Student spends $13K to return to college in Australia amid coronavirus travel ban

A Chinese college student shelled out more than $13,000 to get to school in Australia during a travel ban imposed by the country, according to a new report.

Karen Ji, who is studying law and commerce in Sydney, told the BBC she was distressed when she learned of the Australian government’s ban on arrivals from mainland China.

“I bought such an expensive ticket in order to come back, but the flight was canceled so I felt very angry and panicked,” she said.

Ji had to decide between missing the start of the university year — or spending thousands to fly to a third country, where she was required to remain quarantined for two weeks before heading to Australia.

She picked the latter, and ended up staying in Thailand for 16 days with her mother before flying to Australia — all to the tune of about $13,200 — so she could get to class in time.

“I still feel very tired because it took me so many days and cost me so much to come back again,” Ji told the BBC.

Other Chinese students have been unable to afford flights to third countries, leaving them stranded in China and unable to return in time for classes, according to the report.

Universities have offered up to nearly $5,000 in cash grants to help students in those situations.

“We did not take this decision lightly,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra after a national security committee meeting last month. “We are very mindful of the disruption and economic impacts of these arrangements.”

The Chinese embassy has slammed the ban and urged the Australian government to lift it as soon as possible.

“International students, we feel very angry about it,” Ji told the BBC. “We feel like it’s a betrayal to our international students.”

More than 200,000 Chinese students study at Australian universities — and many of them went home for Lunar New Year, The Age reported in late January.

“I know some Australian citizens are probably liking this travel ban, it is good for them, for their safety,” Ji said. “So I think it is very hard to judge the travel ban at this moment. I feel so happy that I can enter Australia for continuing my education.”

A total of 41 confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported in Australia as of Wednesday, according to the Department of Health. Twenty-one of these cases are reported to have recovered. One person who was previously on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship has died.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials are predicting victory over the coronavirus outbreak as the number of new cases remains on the downswing.

Mainland China saw 119 new confirmed cases of the bug on Tuesday — down slightly from 125 the previous day, according to the National Health Commission. The number of deaths rose by 38, bringing the total toll on the mainland to 2,981.

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