Australia on Thursday announced a ban on travellers from China would extend for at least a week beyond Saturday’s planned deadline, as the death toll from the deadly coronavirus soared. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would maintain “entry restriction on foreign nationals who have recently been in mainland China” for further week “to protect Australians from the risk of coronavirus”. A decision to extend the ban further will be taken week-to-week, he said. The decision is a blow to Australian tourism operators who have seen business from Chinese visitors dry up. Australian tourism relies on Chinese visitors for a quarter of international spending. Nearly 1.5 million Chinese nationals visited Australia in 2018-19, Australian Bureau of Statistics records show, accounting for about one in eight arrivals. With Chinese tourists spending about A$12 billion (US$8 billion) in Australia each year, according to Tourism Research Australia, every month the travel ban remains in place could amount to billion-dollar losses for the sector. There are also tens of thousands of Chinese students hoping to return to Australia for the new academic year. Australian universities, some of which rely on Chinese students for nearly one-quarter of their revenue, are bracing to take a major financial hit due to the ban. About 150,000 Chinese nationals are enrolled at Australian universities, making up around 11 per cent of the student population – a far greater proportion than in Britain and the US. China’s official death toll and infection numbers from a new coronavirus spiked dramatically on Thursday after authorities changed their counting methods, fuelling concern the epidemic is far worse than being reported. ‘We’re like cash cows’: stranded Chinese students upset after Australia’s coronavirus travel ban The virus has now officially killed more than 1,350 people in China and the World Health Organisation has warned the disease has not yet peaked. “I just want to assure all Australians, that we are doing everything we can to keep Australians safe at this time, and to ensure that we are mitigating everything that is possible to address any of the threats,” Morrison said. Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.