By BIANCA BARDEN
JANUARY 29. 2020
The first priority of any government is to look after the welfare of its own citizens.
From the very beginning of the Coronarvirus outbreak, Australian citizens were calling on the Australian government to halt all planes coming from China. The government answered that call with a weak 'we'll allow them to come, BUT we will hand out flyers to those on board, alerting them to the possibility that they may be infected and what action they should take should they develop symptoms'. Most Australians' saw this action as an inadequate response to what has now been admitted by the government as a possible pandemic.
Since then the amount of people infected has risen significantly, as has the death toll.
People are naturally concerned, especially with this week being the first week of the school term, where kids are returning to school with kids that may have traveled to China over the Christmas/New Year/Lunar Year period.
The government has once again responded to the concern of the Australian public. Not by halting all planes from China, nor by quarantining those that have already returned from China, but by simply asking that those that have spent time in China over the holiday period keep their children home from school for a two week period. Asking. You read right. The government is not enforcing the request, just asking nicely that those involved follow the governments request.
In response to the government request, schools have taken it upon themselves to refuse entry to those that have traveled to China from their schools for the two week incubation period, as a way of protecting all of the kids in their schools, not just some of them, only to find themselves now chastised by the federal Minister of Education, Dan Tehan.
Tehan wants schools to allow these students to come to school until they start coughing and spluttering all over their classmates. He warns schools which don’t take his advice “will have to answer to state and territory governments”, which sounds almost fascist.
Federal and state health departments have advised people who have been in contact with an infected person not to attend school, but said that others who have been to China and are showing no symptoms do not need to be isolated.
Health authorities confirmed on Monday that one international student, a Chinese woman studying at the University of NSW, had the virus.
In a statement, UNSW said the woman "did not attend any classes at the university and stayed on her own in campus accommodation with no close contact before she was admitted to hospital".
International education is Australia's third largest export market, worth $37 billion annually.
The education sector is already concerned about taking a financial hit from the severe bushfires, which are still ongoing, and which have dented Australia's image as a clean and safe destination to study.
Tourism Australia is yet another industry already facing a significant impact due to the bushfires, which will only be exacerbated by a hit to the tourism dollar should planes be restricted from landing in Australia.
Tourism Research Australia says more than 1.3 million Chinese — excluding children — visited Australia last year, accounting for more than 15 per cent of the total inbound market, and spent $11.5 billion.
"We want to make sure that we are continuing to send a message that Australia is open for international students, whether it be for our schools, our universities, our vocational providers or private higher education providers," he said.
Between the education sector and tourism industry, that's a whopping $46.5 billion in potential revenue loss.
It is any wonder then that our federal Minister of Education is keen to ensure the continual arrival of visitors from China. Our government has spent the last week telling its citizens that they are equipped to handle such a pandemic. Their actions have shown us that 'yes they are', just at the possible expense of its own citizens.
And if current polls are anything to go by, Australians are far from happy with the current response of the government.