Border force will be able to provide case by case exemptions for the travel restrictions, paying particular consideration of year 11 and 12 secondary students from mainland China.
“The advice received is that COVID-19 has been contained in Australia”
The exemptions won’t apply for students who come from Hubei province where there is continuing growth in both coronavirus cases and deaths.
The decision comes after The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advised that current containment measures need continual review for proportionality.
In a statement, Federal Health minister, Greg Hunt, outlined AHPPC’s reasons for easing the travel restrictions.
“All governments have received advice from medical experts, the chief health and medical officers of all states, territories and the commonwealth,” he explained.
“The advice received is that COVID-19 has been contained in Australia, with no new cases in the general population in the last week.
“In addition, the advice that comes from the medical officers goes on, ‘there has been an apparent slowing in case numbers in other provenances of mainland China, suggestive of better containment.’
“So in short, what we have seen is a reduction from over 700 cases a day outside of Hubei across mainland China, down to below 70,” said Hunt.
Hunt explained that as a result of this “very important international development backed up by what we have seen in Australia” the AHPPC has recommended to the federal government and to all of the governments that the ability of border force to provide case by case exemptions be continued.
He noted that there will be a “limited number of cases on a double green light basis”.
“The commonwealth has to approve and each state and territory has to approve, but this advice from the health officials has been unanimous.
“It has been accepted by the commonwealth and the states, and then it will be up to each individual state to adhere to the circumstances,” he said.
Since the announcement, the Australian government has expressed its concern over community transmission in a number of countries.
This includes South Korea and Japan, where there has been a rapid rise in case numbers, as well as Italy and Iran.
In a press conference, chief medical officer for the Australian government, Brendan Murphy, said that a temporary lift on the travel ban for the tertiary students will be considered later this week on the basis of what is happening in China’s provinces (excluding Hubei).
Murphy said that the safety of tens of thousands of Chinese students being let into the country would depend on the risk of transmission from those provinces.
“At the moment, we’re talking about outbreaks of less than 2000 in provinces of many, many millions, and there hasn’t been, at this stage, more than a handful of cases that have been exported around the world from provinces other than Hubei.
“So we look at all of that data and we’ll make a recommendation to government,” he said.