Federal Government extends China travel ban over coronavirus fears

A doctor checks oxygen saturation of a patient at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan Hubei province China

A doctor checks oxygen saturation of a patient at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan Hubei province China

"WHO has repeatedly stressed that it does not recommend putting travel and trade restrictions on China".

Mr Morrison made the announcement on Thursday after a meeting of the National Security Committee.

However, Australian citizens, permanent residents, and their immediate family are exempted from the ban which is imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus now officially known as Covid-19.

"We did not make this decision lightly, we are very mindful of the disruption and economic impacts of these arrangements", Morrison said.

The death toll in China from the virus has reached at least 1,355. There have been no confirmed cases of the virus amongst the people quarantined on Christmas Island.

More than 240 deaths were reported on Wednesday alone, the highest number of fatalities since the virus was first reported in December.

"We have heard alarming reports from the media, social media and firsthand accounts of people with an Asian background being targets of discrimination, racism and racial profiling", President Dr Annabelle Bennet said.

Australia defended its decision to bar people from entering the country from mainland China until at least February 22 amid the COVID-19 outbreak, saying the measure was implemented in the country's best interest.

"There is continuing and concerning growth of cases and mortality in Hubei province and further, though slower, growth in other regions of mainland China", he said in a news release. "That's why this afternoon we have agreed to accept recommendations to maintain the ban on entry restrictions".

There are now 15 confirmed cases of the virus in Australia.

Nine of the 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Australia are in stable condition and six have been cleared.

More than 200 Australians are passengers on the ship, with 11 of them testing positive for the virus.

Mr Morrison said the government was working closely with schools, universities and the tourism sector.

"We are taking a cautious approach. this is why we are on a weekly rotation in the review of this", he said.

"We are looking at all options that are available to us to mitigate the impact where possible".

The ban has meant more than 100,000 Chinese students have been unable to start university classes in Australia this term, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"You can understand it from the Chinese perspective".

"We know the decision to extend these restrictions will be hard for many students during what is already a very stressful time", she said.

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