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Parents beg Australian Government to rescue kids from coronavirus epicentre

Parents of children who have been stranded in China since the spread of COVID-19 are pleading with the Australian government to help bring them home.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has confirmed that 22 Australian children remain in China's Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak.

One of those children is just eight months old and has missed crucial six-month immunisations that would protect her from other deadly diseases, ABC News reports.

Yi Xu, from Melbourne, said his daughter Chloe was staying with her grandmother in the Chinese city of Wuhan, but his fear of her becoming infected was escalating the more time she stayed there.

“I worry about their living conditions,” he told the ABC, urging the government to act urgently to save his daughter and other children still trapped overseas.

“The Australian Government should think about taking care of them. Think about their welfare, do think about their human rights,” he said.

Yi Xu said his eight-month-old daughter has missed her immunisations. Source: ABC News
Yi Xu said his eight-month-old daughter has missed her immunisations. Source: ABC News

Another parent Selina Liao based in Sydney, said she was desperate to get her nine-year-old daughter Theresa home, saying she had been living out of a small apartment for two-and-a-half months.

She was particularly panicked due to the lack of medical resources and it becoming increasingly difficult to access food supplies.

Ms Liao begged authorities to “get her out of there”.

In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was continuing to advise that children should remain in China with family.

“This is a complex situation in the difficult circumstances of a serious global outbreak. It was discussed in detail at Senate estimates this week, where consular officials outlined the significant challenges associated with travel to and from Wuhan and Hubei Province.

“We are aware of a number of Australian children who remain in Wuhan with family, but who have no immediate Australian citizen or permanent resident guardian to accompany them home.

Theresa Liao, 9, has been living in an apartment in Wuhan for 10 weeks. Source: ABC News
Theresa Liao, 9, has been living in an apartment in Wuhan for 10 weeks. Source: ABC News

“Though the children remain with family and are being well cared for, we understand this is distressing for their parents and family in Australia.

“We have consistently advised that children in this situation should remain with their family and friends while China’s strict travel restrictions for Wuhan and Hubei are in place. They should follow the advice of local authorities. Wuhan and Hubei province remain subject to travel restrictions by Chinese authorities.

“Australia has no plans for further assisted departure flights.”

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 100,000 people and killed over 3,400, the vast majority of them in China.

In Australia, as of Saturday, there have been 64 confirmed cases.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday estimated the coronavirus outbreak could cost Australian taxpayers about $1 billion in health spending.

Parents say their kids' access to food supplies in Wuhan is diminishing. Source: AP
Parents say their kids' access to food supplies in Wuhan is diminishing. Source: AP

Another doomed cruise

Four more Australians have been caught up in yet another cruise ship emergency, this time off the coast of California.

Passengers aboard the Grand Princess mammoth cruise ship are awaiting coronavirus test results amid evidence the vessel was the breeding ground for a deadly cluster of cases during its previous voyage.

A US military helicopter on Thursday, local time, lowered test kits onto the 290-metre ship by rope and later retrieved them for analysis as the vessel waited off San Francisco, under orders to keep its distance from shore.

Princess Cruises said 45 of the more than 3,500 people on board were tested.

Health officials are trying to establish whether the virus is circulating on the Grand Princess undertook the testing after reporting that a passenger on a previous voyage of the ship, in February, died of the disease.

In the past few days, health authorities disclosed that at least six other people who were on the same excursion were also found to be infected. And some passengers from that trip stayed on board for the current voyage.

"The ship will not come on shore until we appropriately assess the passengers," California Governor Gavin Newsom said.

The Grand Princess cruise liner as a National Guard helicopter delivers Covid-19 test-kits to the ship, off the coast of California. Source: AAP
The Grand Princess cruise liner as a National Guard helicopter delivers Covid-19 test-kits to the ship, off the coast of California. Source: AAP

Depending on what they find, authorities could order a quarantine of all or some of those on board.

Another Princess cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, was quarantined for two weeks in Yokohama, Japan, last month because of the virus. Ultimately about 700 of the 3,700 people aboard became infected in what experts pronounced a public-health failure, with the vessel essentially becoming a floating germ factory.

James Kwan, 78, was the first Australian to die from the virus after contracting it while on board the Diamond Princess.

He was evacuated alongside his wife, Theresa, from the cruise ship, which they were on board with their son and his wife.

Confirmed case in teen

Epping Boys High School was shut down on Friday and could be closed for a fortnight after a 16-year-old male student tested positive, bringing the number of confirmed cases in NSW to 28.

Authorities don't yet know how the boy contracted the disease, although he is the son of a healthcare worker at Ryde Hospital who treated a 53-year-old doctor with coronavirus.

A second aged care worker and a further three residents have been infected at Dorothy Henderson Lodge, in Macquarie Park, where earlier in the week a 95-year-old woman died from the virus.

Restricted overseas travel

Travel bans have been extended to include South Korea, along with China and Iran.

People flying in from Italy will undergo advanced screening for the virus before being allowed entry into Australia.

The Morrison government has committed to a 50-50 funding deal with the states and territories to pay half the additional costs incurred by handling the coronavirus

An immediate $100 million advance payment will be delivered, on a population basis, to the states and territories.

With AAP

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