China ban imposed as Aus moves to protect public

Australia has imposed a travel ban on all non-citizens coming from mainland China in an escalation of its efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Prime minister Scott Morrison announced the policy on Saturday following similar action from the US, Russia, Japan, Pakistan and Italy.

The ban closes the door on our biggest tourism market – more than 100,000 Chinese visitor Australia each month – putting at risk billions of dollars in revenue at a time when the industry is in dire need of stimulus following a horror bushfire season.

But the Accommodation Association has supported the temporary ban, arguing it sends a message to other international markets about Australia.

“While an unprecedented announcement, importantly this move reinforces that Australia is a safe destination with strong quarantine measures,” said CEO Dean Long.

“We will continue to work with government on measures to enforce border security, enhance safety and maintain our global reputation.  These are essential in supporting visitor economy growth.”

The death toll from the virus now stands at around 305 and infection rates have spiralled to total some 14,000 – although only around 100 cases have been identified outside of the Chinese mainland.

Australian citizens, permanent residents, their immediate family and air crews will be allowed back into the country but must self-isolate for 14 days after their return.

China has criticised the global travel bans and The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that closing borders could accelerate the spread of the virus as travellers look to enter countries unofficially.

“Travel restrictions can cause more harm than good by hindering info-sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies,” WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said last week.

The PM admitted on Saturday the move would come at an economic cost but said the government was focused on protecting the health of Australians.

“When it comes to the health and welfare, then that comes first,” he said.

“We could expect that to have an impact obviously on tourist arrivals for obvious reasons and the broader economic impacts of that. That is not our first concern at the moment but we are very mindful of it.”

Michael Johnson, COE of peak body Tourism Accommodation Australia, said there was “no doubt” the ban would have “a substantial impact on our tourism for months to come”.

 “We are in for a very difficult 2020 with both domestic and international markets in disarray,” he said.

Peter Shelley, managing director of the Tourism industry Export Council, agrees.

“The challenge was already huge with the closure of group tours last week, which had a significant flow-on to more independent travellers where members were receiving cancellations by the ‘truck load’ as the anxiety associated with catching the virus saw thousands re assessing their travel plans,” he told AccomNews.

 “This double-hit is significant, impacting many large and small tourism business across the country.”

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