Tourism

Coronavirus: Aussies urged not to travel to China as travel bans take hold

The Australian government is urging Australians not to travel to China as tough new travel restrictions take hold to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Smart Traveller’s travel advice for China has been updated to ‘Do not travel’ on the advice of the Australian chief medical officer due to the increased risk from the deadly virus. The website urges Australian citizens who are currently in China to leave “as soon as possible by commercial means”, adding that many airlines have temporarily reduced or suspended flights.

This comes as thousands of passengers scheduled to fly from China over the weekend were left stranded, due to new restrictions, also recommended by the chief medical officer, which denies entry to Australia for those who left or transited through mainland China from 1 February.

However, exceptions are being made for Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families, as well as aircrews who have used appropriate equipment, ABC News reported.

More Aussie cases confirmed 

Two more people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in South Australia and one more in Victoria, bringing the national total to 12 over the weekend. The two South Australian cases were an elderly couple who had recently travelled to Wuhan, where the disease originated.

Meanwhile, the first person to die from the disease outside of China was confirmed in the Philippines, when a 44-year-old man from Wuhan developed severe pneumonia.

Worldwide, a total of 305 people have now died from the disease, with confirmed cases now at 14,500.

Evacuations begin 

The government has backflipped on its announcement that Australians stranded in Wuhan would be charged $1,000 for a seat on evacuation flights run by Qantas. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told ABC’s Insiders that evacuees will no longer be charged, and blamed “incorrect advice” from bureaucrats for the misinformation.

Industry response

An additional swathe of airlines have suspended all flights to mainland China, including Qantas, American Airlines and United Airlines.

Qantas said in a statement it would suspend its two direct services to mainland China (Sydney-Beijing and Sydney-Shanghai) from 9 February until 29 March 2020.

“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.

According to data analytics company Cirium, nearly 10,000 flights have been suspended since the outbreak began.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) confirmed in a statement that its members have suspended crew movements from mainland China and will deny boarding to any individual, crew or guest, who has travelled through mainland China within the previous 14 days.

Wendy Wu has also updated its travel advice, confirming all clients booked to travel in February have been contacted to make alternative arrangements and said it would provide advice for March, April and May departures 21 days prior.

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