Ms Ren, a labourer from Qingdao on China’s eastern seaboard about 1000 kilometres from the disease’s epicentre in Wuhan, borrowed the money for the visa application from a relative. Mr Li’s friends say she is yet to receive a response.
With the travel ban almost certain to be extended beyond February 15, acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said on Friday morning that the Australian Border Force was urgently considering granting Ms Ren entry to Australia.
“Obviously it is not a straightforward situation when we have this ban in place,” he told ABC radio.
“The ban is in place for a reason, having said that we want to exercise whatever compassionate consideration that we can, in order to enable her to get here as quickly as possible without putting the Australian public at any risk from the coronavirus.”
Friends of Xiao Li have contacted federal MP Gladys Liu, pleading for the government to make an exception to the travel ban, and Mr Tudge said the case had come to his attention in the past 24 hours.
“I’ve been advised the Australian Border Force Commissioner is actually examining the case this morning,” he said.
“Our cabinet has given him the discretion to be able to make decisions such as these when there is overwhelming compassion and consideration that needs to be brought to bear, while at the same time not putting the Australian public at risk.
Mr Tudge said the Commissioner, Michael Outram, had permission from the national security committee to make exemptions to the travel ban but Australian authorities will “have to be assured that there will be no health risks to other Australians from her coming here”.
“She’s not in the infected province, so that’s the first step, but nevertheless they will still have to be assured that nobody else will be put at risk,” he said.
Angus Yuan, a friend of Xiao Li who has been visiting him at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, said Ms Ren on Thursday granted permission for her son’s organs to be donated.
Mr Li’s friends say he did not have insurance, complicating the possible return of his body to China.
Michael is a reporter for The Age.