High School Students Stuck In China Allowed To Return To Australia
Senior high school students from China will now be allowed to enter Australia, under an exemption to the travel ban aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Health Minister Greg Hunt on Saturday announced the travel ban will be lifted for some year 11 and 12 students from outside Hubei province, where the COVID-19 outbreak first occurred.
There are about 400 year 12 students and 360 year 11 students already enrolled in Australian schools who cannot enter the country due to travel restrictions.
These students can now apply for an exemption to the February 1, 2020 COVID-19 travel restrictions applied to foreign nationals who have been in mainland China.
Hunt said COVID-19 has been contained in Australia and the medical recommendation to the government is that the Australian Border Force (ABF) continue to provide case-by-case exemptions from mainland China.
"In particular, that should include consideration of year 11 and 12 secondary school students from mainland China, excluding Hubei," he said.
The students must be screened in China and upon landing in Australia and will be kept in isolation for 14 days, Hunt said.
The government is yet to make a decision regarding tertiary students from China being granted entry.
The exemption comes as Australia extended its ban on foreign travellers from China for another week, with the number of infections and deaths in the coronavirus epicentre of Hubei province continuing to grow.
China has reported over 75,000 cases of the virus to the World Health Organisation (WHO) including 2,239 deaths. In the past 24 hours, the country reported 892 new confirmed cases and 118 deaths.
Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said it was up to the government to consider the risks and benefits of allowing Chinese nationals entry into the country.
"At the moment our advice is that it should be maintained and reviewed in the next seven days," he said.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan thanked his state and territory counterparts for supporting this decision.
"It is incredibly important that we get some normality back to the international student market," the minister told reporters.
"At this stage we are looking at year 11 and 12 students but the medical advice has said in a week we could look at what would happen with tertiary education students."