Govt defends ‘modest’ China traveller rules

Australia puts rules on travellers from China

Health Minister Mark Butler says Australia welcomes renewed travel with China despite slapping entry requirements on people arriving from the mainland.

Travellers from China will have to return a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of departure from Thursday as cases spike after Beijing dismantled virus restrictions.

Mr Butler said he welcomed China opening its borders and allowing citizens to travel again, with a spike in travellers expected in Australia.

He said it was “a very modest, balanced decision”.

“I know that hundreds of thousands of Australians of Chinese descent, in particular, are particularly looking forward to the opportunity to reunite with family and friends,” he told Seven’s Sunrise on Monday.

“This is a very positive development, but we need to ensure that we have the information we need to protect the health of Australians.”

British health data firm Airfinity estimates COVID deaths in China will peak towards the end of January at 25,000 a day and daily cases will peak at 3.7 million in the next fortnight.

The World Health Organisation has expressed concern about the transparency of data coming from Beijing, making it harder to get an accurate handle on case numbers and deaths.

The Business Council of Australia has warned against a “retreat” on freedoms and the move to living with the virus.

Mr Butler said he didn’t agree with the assertion.

“I’m very confident that is not going to be a deal breaker for people,” he said.

The US, Britain, France, India, Japan, Malaysia, Spain and South Korea have all imposed similar measures on travellers arriving from China.

China’s foreign ministry has criticised the move, despite also requiring a negative test to enter the mainland.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin has said “authoritative medical experts from different countries have said that entry restrictions on travellers arriving from China are unnecessary”.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said it was a sensible measure that didn’t mean Chinese students couldn’t return to start or continue their studies.


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