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Travel health risk perceptions of Chinese international students in Australia – Implications for COVID-19

Tara Maa, Anita HeywoodaC., Raina MacIntyreb
aSchool of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW Australia, Kensington, NSW, 2052 Australia
bBiosecurity Program, The Kirby Institute, UNSW Australia, Kensington, NSW, 2052 Australia




International students frequently return to their country of origin to visit friends and relatives (VFR), and are at increased risk of travel-associated infections. Little is known of their travel health seeking behaviours. China is the biggest source of international students studying in Australia and the unprecedented epidemic of COVID-19 in China makes this an important area of research.


Focus groups of Chinese international students were conducted to explore travel health-related knowledge, attitudes and practices. Eligible participants were studying in Sydney, and had travelled to China and Hong Kong to visit friends and relatives in the preceding 18 months. A variety of topics were explored, using a focus group guide. Thematic analysis was undertaken on the transcripts using nVivo software. The list of codes and themes were not pre-determined but developed through content analysis.


Two focus groups were held with a total of 28 participants. Risk perception about VFR travel was generally low among Chinese international students. Pre-travel healthcare was not sought. Students strongly relied on the Internet, social media, parents and friends in China for travel health advice.


This research provides insights into Chinese international students as VFR travellers. It confirms students could be a risk population for importations of infections such as COVID-19 because of low risk perception and lack of seeking travel health advice. This can inform health promotion strategies for students.


Read the full paper here