The Australian Government Has Introduced an Effective, Indefinite Ban on All International Travel
"The advice to all Australians is do not travel abroad."
Australia is continuing to ramp up the nation's efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, with significant impacts on both mass gatherings and international travel. After banning events with more than 500 people last week, the government has now increased that ban to all non-essential events with more than 100 people. And, after imposing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation requirement for all arrivals into the country (which came into effect on Monday, March 16), Australians are now being told not to travel full-stop.
In his latest press conference on the topic at 9am AEDT on Wednesday, March 18 — following the latest meeting of Australia's new coronavirus national cabinet last night — Prime Minister Scott Morrison put the travel restrictions bluntly. "The advice to all Australians is do not travel abroad," he announced.
As part of the effective international travel ban — which is in effect indefinitely and, like other measures currently put in place, is expected to last at least six months — travel advice for Australians is now at level four for the first time in the country's history. It applies to absolutely everywhere in the world, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Smart Traveller website has been updated to reflect the advice.
The latest move comes after the government also advised last night that all Australians currently overseas should return to the country immediately. "If you wish to return home, do so as soon as possible," the Smart Traveller site now states.
Adding extra urgency for Aussies abroad are the current changes within the airline industry, with flights by Australian airlines being slashed significantly. Qantas and Jetstar have cut their international flights by 90 percent until at least the end of May, and Virgin Australia this morning announced that it will suspend all international flights from March 30.
Also in this morning's announcement, the Prime Minister said that "domestic air travel is low risk" at present, with no restrictions put in place by the government. Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia's reductions will affect flights within Australia, however — Qantas and Jetstar are cutting domestic services by 60 percent, while Virgin is doing so by 50 percent.
Still within the country, he Prime Minister advised that Australians should not travel to remote Indigenous communities, which fall into the sensitive, high-risk category that the government is aiming to protect with its current mass-gatherings ban.
Australians are also still implored to continue to take social distancing measures, including staying home as much as possible, staying 1.5 metres from anyone else if you do go out and refraining from social physical contact such as shaking hands.
For more information about DFAT's travel restrictions and current advice, visit the Smart Traveller website.
To find out more about the status of COVID-19 in Australia and how to protect yourself, head to the Australian Government Department of Health's website.
Top image: Kgbo via Wikimedia Commons.
Published on March 18, 2020 by Sarah Ward