Gladys Liu’s message for Australia: ‘Don’t be scared’


“My message is to encourage people to go about their normal lives. Don’t be scared. There is nothing to panic about.”

The number of coronavirus deaths surged by 242 in China on Thursday, double the previous daily record, taking the total death toll past 1360 with 60,000 confirmed cases. In Japan, more than 200 Australians remain trapped aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. At least 12 Australians from the cruise ship have contracted the disease and are being treated in hospitals in Yokohama.

In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Ms Liu encouraged the broader Australian community to eat at Chinese establishments as many Chinese-Australians have been forced to self-isolate after returning visiting family for Lunar New Year celebrations in China.

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“Businesses are worried because customers are not coming, “she said. “The fact is that we have to put Australians safety as the top priority.”

The economy has also been hit by up to 100,000 international students being locked out of the country after the Morrison government introduced a 14-day ban on all non-Australian residents travelling from China entering the country.

Cabinet’s national security committee extended that travel ban by a week on Thursday. All tourists and students travelling from China will now not be able to enter Australia until at least February 22, potentially costing the tourism and education sectors billions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government “did not take that decison lightly”.

“My job is to protect the health of Australians,” he said. “The only message I have for China is one of sympathy and support.”

Ms Liu first came to Australia as an international student 35-years ago. She said she understood how the students were feeling.

“This is a very uncertain and difficult time for everyone,” she said. “The Minister has been discussing the best measures to lessen the impact of this virus, including options like online study.”

Ms Liu said she has known the owners of the Shark Fin House restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD for three decades and was “saddened” by its closure. The Chan family said customer numbers have dropped by 80 per cent since the beggining of the outbreak.

“No one wants to see that happening,” she said. “I’ve know them for thirty years. I go with my family. I go with friends. It’s a good restaurant.

“What we really need is to get consumer confidence back. I will be going out this weekend to [popular Melbourne Chinese areas] Box Hill and Glen Waverley to make sure that people know that it is safe.”

Mr Alexander said some Chinese restaurants in his Sydney electorate of Bennelong were reporting trade is down by 95 per cent.

Last week, he had lunch in the Chinese heartland of Eastwood. The restaurant he dined at would normally serve 300 customers over the lunchtime rush, but he counted just two other tables of customers during his meal.

Mr Alexander said it was not racism, but Chinese community concerns about catching coronavirus that was the issue.  “There is a fear of fear itself,” Mr Alexander.

Fellow Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman’s North Sydney electorate includes about 20,000 Australians of Chinese heritage.

Mr Zimmerman also said Chinese restaurants in the Chinese community epicentre of Chatswood had seen “significant drop-offs”. “That reflects my concern that there is an irrational fear that’s starting to pervade this,” he said.

Mr Zimmerman said his “strong message” to people was there is “no safety risk”.

“People don’t need to be wearing masks, people don’t need to be avoiding restaurants or other businesses,” he said.

“It’s really important that at this time more than ever that we actually overcome whatever fears we have to make sure that no part of our community feels as though it’s marginalised.”

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