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Coronavirus concerns for Australians locked up in virus hotspots

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However, Andrew Todd, a Department of Foreign Affairs official, said his February visit was cancelled by Chinese authorities due to COVID-19 control measures in place.

“These same measures apply across all prisons in China,” he told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday.

“We are seeking through our embassy in Beijing with Chinese authorities alternative ways of making contact with Dr Yang, either through a telephone call or through written correspondence.”

South Australian Senator Rex Patrick asked whether the coronavirus posed any risk to Dr Yang.

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“Not that we’re aware of at this stage,” Senator Todd said.

“It’s an issue that we’re monitoring very closely with all Australian citizens detained across the world, but particularly in countries where there are current outbreaks of COVID-19.”

Dr Yang’s conditions of incarceration are believed to have improved in recent months but he has still not been given access to lawyers.

He has been detained on allegations of espionage that could carry the death penalty.

Dr Yang has been held in a “formal investigation” phase since August, which can last up to seven months, meaning it should conclude in March.

If the case is approved for prosecution by Chinese authorities, he could then be held in an “indictment period” for another 6.5 months, which would last until September this year.

Melbourne University academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert is being held in Iran.

Melbourne University academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert is being held in Iran.

Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert is in Iran’s Evin prison after a secret trial on espionage charges.

Liberal MP Dave Sharma is concerned about her health amid reports of a coronavirus outbreak in the prison.

“Iran just announced over the last day that they’re releasing 52,000 prisoners from their jails on furlough because of their concerns about how they’re going to manage this,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“I would encourage the government of Iran to consider releasing Kylie Moore-Gilbert in that context.”

AAP

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