Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Several states in Australia adjusting restrictions due to COVID-19 outbreaks in Victoria and NSW as of July 24. Measures vary.

  • Alert Begins: 24 Jul 2020 02:12 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 07 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions, quarantine requirements

Summary
Several states have delayed or instituted measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) following an outbreak stemming from a hotel in Casula, New South Wales (NSW), and due to ongoing COVID-19 activity in Victoria.

Despite the outbreaks, many areas of Australia continue to have low levels of COVID-19 activity. The federal government continues to implement a three-step plan to ease gathering, business, and transport restrictions, and most states are in or plan to enter Step 3 through July. Under Step 3, officials will allow employees to return to the workplace and interstate travel to resume. Authorities have decided to remove numerical limits on nonessential indoor gatherings; however, the government will restrict capacity to one person per four square meters (43 square feet) and two square meters (21 square feet) for smaller sites. Outdoor venues seating up to 40,000 people can accommodate patrons at 25 percent of capacity. Officials will limit larger venues to 10,000 people but may authorize larger gatherings on a case-by-case basis.

State and territory governments have the autonomy to move between the steps and determine the time frame for reducing measures depending on local COVID-19 activity, and restrictions vary by state. As of July 24, the following rules are in place:

 

  • Australian Capital Territory: The territory is following modified guidelines for Step 2. Officials are allowing social gatherings of up to 100 people. There is no limit on household visitation. Most businesses can operate with limited seating capacity and physical distancing restrictions. Retail outlets, restaurants and cafes, bars and clubs, entertainment venues, and personal services have reopened. Gyms can also open with capacity limits.

 

  • New South Wales: Authorities have tightened restrictions on hospitality establishments as of July 24 following the outbreak in Casula. Pubs, restaurants, and hotels must institute contact tracing and employ a COVID-19 safety marshal during open hours for establishments with more than 250 capacity or peak hours for venues with capacity under 250. Under current restrictions, groups are limited to 20 people, while venues cannot hold more than 300 people. Authorities are also limiting attendance at weddings and corporate events to 150 and attendance at funerals and places of worship to 100 people. Businesses must still adhere to Step 3 recommendations on capacity limits. Employees can still work from home when practical. The government is permitting nonessential travel within the state. Authorities require quarantined travelers to take COVID-19 tests. Refusal to take tests will result in an additional 10 days in quarantine. Authorities are requiring Victoria residents to reapply for travel permits to enter New South Wales, as officials have established a new border zone along the Murray River. Residents may reapply for permits on the Service NSW website. The government is only allowing people to cross the border for work, education, or access to health care. New South Wales residents who cross the border into Victoria beyond the border zone are required to self-isolate for 14 days after returning. Authorities are also recommending that individuals who have visited places associated with outbreaks get tested and self-isolate for 14 days.

 

  • Queensland: The state government has banned travelers from Liverpool and Campbelltown local government areas as of July 24. Nonresidents with a travel history to the two locations will be stopped at the border, while Queensland residents must quarantine at designated hotels at their own expense. Travelers from Victoria are also banned from entering the state, regardless of residency. The government is allowing gatherings up to 100 people under Step 3 measures. Nonessential businesses such as concert venues, theaters, museums, food courts, night clubs can reopen, provided they follow federal government capacity guidelines. Sports stadiums can also restart operations but remain limited to 50 percent capacity with a maximum seating of 25,000 people. The government allows nonessential travel within the state, except for trips to specific First Nations communities. Authorities will expand border restrictions to include people entering Queensland from Fairfield local government area from 0100 July 27.

 

  • Northern Territory: Authorities have allowed almost all businesses and facilities, including theaters, music and dance venues, bars, nightclubs, community centers, amusement parks, and state-operated public parks and reserves, to reopen. Businesses must complete a government safety checklist and continue to implement physical distancing of 1.5 meters (5 feet) or limit interactions to 15 minutes if distancing is impossible. Team sports are also allowed to begin, though events with more than 500 people require official approval of a distinct COVID-19 safety plan. The government permits nonessential travel within the state, including to remote communities. Authorities have reopened the interstate border and lifted quarantine requirements for most domestic Australian travelers. However, officials have designated Sydney's 30 local government areas and all of Victoria as hotspots. People traveling to the territory from these areas will still have to self-quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.

 

  • South Australia: The state is currently following modified Step 3 guidelines. Officials have lifted limits on social gatherings. Authorities have also permitted nonessential businesses, such as pubs and nightclubs, gyms, and personal services, to resume. Companies must limit capacity to one person per two square meters (21 square feet). Noncontact outdoor sports are authorized. The government also permits nonessential travel within the state. From July 28, authorities will ban all travelers, including South Australian residents, from entering from Victoria. South Australia residents traveling from the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales will still be allowed in but will be required to quarantine for 14 days. Residents of the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales remain banned from entering. Authorities will also limit family gatherings to 50 people and weddings and funerals to 100 people from July 28.

 

  • Tasmania: Officials have extended a state of emergency declaration through Aug. 31. Officials are allowing home visits of up to 20 people. Nonessential businesses, such as bars, clubs, tattoo parlors, and beauty salons, have reopened; patrons must be seated at bars and clubs. Authorities allow indoor gatherings of up to 250 people and outdoor groups of up to 500 people, provided venues adhere to a density limit of one person per two square meters (21 square feet). Travelers from South Australia, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory will be allowed to enter Tasmania from Aug. 7. Authorities will conduct health screenings on arriving passengers and will require symptomatic people to be tested. Tested individuals must quarantine until the test results are released. If a person refuses to take the test, they will be refused entry into the state.

 

  • Victoria: The state government has extended the state of emergency through Aug. 16. Authorities have issued stay-at-home orders for Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire through at least Aug. 19. Security personnel are enforcing movement restrictions in affected areas. Residents of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire are required to wear face masks in public. Elsewhere in Victoria, officials allow five people to visit residences and limit public gatherings to 10 people, including at religious ceremonies. Most businesses, including restaurants, bars, and clubs, can operate with a maximum capacity of 20 people. Museums, libraries, and theaters can also operate with a limit of 20 people per indoor space. All businesses must ensure that physical distancing measures are in place. Officials permit funeral services with 50 people. The government allows nonessential travel within the state. Employees are required to continue working from home, if possible. Travelers arriving in the state must quarantine and receive COVID-19 tests on the third and eleventh days of isolation. Refusal to take the tests will result in 10 further days of quarantine.

 

  • Western Australia: State authorities have moved to Step 4 of its six-step recovery roadmap. The government allows people to attend sporting venues, concerts, and nightclubs, without seating requirements. Sporting venues will operate at 50 percent capacity. Officials have lifted gathering numbers provided businesses limit crowd sizes to one person per every two square meters (21 square feet). Gyms can operate without onsite staff. Most companies have reopened; officials have lifted seating requirements for establishments serving alcohol and ended customer registrations at food businesses. Nonessential travel is possible within most of the state; however, entry restrictions remain in place for some Aboriginal communities. The government has delayed plans to enter Step 5 of its reopening scheme until at least Aug. 1 from July 18. Officials also postponed plans to reopen the state border in Step 6 indefinitely. People entering the state must quarantine for 14 days, with COVID-19 testing required on the 12th day of isolation.

 


Local and federal government officials may reimpose tighter measures if COVID-19 cases increase significantly.

Despite the easing of border restrictions in some areas, state authorities will likely maintain roadblocks and checkpoints to prevent travelers from Victoria from entering. Many states are requiring cross-border travelers to complete health declaration forms. Authorities in states with border restrictions require all arriving travelers to self-quarantine for two weeks. Some state governments may require visitors from Victoria to quarantine in designated facilities at their own expense if they can enter. Only essential personnel are exempt from the requirement. Some state governments are requiring isolated people to take mandatory COVID-19 tests before releasing them from confinement. Refusal to take the tests may result in an extended quarantine period. Additional state governments may also issue testing requirements in the coming days, depending on their caseloads.

Travel Restrictions
The government is limiting international arrivals in Australia. The reduction will cut seat availability by 4,000 weekly so authorities can focus on contact tracing and managing COVID-19 within the country. Several state governments will begin to charge international and interstate arrivals for quarantine costs at the urging of the federal government. Multiple states are requiring entrants to pay quarantine fees, including Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia, and New South Wales. However, entrants to New South Wales who booked flights prior to July 13 are not required to pay for quarantine. Costs vary by state. An entry ban for foreign nationals remains in effect. Permanent residents and long-term pass holders, as well as their immediate relatives, can enter the country. The government is requiring all returning passengers to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated facilities. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is maintaining its outbound international travel advisory for citizens at "Do Not Travel," the highest level, and the country has banned most citizens from outbound travel. Citizens living in other countries, government officials on business, and workers at offshore facilities are exempt from the restriction. Exceptions are also in place for airline and maritime staff and crews for international cargo shipments.

Background and Analysis
COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Consider deferring travel plans and check with travel providers for rebooking options if affected by entry restrictions. Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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