Desperate parents are urging the Morrison Government to evacuate dozens of Australian children who are still stuck in the Chinese province of Hubei, where the deadly coronavirus originated.
There are 22 unaccompanied children aged under two in the province, along with five infants who have their parents with them.
Another 60 Australian children aged between two and 16 remain trapped in Hubei with relatives or carers.
The youngest unaccompanied Australian child in Hubei is eight months old.
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Melbourne father Yi Xu told the ABC he has been separated from his daughter, Chloe, who is “almost eight months old”. She has been living with her grandmother in lockdown in Wuhan.
Mr Xu said he felt “desperation and very, very deep worry” about the current situation.
“I worry about their living conditions,” he said.
“These kids, including Chloe, are Australian babies,” he said.
“The Australian Government should think about taking care of them.
“Think about their welfare, do think about their human rights.”
He told the broadcaster the Chinese government was sending supplies to residents, but Chloe’s grandmother risked exposure every time she left the house to pick up the supplies.
Selina Liao feels helpless in Sydney as her nine-year-old daughter Theresa is stuck, locked down in Wuhan with her grandparents.
“It’s been so desperate,” the mother told the ABC. “Get her out of there.
“We can’t get enough food for her at this moment, also we don’t have medical resources.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the government is focused on their welfare, but has tempered expectation of another evacuation flight.
“It’s not something we are ignoring, not at all, but it is not in the immediate prospect that there will be a further flight,” she told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday.
China has not allowed Australia to help evacuate children with relatives who are not Australian citizens.
DFAT secretary Frances Adamson said Australia had sought to “test the system” from the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, but Chinese authorities had consistently refused.
Strict travel restrictions imposed by China are another major factor behind the limited prospect of further evacuation flights.
“We have not given a time frame because it is beyond our control,” DFAT official Andrew Todd told senators.
DFAT has been in contact with 119 Australian citizens and 236 permanent residents still in Hubei.
The 355 people have expressed interest in Australian government support, including possible evacuations.