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International border closures push Australian businesses to the brink of collapse

 While Australia's economy moved into the black this week — recovery feels a long way off for some

Many businesses still reeling from international border closures are now staring down the barrel of a two-pronged downturn.

With international tourism at a virtual standstill, businesses that relied on travelers and students from China are now fearing the worst as relations between Beijing and Canberra hit a new low.

At Roni Law's hair salon in Sydney, "farewell cuts" have become the norm as clients, many from China, opt to return home while others are still stuck overseas.

"We ask them 'when will you come back', they say 'I don't know, maybe not' … I have that [kind of] conversation every day," she says.

Ms Law's hair salon, Luve Hair Spa, sits in the once-bustling Chinatown in Haymarket.

It relies on the steady flow of international students in and out of the country.

While many are trapped overseas, others who are stuck in Australia are fed up with high living costs and no clear timeline for a return to on-campus learning.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on Ms Law's business with her turnover down by 90 per cent — and with international borders not expected to open fully until well into next year, she's starting to panic.

"There are not enough customers for the business and the rent is really high — that's what we're really struggling with," Ms Law says.

Tourist areas like Chinatown — popular with travelers and international students alike — are among the hardest hit.

"You can only stay open and hope for more business, but there's no-one in Chinatown … what else can we do?" Ms Law says.

Easing of international travel restrictions still a long way off

News that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be rolled out in the UK next week buoyed the hopes of some that international travel may be on the horizon.

Peter Chan's Malaysian restaurant Kopitiam Cafe in Sydney is one of many that relies on international borders being open.

"I hope it's good news that the vaccine is coming through, everybody will go for it, after one jab you can go overseas and enjoy life," Mr Chan says.

But with Health Minister Greg Hunt confirming Australia won't see its first jabs until March, opening may not come soon enough.

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