Coronavirus update: China to close borders, Russia wants sanctions freeze, Australians in South America to get flight home


March 27, 2020 05:25:50

As China records fewer new cases of coronavirus, it’s temporarily shutting itself to all foreigners from Saturday to halt further spread of the virus.

This comes as G20 leaders, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, joined a video conference call to discuss the bloc’s response to COVID-19 and its economic effects — and Russia wants the suspension of sanctions to be part of this.

As this happened overnight, the Federal Government confirmed it would help repatriate Australians stranded in Peru and Uruguay due to border closures.

This story is being updated regularly throughout the day. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.

Thursday’s key moments

  • China closing its borders on Saturday as international flights get clipped
  • Russia’s Vladimir Putin want sanctions suspended amid COVID-19
  • The Federal Government is going to repatriate hundreds of Australians trapped in South America
  • New York says its hospitals will be overwhelmed in any coronavirus modelling scenario
  • Coronavirus makes Europe hit pause on its open-border Schengen zone
  • State-by-state numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases

China to close borders to foreigners on Saturday

China’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that Beijing will ban the entry of foreigners with valid Chinese visas and residence permits starting on Saturday, March 28.

The central government also sharply cut the number of flights in and out of the country out of concern that travellers from overseas could reignite the coronavirus outbreak that paralysed the country for two months.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said it had directed Chinese airlines to maintain only one route to any country and limit the number of flights to one per week, effective March 29.

The authority also ordered foreign airlines to reduce their international routes to China to one per week and only operate one route into the country.

Around 80 per cent of international flights were already being cancelled prior to the announcement, but Chinese airlines had been asked not to cut their international routes until Thursday’s order by the CAAC.

China also will temporarily suspend the entry of foreigners with valid Chinese visas and residence permits starting on March 28, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

Beijing is keen to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus epidemic that emerged in the south-eastern city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has killed almost 3,300 Chinese citizens to date.

Putin wants sanctions suspended amid COVID-19

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has called for countries to lift sanctions and stop trade wars to ensure essential supplies can reach all nations while the COVID-19 pandemic rages.

Mr Putin urged the leaders of the world’s 20 most developed economies, the group of countries known as the G20, to take drastic steps at an emergency summit held via videoconference.

China’s President Xi Jinping agreed, with the pandemic giving weight to China’s criticism of the United States’ “trade war”.

“I want to call on all G20 members to take collective actions — cutting tariffs, removing barriers, and facilitating the unfettered flow of trade,” he said.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres — who had already called for a global ceasefire — also said sanctions should be waived.

The G20 was meant to be held in Saudi Arabia, but the coronavirus forced world leaders to join the chair, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz al Saud, in a meeting over the internet.

The G20 led the response to the global financial crisis just over a decade ago and its members promised to work together again to fight the virus outbreak.

Some countries, such as the UK, promised more money for research into a vaccine, while the G20 as a whole broadly pledged more support for international agencies such as the World Health Organisation.

The International Monetary Fund has asked the G20 to double the amount available for emergency financing.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told the summit 80 countries have already asked for help.

Canberra to repatriate Australians in South America

The Australian Government is facilitating commercial charter flights to bring hundreds of Australians home from Peru and Uruguay over the coming days.

This comes as coronavirus lockdowns were enforced which halted all outbound commercial flights.

The Federal Government is working closely with Australian travel company “Chimu Adventures” to manage operations out of Cusco and Lima in Peru and Montevideo in Uruguay.

The flight from Lima is expected to depart within days and will carry more than 260 Australian nationals and permanent residents back home.

The flight from Montevideo will collect Australians from the Ocean Atlantic cruise ship as well as any other Australians who wish to return home.

Additional flights are already being planned for Australians in South America.

New York’s hospitals will be overwhelmed, no matter what

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told a news conference on Thursday (local time) that almost any realistic scenario in the coronavirus outbreak will overwhelm the state’s existing hospital capacity and that it was adding to capacity wherever it could.

Mr Cuomo said the goal was to get to 140,000 hospital bed capacity from the current 53,000 available and that authorities were scouting new sites to build temporary facilities.

“The goal is to have 1,000 plus bed overflow facility in each county,” he said.

New York City has more than 19,700 active coronavirus cases, with 280 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

There have been no recoveries to date.

Europe celebrates 25 years of open borders with closed ones

The European Union has marked the 25th anniversary of its Schengen open-border policy today, with internal land borders shut or subject to heavy checks imposed in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The Schengen agreement, underpinning an increasingly integrated and united Europe, came into force on March 26, 1995.

It initially abolished checks at frontiers between France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain and Portugal.

In the following months and years others joined, and today the Schengen zone has 26 members, including non-EU nations Switzerland and Norway.

But on its 25th anniversary, the agreement is virtually suspended because of the coronavirus, which has frozen most economic and social activity, disrupted supply chains, and forced swathes of Europeans to sit idle at home.

This has resulted in many EU member states including Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Czechia and Hungary instituting complete or partial border closures.

State-by-state numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases

There have been 2,809 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, including 13 deaths. (These numbers were last updated at 10:41pm AEDT on Thursday, March 26).

  • NSW: 1,219
  • Victoria: 520
  • Queensland: 493
  • South Australia: 235
  • Western Australia: 231
  • ACT: 53
  • Tasmania: 47
  • NT: 12


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March 27, 2020 05:24:38

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