Less than 72 hours later, on February 1, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia’s minimum two-week ban on foreign arrivals from mainland China due to coronavirus fears.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt warned the ban would almost certainly be extended beyond February 15, and Jeff, a close friend of Mr Li , who is known as “Link” in Australia, says “we have no solutions to help her now”.
“Link’s mother is a labourer in China, she had no money to apply for a visa or get flight tickets. All the money was borrowed from her cousin,” Jeff, 30, told The Age.
Ms Ren is yet to receive a response to her visa application said Jeff, who did not want his surname published.
“His mother would apply for a visa, then come here. That was our plan. But coronavirus stopped everything.”
On January 29, before the travel ban, a Royal Melbourne Hospital doctor wrote a signed letter of support for the visa application of Ms Ren and her brother, Shi Luming.
“[Mr Li] is in a critical condition on life support in the intensive care unit. It is therefore important that his family are present at his bedside during this difficult time,” it read.
“I hope therefore you can offer his mother and uncle all due consideration for their urgent visa application so they can fly to Melbourne as soon as possible.”
Coronavirus cases continue to increase worldwide, with 24,630 confirmed instances and 494 deaths, including 14 cases in Australia. Mr Hunt said on Tuesday he expects the travel ban will go beyond February 15.
With no arrival window for Ms Ren in sight, Jeff said doctors called her on Wednesday to discuss Mr Li’s terminal condition.
“They asked her, ‘would you like to donate Link’s organs to 10 people?’. His mother said ‘yes, if it can help more people, I can accept it’. It was a nice gesture,” Jeff explained.
“We know his mother is very, very sad and cried for a very long time. She only has one son, and her husband died years ago. Without Link, she has nobody.”
Mr Li has been in Australia since May on a working-holiday visa. He has worked on farms in Queensland and East Gippsland, sending money home to his mother in Qingdao, on China’s eastern seaboard.
Since the accident, Mr Li’s friends have banded together to support him and his mother, setting up an online petition and this week contacting federal MP Gladys Liu in the hope of bringing Ms Ren to Australia despite the travel ban.
A Royal Melbourne Hospital spokeswoman said on Thursday that Mr Li was in a critical condition.
Jeff says Mr Li did not have insurance in Australia and he acknowledges doctors will need to turn Mr Li’s life support off “as soon as possible”.
“I think it will be very difficult for her to make it in time,” he said.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s office did not return calls.
Michael is a reporter for The Age.