Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday, February 20, that the current travel restrictions on foreigners from mainland China due to the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak will be extended to Saturday, February 29. Travelers from or transiting through China will continue to be restricted from entering Australia, except for returning Australian nationals and permanent residents. However, Australian nationals and permanent residents will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. The measures will continue to be reviewed every week.
Qantas Airlines flights between Sydney and mainland China also remain suspended as of Thursday. Direct flights from Sydney to Beijing and Shanghai are not expected to resume until at least March 29. However, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taipei remain exempt from government travel restrictions.
As of February 20, there are 15 confirmed cases in Australia. Further international spread of COVID-19 is expected in the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in 30 countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a "very grave threat."
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
- If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
- Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.