CANBERRA, Australia – Coronavirus travel ban was extended into a third week by the Australian government amid the increasing concerns from business groups.
The extension of the travel ban due to the spread of coronavirus in China and other countries has provoked the Chinese embassy in Australia to express their profound regret and dissatisfaction. Further, the tension with the travel ban extension is leading the country at the risk of losing about a quarter of new Chinese students to universities in other countries.
The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, will review the coronavirus travel ban every week until the deadly virus is deemed under control. This weekly review, which brought the ban into its third week, came amid mounting concerns from a lot of business groups in the country. It also came despite the decision of some Chinese airlines to advance cancellations of their flights to Australia until the middle of June.
The recent travel ban extension came with the increase in the death toll caused by the deadly coronavirus in Hubei province in China. The latest reported recorded around 1369 deaths from the virus, which is a massive leap from the previously recorded 242 fatalities. The number of cases reported due to the spreading disease has also increased by more than 60,000.
Last night, the Chinese embassy in Canberra stated their utter regret and dissatisfaction with the Morrison government’s travel ban extension due to the spreading virus. The embassy cited that the Chinese government had taken the most rigorous and comprehensive prevention and other control initiatives to rein in the spreading coronavirus.
The Chinese embassy further stated that only Australia and very few other countries have resorted to such extreme measures of an extended travel ban. The embassy called the country’s travel ban extension as an overreaction.
Meanwhile, a major survey was done with the Chinese students who got stranded in China due to Australia’s travel ban extension. Based on the result of the survey, around a quarter or 32% of the Chinese student respondents said that they would enroll in a university in another country if the travel ban continues and they can’t study in Australia in time for the first semester this school year.
More than 16,000 Chinese students participated in the major survey directed by Australia’s Education Consultants Association. The results of the recent survey confirmed the fears of a lot of universities in Australia about the risks of losing the loyalty of a lot of their Chinese students.
Vicki Thomson, chief executive of Group of Eight universities, said during an interview with The Australian that the ECAA survey was a grave warning from Chinese students. She said that while there are a lot of uncertainties in their minds, there is also an increased risk of an exodus of Chinese students in Australian universities.
Thomson further stated that if a significant number of Chinese students will enroll in other foreign universities because they can’t travel to Australia, it’s going to be a major loss for the students, the universities in Australia, and the economy as well.
On Thursday night, the Australian prime minister said that he was very keen on the possible economic impacts that his decision to extend the travel ban in the country because of the virus. However, he reasoned that he had to act primarily based on the best medical advice, especially for the majority of Australian people.
Prime minister Morrison said that the government’s primary responsibility is the health and overall wellbeing of Australians.
Meanwhile, economists previously warned that the brunt of the spreading coronavirus, plus the crisis due to the recent bushfire, poses a high risk that could effectively lead Australia into going down to negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the first three months of 2020.
Further, the tourism business is continuing to experience the negative effects of these issues. With the analysis was done by Andy Jiang, the former executive at the Tourism Australia, showed that it is doubtful that any of the canceled flights between China and Australia because of the virus epidemic would be restored even after six months after the travel ban will be revoked.
With the imposed travel ban and flights canceled between the two countries, the number of Chinese services to Australia was reduced to just 20 from its 164 per week.
Around 100,000 Chinese students expected to enroll in Australian universities during the first semester of this year are also stranded in China. With the possible exodus of Chinese students due to the travel ban, Australian universities are looking to around a $2 billion loss.
The major competitors of the country for Chinese students are Britain and Canada, which have no travel ban imposed on Chinese travelers, although they require 14 days of self-quarantine for travelers from China’s Hubei province.
Meanwhile, prime minister Morrison is open to additional assistance for Australian universities and other parts of the economy that are gravely affected by the travel ban.
Mr. Morrison stated that they are making efforts closely with Australian universities, with around four to six weeks left before the time when the travel ban that prevents Chinese students from enrolling will impact the entire year.
He said that the university sector had put several measures in place, such as online learning and other similar things that will help address the travel ban affecting Chinese students for now. Meanwhile, the prime minister cited that financial assistance packages to the sector are not methods that they are seeking at the moment and not measures that are also in the near future.
However, there is still increasing anxiety in the higher education sector in the country about the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak on Australian campuses. Thompson said that the recent virus is impacting Australian universities more than the last SARS epidemic in 2002 ever did.
Phil Honeywood, the president of Australia’s International Education Association, said that the coronavirus travel ban extension is pushing Australian universities to start this academic year much later than normal.
Meanwhile, business groups expressed warnings that the travel ban extension could further increase the damage that was already done to the tourism and retail sector. Major banks have also predicted negative economic growth for the country for the first quarter, the first one for Australia since 2011.