If it weren’t for the novel coronavirus outbreak, Xu Mingxi would have been in class at a prestigious New York university this week.
Instead, the 22-year-old has spent the past three weeks confined to his family’s apartment in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak, which is currently on lockdown to prevent the virus spreading.
But even if Xu could leave home, the United States — where he’s studied for the past four-and-a-half years — won’t let him in.
Over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away in Beijing, Alex — who asked not to use her real name for fear of online retribution — is in a similar situation. She’s spent the past two weeks at home with her mom and grandpa, being delivered groceries by community leaders. She’s worried she won’t be able to fly to Sydney to study later this month and may have to delay her law degree by a semester.
As novel coronavirus spreads, over 60 countries have imposed travel restrictions on Chinese citizens, hoping to limit their exposure to the virus that has killed more than 1,700 people, almost all in mainland China, and infected over 71,000 worldwide. Both Australia and the US have put temporary bans on foreign nationals who visited China in the 14 days prior to their arrival.
That has locked Xu and Alex out of their studies — and they are by no means alone.
In 2017, an estimated 900,000 Chinese tertiary students studied abroad. Around half of those went to either the United States or Australia, contributing billions of dollars to their economies — money that those countries now stand to lose.
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