‘‘Typically we ask people to quarantine themselves for 14 days after arriving in Australia. In this instance we’re going to work very closely with her to ensure that she can nevertheless see her son and properly take care of the funeral arrangements and other issues which she needs to deal with.’’
Mr Tudge said government officials were liaising with Mr Li’s mother, Xing Lang Ren, to bring her to Australia as soon as possible. It is unclear whether she will be on a chartered flight or join a regular flight from her home in Qingdao, about 1000km east of Wuhan, the virus epicetnre.
‘‘So I’m pleased with that result, I think it’s a compassionate outcome for her,’’ said Mr Tudge.
“She will no doubt be very seriously grieving and certainly our thoughts are with her.”
Ms Ren applied for an Australian visa on January 29, paying a total of $1145 to fast-track her application with a normal response time of two business days.
Less than 72 hours later, on February 1, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the minimum 14-day ban on foreign nationals travelling from mainland China.
Ms Ren, a labourer from Qingdao, in Shandong province, borrowed the money for the visa application from a relative.
Shandong province has recorded 379 cases of coronavirus, with no fatalities so far.
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, which doctors said would help 10 Australians.
“His mother [made] a very, very difficult decision, because you know in China, when people pass away they would keep their body,” Mr Yuan said.
Mr Tudge said when the travel ban was imposed on February 1, the Australian Border Force Commissioner was given the power to grant exemptions in individual cases
“Obviously the balance here … was the desire for her to be able to come out here to see her son and cater for his funeral arrangements while at the same time not jeopardising the broader health of the Australian population,” he said.
“We can manage this though.”
The Australian government has indicated the travel ban will likely be extended beyond February 15 and coronavirus symptoms can stay hidden for up to 14 days.
However Mr Tudge said Ms Ren’s arrival would be “very carefully” managed.
“Obviosuly we’d be guided by medical evidence in relation to this so that there isn’t a risk to Australian people … I think the Australian public would understand that this is an exceptional case, but we will manage it carefully, so the Australian public is nevertheless safe as well.”
The minister denied Ms Ren’s visa would set a precedent for other Chinese visitors, and said he was not aware of any other compassionate requests.
“Every individual case will be dealt with on [its] merits,” he said.
It was also confirmed on Friday that Mr Li is covered by Victorian road insurance, meaning he has unlimited medical and hospital cover.
Ms Ren can also claim up to about $24,000 in visiting expenses and almost $16,000 in funeral expenses.
Mr Tudge revealed about 8.30am on Friday that the government was considering granting the exemption.
Michael is a reporter for The Age.