Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday, February 13, that the existing travel restrictions on foreigners from mainland China, due to expire on Saturday, February 15, will be extended for another week due to the ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The restriction therefore remains in place until Saturday, February 22. He also added that the measure will be reviewed each week. Consequently, travelers from or transiting through China will 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.
To date, there are 15 confirmed cases in Australia, though no new cases were recorded since the implementation of the travel ban on February 1.
Qantas Airways announced the suspension of services in China from Sunday, February 9. This includes suspending its flights to Beijing and Shanghai from February 9, through Sunday, March 29. Airline representatives said this will not affect flights to Hong Kong. They also stated that the February 9 suspension date as well as the flight resumption timeframe may change according to the circumstances.
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 (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 28 countries and territories worldwide. Virus screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is a "public health emergency of international concern."
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. Individuals are advised to take precautionary measures to reduce their risk of contracting the virus:
• Avoid all contact with animals (dead or alive); avoid eating animal products that are undercooked; avoid all markets where animals are sold
• Avoid all close contact with people displaying symptoms of the disease (e.g. difficulties breathing)
• Frequently wash hands, wear a face mask
• Individuals within China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to seek medical attention, avoid contact with other people, and wash hands regularly
• Adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments
• Travelers returning from China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid spread of the disease.