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China scolds Australia as unis grapple with virus travel ban

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The University of Canberra is asking Chinese students temporarily excluded from travelling to Australia to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to defer their studies.

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This follows the decision of the Morrison government to extend a travel ban on Chinese visitors and students from mainland China for another week, a move that has angered China.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has attempted to calm concerns after the Chinese embassy in Australia lashed the government’s “extreme” decision.

“Of course we want to work very closely with the Chinese government but our responsibility is to keep Australians safe,” Dutton told the Nine Network on Friday.

From Friday, foreign nationals who have been in mainland China will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they left.

The nation’s deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly admits it is a big decision to have a travel ban.

“It’s something that wasn’t taken lightly … we think it is the most appropriate thing to do,” he told Sky News.

Asked what the likelihood of the ban being lifted next week, Professor Kelly said: “A week is a very long time in this outbreak.”

Australian universities are getting in touch with their Chinese students to offer them support as they prepare to take a hit from the travel ban.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Canberra University Geoff Crisp said the advice announced on Friday to defer studies was to ensure students have the “best possible learning experience and academic outcomes”.

“Due to complications from the Chinese firewall, access to study materials and the multiple variations of individual student’s study plans, we would rather ensure our students continue to receive the high-quality face-to-face experience offered here at UC,” Crisp said in a statement.

The Chinese embassy says the ban should be lifted, given the World Health Organisation has not recommended travel or trade restrictions on China.

“We express our deep regret and dissatisfaction over the Australian government’s announcement,” a spokesman said in a statement.

“Only Australia and a small number of countries have taken such extreme measures which are an overreaction indeed.”

The US and New Zealand have made similar bans to Australia to help contain the virus.

There are now more than 60,000 confirmed cases of the virus, most of them in the province of Hubei where it was first detected, and 1357 people have died.

Of the 15 cases in Australia, six have been cleared and the remaining nine are all stable.

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.

Meanwhile, an Australian public health expert is being sent to Japan to look at the handling of the cruise ship Diamond Princess’ quarantine process and provide advice to the government.

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

-AAP

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