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19 Mar 2020 | 01:28 AM UTC

Australia: All non-citizens banned from entering the country March 20 /update 14

Australia bans all non-citizens and non-residents from entering the country from March 20 due to COVID-19; additional containment measures in place

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AUS

Event

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday, March 19, that all non-citizens and non-residents will be banned from entering Australia from 21:00 (local time) on Friday, March 20. Only Australian citizens, permanent residents, and direct family members will be allowed to enter the country. Anyone arriving in the country will also be subject to a 14-day quarantine. The new measure comes only a day after the government updated its travel advisory to Level 4 "Do Not Travel" due to the ongoing international outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The office of the prime minister also confirmed more domestic and international measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19. From Wednesday, March 18, officials are banning indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. However, this does not apply to essential activities such as public transport, shopping centers, or pharmacies. Venues gathering less than 100 people such as cinemas, restaurants, cafes, and other entertainment venues will be required to apply social distance measures including maintaining a distance of 1.5 m (4.9 ft) between clients, and practice good hygiene. Officials subsequently announced the cancelation of all Anzac Day celebrations scheduled on Saturday, April 25. While educational institutes remain open, authorities are advising Australians to avoid any non-essential travel domestically.

Also on Thursday, Qantas airline announced that it would suspend all of its international flights from the end of March until at least May 31. Over 150 aircraft will be grounded during this period. The airline said that some additional service may be considered to assist with repatriation. It is possible that the flight suspensions may be extended depending on the evolution of the pandemic. Additional information can be found on the Qantas website here.

As of March 19, 636 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country. Individuals who believe they may have contracted the virus are being asked to call the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080 before visiting a doctor. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.

Context

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 numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

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.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.