Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Several states in Australia adjusting restrictions due to outbreaks in Victoria, NSW as of July 14. Measures vary. Entry limits in place.

  • Alert Begins: 14 Jul 2020 09:15 AM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 31 Jul 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 in New South Wales and ongoing COVID-19 activity in Victoria. New South Wales has tightened restrictions on pubs and hotels in the state following an outbreak stemming from a hotel in Casula. Queensland has designated New South Wales' Liverpool and Campbelltown local government areas as COVID-19 hotspots and banned residents and travelers from the area from entering the state as of 1200 July 14. Returning Queensland residents who have traveled to the affected areas must quarantine in hotels at their own expense. Meanwhile, South Australia has delayed a planned reopening of its border to residents from New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT); residents from Victoria remain banned, with some exceptions for essential travel. South Australia officials have bolstered security in Berri and Mount Gambier to help monitor the border with 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 14, 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: Officials are tightening restrictions for pubs across the state from 0001 July 17. Under the latest rules, groups are limited to 10 people, while venues cannot hold more than 300 people. Pubs and hotels must also 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. The government will still allow social gatherings of up to 20 people. Other businesses, including restaurants, can operate under Step 3 recommendations on capacity limits, which also apply to weddings and religious services. However, up to 50 people can attend funerals regardless of venue size. 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 closed the border with Victoria July 8 indefinitely.

 

  • Queensland: The state government has banned travelers from Liverpool and Campbelltown local government areas as of 1200 July 14. 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.

 

  • 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 continue to require all arrivals to self-quarantine for 14 days unless exempted. The government plans to reopen the territory's borders from July 17.

 

  • South Australia: The state is 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. Officials have lifted border restrictions for most states. Authorities have delayed the planned July 20 reopening of the border for travelers from New South Wales, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory. New South Wales and ACT residents can quarantine for 14 days after arrival.

 

  • 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). State authorities will keep state borders closed through at least July 31.

 

  • Victoria: The state government has extended the state of emergency through July 19 and encouraged residents to wear masks. 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. 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. Canberra will also encourage states to make inbound passengers pay for quarantine. 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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