Dozens of Australian children remain trapped in Hubei province due to the coronavirus. Image by EPA PHOTO

Government Services

Dozens of Aussie kids in virus-hit Hubei

2020-03-06 10:20:14

Dozens of Australian children are still stuck in the Chinese province of Hubei, where the deadly coronavirus originated.

There are 22 unaccompanied children aged under two, along with five infants who have their parents with them.

Another 60 Australian children aged between two and 16 remain trapped in Hubei with relatives or carers. 

The youngest unaccompanied Australian child in Hubei is eight months old.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the government is focused on their welfare, but has tempered expectation of another evacuation flight.

“It’s not something we are ignoring, not at all, but it is not in the immediate prospect that there will be a further flight,” she told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday.

China has not allowed Australia to help evacuate children with relatives who are not Australian citizens.

DFAT secretary Frances Adamson said Australia had sought to “test the system” from the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, but Chinese authorities had consistently refused.

Strict travel restrictions imposed by China are another major factor behind the limited prospect of further evacuation flights.

“We have not given a time frame because it is beyond our control,” DFAT official Andrew Todd told senators.

DFAT has been in contact with 119 Australian citizens and 236 permanent residents still in Hubei.

The 355 people have expressed interest in Australian government support, including possible evacuations.