Countries have, in recent years, started up programmes where university students can spend some time abroad studying at a university in another country. In general, students opt for spending a semester or two abroad after which they return home and get their degrees in their home country, and many students also go back for the holidays to see their families.
The Novel Coronavirus has, however, thrown a spanner in the works for many people studying abroad. Students who study in China have been warned that it is better for them to stay in China than it is to risk infecting anyone in their home countries if they go home. Likewise, many countries have started putting travel bans on anyone who came from or travelled through China since the outbreak
Australia, with our already strict travel and immigration regulations, is a notable example of such a travel ban. Since February 1st, no one travelling from China or anyone who was in China recently will be allowed into the country, presumably until the Coronavirus is brought under control. The ban specifically targets people who have been to or passed through mainland China in the preceding 14 days.
This is dire news for the roughly two million Chinese students in the country, with students currently outside of Australia not being able to enrol in a university in Australia until the ban is lifted. Many thousands of Chinese students who are not able to go home for fear of being denied re-entry to the country when they return for the semester.
The Australian government stands to lose billions of dollars with this decision, both in money that would have come to their higher education institutions and funds that would be brought into Australia by tourists. The government is receiving criticism over the ban but have stood their ground saying that the ban will be reviewed on February 15th. Without any more information about the nature of this virus, the ban will likely be extended further and further into the future.
This is a complicated issue to deal with because both sides of the coin are rational actors who are making good points for their cases. The Australian government wants to avoid a catastrophe by stopping people who might be ill from entering the country. If they decided to risk it and keep their borders open, they could cause many of their people to get infected, which puts their control on the populace and the viral outbreak in jeopardy.
But one might also see the plight of the Chinese students. People are being cut off from their families, and they are cut off from their future because they cannot complete their degrees. They have no idea how long this ban will hang over their heads, and they cannot make any adequate plans because the Australian government can at any point to lift the ban or make it even more strict.