.

"There has been a dearth of information from this federal government to airports and to airlines about what it is precisely they should do," he told reporters in Sydney.

"There's one thing that we can do and one step that we could take and should take and that is to cut off flights from the source of the virus. "

 

"We should take the lead here and stop flights into Australia from China right now."

Airlines around the world have stopped flights from mainland China including American Airlines and British Airways, Mr Kaine said.

CHINA ADMITS CONTAINMENT MISTAKES

The Communist Party chief in the city at the centre of China's coronavirus outbreak says measures should have been taken earlier to contain it, Reuters reported.

Ma Guoqiang said in a televised interview the impact of the virus on the rest of China and the world "would have been less" if the containment measures had been implemented sooner.

The outbreak that began in Wuhan, capital of China's central province of Hubei, has so far killed more than 200 people, all in China.

The virus has affected more than 9800 people worldwide, surpassing the total from the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic.

According to the Centre for Disease Control, SARS (or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) spread to 29 countries, where 8,096 people were infected with the virus and 774 died. The virus was contained in July 2003 and since 2004 there have been no known cases of SARS reported anywhere in the world.

 

Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang said the task of containing and preventing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the city remains "severe and complex".

At the same televised news conference, Vice Mayor Xu Honglan said supplies of masks and other medical resources were still inadequate.

The Italian government declared a state of emergency on Friday to fast-track after two cases were confirmed in Rome. Italy had said it was stopping all flights to and from China following the news that two Chinese tourists holidaying in Italy had tested positive for the virus.

Pakistani authorities say that they are halting all flights to and from China with immediate effect in light of the outbreak of a new virus.

A 14-day travel restriction is being imposed on travellers from China in Trinidad and Tobago. Israel has also barred all flights from China, while Russia said it was closing its Far Eastern border with China over the outbreak.

The TWA has written to airports, airlines and the federal government about the matter.


But Australia's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy on Friday said banning direct flights from China was not recommended as a public health measure.

"The World Health Organisation strongly recommends that nations do not ban flights from China because unless you lock down exit from the country, banning direct flights doesn't stop people coming from China," Professor Murphy told reporters in Canberra.

"They could come from all sorts of other ports and at least we know who is coming from China and we can meet and do very intensive border measures for those flights."

A number of the airlines who have ceased flights from China have done so for commercial reasons, Prof Murphy said.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government's health advisory committee had considered the question "on a number of occasions and their advice hasn't changed".

"If their advice does change, we will implement it," he told reporters.

It's understood that Qantas employees were last week formally directed to continue working on aircraft operating from airports in China.

Children wearing makeshift homemade protection and protective masks while waiting to check in to a flight at Beijing Capital Airport. Picture: Kevin Frayer/Getty
Children wearing makeshift homemade protection and protective masks while waiting to check in to a flight at Beijing Capital Airport. Picture: Kevin Frayer/Getty

The airline made it clear that if employees fail to do so they may face disciplinary action - including being sacked.

Virgin Australia does not operate flights to and from mainland China and from February 11 will only operate daily flights from Sydney to Hong Kong, dropping the Melbourne route.

Crews are maintaining high hygiene standards including hand sanitising and cough etiquette, a Virgin Australia spokeswoman said in a statement.

CORONAVIRUS 'DEADLIER THAN IT LOOKS', VIROLOGIST WARNS

The man leading Australia's attempts to make a vaccine for the coronavirus has warned that the contagion could ­become more deadly as it spreads.

Australian Animal Health Laboratory director Professor Trevor Drew said early indications that the disease was killing less than 2 per cent of victims in China could be misleading ­because of its potential to evolve quickly and become more dangerous, The Australian reports.

His comments came as the first batch of a world-first Australian-grown virus arrived at a CSIRO lab near Melbourne, paving the way for a fast-tracked vaccine to enter preclinical trials within weeks.

He said the Wuhan virus was really a "cloud" of closely matched pathogens rather than a single virus.

Professor Trevor Drew, Director of the CSRIO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory. Picture: Courtesy of Stuart McEvoy/The Australian
Professor Trevor Drew, Director of the CSRIO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory. Picture: Courtesy of Stuart McEvoy/The Australian

In densely populated China, it could rapidly mutate and become more deadly.

"You may well find that more virulent viruses emerge from that cloud," he told The Australian.

SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2012, were both caused by corona­viruses. Middle East respiratory syndrome had a reported fatality rate of more than 30 per cent in the hot zone on the Arabian peninsula.

Vendors play cards while wearing protective masks in an alley in Wuhan. Picture: Getty
Vendors play cards while wearing protective masks in an alley in Wuhan. Picture: Getty

The Wuhan coronavirus is ­suspected by scientists to have jumped from bats to people in one of the city's live animal markets in the same way that SARS erupted in southern China 16 years ago, killing up to 7 per cent of those who contracted the disease.

Professor Drew said the history of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome in pigs showed how coronavirus could become more lethal over time, in sharp contrast to the usual progression of an epidemic.

BOY DIES ALONE AFTER FAMILY SENT TO QUARANTINE

A Chinese boy afflicted with severe cerebral palsy died after he was left alone for six days when his father and brother were sent to quarantine after coming down with coronavirus symptoms.

The boy, Yan Cheng, 17, could not move independently because of his cerebral palsy. He was left on his own for six days while his father and brother were tested for the potentially deadly coronavirus.

Yan died alone in his family home 100km north of Wuhan.

He suffered from severe cerebral palsy which greatly inhibited his ability to move independently and limited his speech, with the severity of his symptoms making around-the-clock care essential.

He was left at home in bed alone after his father, Yan Xiaowen, came down with a fever along with his younger son - with the pair isolated in a quarantine facility 25km away from their home suspected to be carrying the coronavirus.

Unable to get back to his son, his father used the social media platform Weibo to plea with members of the public to help as he feared village officials were neglecting him.

"My eldest son has cerebral palsy, and can't move his body. He can't talk, he can't look after himself," Yan Xiaowen posted.

"Without someone feeding him, and without a protective suit from the local authorities and hospital, I worry that my child can't make it any longer."

Local officials allegedly only fed Yan Cheng twice in the six days he was on his own but were apparently planning to move the boy closer to his father to receive proper help the same afternoon he died.

JETSTAR PASSENGERS TELL OF HOBART TARMAC ORDEAL

Passengers trapped on board a Hobart Jetstar flight for about three hours with an unwell passenger from China have spoken of their ordeal.

A male passenger is being medically assessed to rule out coronavirus after becoming ill on the flight.

"Jetstar were very good about it. They were doing their best to keep everyone calm. It was a tricky situation for them," Lachlan Rule, of Melbourne, told The Mercury.

"They cleared everyone off and the unwell passenger was kept on at the back of the plane."

 

Passengers on board Melbourne to Hobart Jetstar flight JQ713, which was stuck on the tarmac at Hobart Airport for more than an hour and a half as emergency services responded to an unwell passenger. Picture: Supplied
Passengers on board Melbourne to Hobart Jetstar flight JQ713, which was stuck on the tarmac at Hobart Airport for more than an hour and a half as emergency services responded to an unwell passenger. Picture: Supplied

QLD STUDENTS ISOLATED AFTER VIRUS SCARE

Four Queensland state school students are in isolation after travelling on the same Tiger Airways flight with two passengers who have confirmed cases of coronavirus.

The Courier Mail reports the students are not showing symptoms as of Friday and are in self-isolation as a precaution.

The department would not confirm if the students had been at school over the past two days.

It is understood a parent is also in isolation after travelling on a Tiger Airways flight.

PASSENGERS' FEARS ON BOARD CHINA-SYDNEY FLIGHT

Passengers on Friday's Air China flight from Beijing to Sydney had conflicting feelings about their safety from the deadly coronavirus.

Hitomi Son was on the flight, and said that she was scared about transmission of the virus.

"Of course I'm worried, in China there's so many people affected. We can't go out, we have to stay home, we couldn't do anything," Hitomi said.

"I think they should stop flights between China and Sydney, because of what's happening," she said.

Hitomi Son says they should stop flights into Australia from China. She arrived in Sydney from Beijing. Picture: Daily Telegraph/Flavio Brancaleone
Hitomi Son says they should stop flights into Australia from China. She arrived in Sydney from Beijing. Picture: Daily Telegraph/Flavio Brancaleone

Fellow passenger James Jing said he was "afraid" of the transmission of the virus on the flight.

"I was worried because everyone is sitting so close together on the flight. I think there should be more limitation, check peoples backgrounds and see if they are healthy or not," James said.

"We need more health tests."

James Jing was “worried” on a flight from China to Sydney. Picture: Daily Telegraph/Flavio Brancaleone
James Jing was “worried” on a flight from China to Sydney. Picture: Daily Telegraph/Flavio Brancaleone

Scarlett Son Fan said that she felt protected by the masks, and that closing the borders would be too difficult.

"Security took a lot more time than usual but I wasn't worried because I felt protected by the mask," Scarlett said.

"It's safe here … if you stop flights it will cause major problems for the students here. I think the borders should stay open," she said.

Lu Chong flew to Sydney to visit her son William. With her son translating, she told The Daily Telegraph that she took three body temperature tests before arriving in Sydney.

"First before security we did the body temperature test, then through customs and then again on the plane," she said.

"I wasn't worried … I think even the masks are unnecessary because there is so much testing and people would not go to the airport if they were sick.

"In China all the public activities and festivals are shut down, people are staying home and making sure they are well. I'm very comforted because there are so many resources going into this war," she said.

Lu Chong and her son William arrived from Beijng at Sydney International Airport. Picture: Daily Telegraph/Flavio Brancaleone
Lu Chong and her son William arrived from Beijng at Sydney International Airport. Picture: Daily Telegraph/Flavio Brancaleone


"There are eight other people who were in that tour group and they are all currently in isolation in the Gold Coast University Hospital," Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said.

"Four of them are unwell and being tested today (Friday)."

CSIRO TESTS POTENTIAL VACCINES

The CSIRO is set to test potential vaccines for the deadly coronavirus, working alongside the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a group aiming to derail epidemics by speeding up the developments of vaccines.

Scientists working in the secure area at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory.
Scientists working in the secure area at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

The work will be conducted at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong, the only Physical Containment Level 4 (PC4) lab in Australia, and one of five in the world.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the organisation would help bring "every branch of science and experts from across the system to tackle this major global health challenge."

Scientists working in the secure area at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory.
Scientists working in the secure area at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

CSIRO Health and Biosecurity director Dr Rob Grenfell added the researched aimed to paint a clearer picture of the new coronavirus, including how long it takes to develop and replicate, how it impacts on the respiratory system and how it can be transmitted.

"Infectious diseases like the new coronavirus are complex and pose a major challenge to human health," he said.

Scientists working in the secure area at CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory.Supplied
Scientists working in the secure area at CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory.Supplied

"Through this project we will use our globally unique scientific capability to answer key questions about how the coronavirus behaves."

The CSIRO team will then begin testing the new potential vaccines once where the virus originated and how it spreads becomes clearer.

 

 

People wearing protective masks while buying meat products at a market in Hong Kong, China. Picture: Getty Images
People wearing protective masks while buying meat products at a market in Hong Kong, China. Picture: Getty Images

 


- with AAP