Australia will extend its ban on travellers from China for a further week, to February 29.

In a joint press release, the Morrison Government confirmed it had extended the travel restrictions on overseas visitors entering Australia from China.

“The protection and safety of Australians is our highest priority,” the statement said.

In the statement released on Thursday afternoon, the government said the National Security Committee of Cabinet had decided to continue the ban due to continuing coronavirus infections in mainland China.

Foreign nationals, not including permanent residents of Australia, who have been in mainland China will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they left the mainland.

The government said the decision had been guided by the expert medical advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, made up of the Commonwealth’s Chief Medical Officer and chief medical officers from each state and territory.

China has described the ban as a “wave of panic, over-reaction and racism” and has blasted Australia’s treatment of its students, who have been left in limbo.

China’s coronavirus epidemic could also cost Australia an estimated $12 billion, with the education and tourism sectors to bear the brunt of the fallout.

Analysis from The Australian revealed the country’s top 10 universities are especially vulnerable and stand to lose $1.2 billion in fees from about 65,800 Chinese students who are at risk of cancelling their first semester courses.

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While Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advised there are signs the spread of the coronavirus in Chinese provinces outside Hubei province was slowing, “we will need to watch closely whether this positive trend continues as people return to work after the holidays,” the statement said.

“Unfortunately, the number of infections and deaths in Hubei province itself continues to grow.”

The AHPPC has also advised that the number of cases in Australia remains at 15, indicating the precautionary approach to preventing the spread of coronavirus on our shores continue to be successful.

Australian citizens and permanent residents will still be able to return to Australia, as will their immediate family members (spouses, legal guardians and dependants only).

“We continue to require Australian citizens, permanent residents and their families who have been in mainland China from 1 February 2020, and who return Australia, to self-isolate for 14 days from the time they left mainland China,” the statement said.

“People who have been in contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus must also self-isolate for 14 days from the time they were in contact with that person.”

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