China expresses ‘regret’ over Australia’s virus travel ban

Morrison announced the ban on Thursday. (Reuters pic)

CANBERRA: Australia’s decision to ban people from entering the country from mainland China until at least Feb 22 due to the coronavirus outbreak is causing renewed friction with its largest trading partner.

After Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday announced the restriction, originally due to expire on Saturday, would be in place for at least an extra week, the Chinese Embassy in Canberra issued a statement expressing its “deep regret and dissatisfaction”.

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

“China has taken the most comprehensive and rigorous prevention and control measures, many of which far exceed the requirements of the International Health Regulations and WHO recommendations.”

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

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned the nation – the world’s most China-dependent developed economy – faces a “significant” impact to its bottom line in sectors including tourism, education and agriculture.

More than 50 countries or territories have imposed travel restrictions and tightened visa requirements to contain the novel coronavirus this month, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Ties between Beijing and Canberra have been strained in recent years, after Australia – a strong ally of the US – banned Huawei Technologies Ltd from building its 5G network and passed anti-foreign interference laws that aim to stop meddling in its government, media and universities.