The latest Australian case was confirmed on Tuesday night in Queensland, where authorities said an eight-year-old boy had been diagnosed with the virus.
The boy is a Chinese national from Wuhan, and was a member of the tour group travelling with a 44-year-old man and 42-year-old woman also diagnosed with the virus last week. All three are from Hubei province which is at the epicentre of the coronavirus in China.
The boy is in a stable condition in isolation at Gold Coast University Hospital with the man and woman.
In its first official public comments since the global health crisis began in January, the Chinese embassy said it was “not happy” about Australia’s sudden decision to shut its borders on February 1, leaving citizens who had been in the air at the time of the announcement scrambling to get flights back to China.
The Chinese embassy’s deputy head of mission, Wang Xining, said he understood the anxiety of the Australian government and society but measures taken in response to the epidemic “need to be reasonable”.
Mr Wang said up to 70 Chinese citizens were left stranded by the immediate travel ban on non-Australian residents and the embassy was given no notice of the decision, while the restriction on international students could have wide-ranging implications.
“We are not happy about this situation because there’s not enough time to be alerted about the restriction,” he said.
“At the same time, we are very concerned about the interests of the Chinese students who will not be able to come Australia over the next 12 days.
“We hope their rights and interests will be safeguarded, including proper expansion of visas and also maybe proper compensation for some of the financial losses during this period.”
Australian Department of Education figures released on Tuesday show more than 106,680 Chinese international students with visas to study at universities and schools remain stuck outside Australia, – 56 per cent of the entire cohort.
Mr Wang said the embassy’s Australian counterparts in the Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs departments had been “quite cooperative” but also offered a veiled criticism of the decision to issue the wider travel ban and the escalation to level four “do not travel” advice for all of mainland China.
“The World Health Organisation didn’t recommend any restrictions over international travel and trade,” he said. “Actually, it opposes such measures.”
A government source, who asked not to be identified because negotiations between the Chinese and Australian governments are confidential, said Australia was unlikely to offer compensation to affected travellers.
The government has been negotiating with Beijing to get a second Qantas flight into Wuhan by the weekend to evacuate some of the estimated 350 Australians still left in Hubei province. An Air New Zealand flight carrying up to 50 Australians was scheduled to take off on Tuesday evening, while a third Qantas flight to evacuate those left behind was also being considered.
The first Australian evacuees landed on Christmas Island in the early hours of Tuesday. One Australian resident being quarantined there said they were being used as “guinea pigs” for the other groups that will join them for a 14-day stay on the island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Gloria Zeng said the detention centre had a large grass field, a children’s playground and a library.
“The mobile phone network is very poor. Wifi is also only available in the office area, so there may be two or three people standing in a palm-sized area,” she said through Chinese social media service WeChat.
“The doors in the camp are not locked, but you cannot go out. The clothes are thick. The camp is big. You can’t get away 14 days.”
Ms Zeng said the evacuees had been served beans with eggs, pasta and a sausage for breakfast.
“The frequency of meals is high, but if you don’t like western food, there are problems,” she said.
Eryk Bagshaw is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra
Anthony is foreign affairs and national security correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.