Photo: The Federal Government's extended travel ban is due to expire on February 22. (Getty Images: PHILIP FONG/AFP)
The Federal Government insists it had no choice but to extend a travel ban in a bid to reduce the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Australia is facing criticism from China over the decision it made late on Thursday to extend the travel ban to at least February 22.
The Chinese Embassy in Canberra has criticised the decision, urging the Government to lift the ban as soon as possible.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said while he understood China's concerns, the Government acted on medical advice it received from Australia's chief medical officer (CMO).
"Of course we want to work very closely with the Chinese Government but our responsibility is to make sure that we keep Australians safe," he told Channel Nine.
"The advice from the CMO yesterday, who met with all of the CMOs from the states and territories, was clear and that is that the travel ban should be extended."
The ban prevents people coming from mainland China to Australia unless they are Australian citizens or permanent residents.
China's Ambassador to Australia was spotted at Parliament House multiple times in the days leading up to Thursday's decision to extend the travel ban.
His embassy, in a statement, expressed its "deep regret and dissatisfaction" at the travel ban extension.
An initial 14-day travel ban was due to end on Saturday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that authorities would review the ban on a weekly basis, in conjunction with advice from health officials.
"It's a big problem," Mr Dutton said on Friday morning.
"The numbers are now over 60,000 and 1,370 deaths as at this morning. But we will assess it week by week and we will do what's in our country's best interest."
The number of confirmed cases in Australia remains at 15, with five of those people having made a recovery.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has advised Australians not to travel to China, having asked those who have returned from the country to self-isolate for 14 days.
The travel restrictions apply to the Chinese mainland only, and the Australian Government has not included the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau in the travel ban.
Australia's deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said an increase in Chinese reports of coronavirus on Thursday was a factor in the advice health officials provided to the Federal Government.
"There was a large number of cases increase in the reporting yesterday, mostly from Hubei Province," Professor Kelly told the ABC.
"We've found out overnight that was, in fact, a catch-up of several weeks of cases, and a slight change to the case definition.
"However, there still is an ongoing epidemic, particularly in Hubei Province. But several of the other provinces in China are also finding cases, and transmission from people to people, and this is of our concern."
The Australian Tourism Industry Council believes the financial impact of the coronavirus will be worse than that caused by the summer's devastating bushfires.
Universities reaching out to stranded students
The university sector estimates there are 100,000 international students stranded in China, unable to get to Australia.
Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said the education sector was not surprised the Government had extended the ban.
She said some universities had changed their term dates, while others were offering distant study options.
"We're extending as many options to them as we possibly can, with the central aim of giving them some sort of certainty," Ms Jackson said.
"These students are in a very difficult situation and are clearly really stressed.
"They are not sure what is happening in terms of health in their own country and the overwhelming feeling we get is they are just desperate to get back here and get back on with their education and we will welcome them back absolutely with open arms the moment it is safe to do so."