Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Australia continues to implement COVID-19 restrictions as of Sept. 4; restrictions vary by state. Travel restrictions ongoing.

Alert Begins 04 Sep 2020 09:11 AM UTC
Alert Expires 18 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions, quarantine requirements

Australia continues to implement restrictions amid a surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Victoria and ongoing COVID-19 activity in New South Wales (NSW). Despite the outbreaks, many Australian states and territories have low levels of COVID-19 activity. The federal government's three-step plan to ease gathering, business, and transport restrictions, remains in place. Under Step 1, people can host up to five visitors in the home, and public gatherings of up to 10 people can take place. Governments can also reopen retail, restaurants and cafes, playgrounds, and local and regional travel, with physical distancing and hygiene measures. Under Step 2, authorities will allow public gatherings of up to 20 people, and nonessential businesses such as gyms, salons, cinemas, and museums, among others, can reopen. Employees can continue to work from home, if possible. Some interstate travel can take place. Step 3 permits employees to return to the workplace, interstate travel to resume, and food courts and saunas to resume operations. States and territories have the autonomy to move between the steps and determine the time frame for reducing measures, and several local governments have developed distinct phased reopening plans. Local authorities are likely to continue adjusting restrictions, depending on COVID-19 activity.

Most of Australia is under Step 3, and officials in many states have allowed most businesses to resume with social distancing guidelines in place. For locations in Step 3, the federal government restricts public gatherings 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. However, Victoria declared a state of disaster Aug. 2, and officials have further tightened controls statewide. Stay-at-home orders, gathering restrictions, and a daily 2000-0500 curfew is in effect in the Melbourne metropolitan area through Sept. 13. New South Wales has also tightened restrictions on hospitality establishments, gyms and fitness classes, and public gatherings. State officials nationwide may temporarily close some businesses and schools at short notice, request affected people to self-isolate, and get a COVID-19 test, due to COVID-19 clusters.

Several state governments continue to adjust their domestic border policy based on COVID-19 activity elsewhere in Australia. Many governments have banned all travelers from Victoria and other COVID-19 hotspots. Local authorities are making exceptions for returning state, long-term moves, residents in defined border areas, and essential workers, but specific border measures vary. Most states are also requiring advance approval to enter and health declaration forms. Most arriving travelers must quarantine for two weeks. Authorities may quarantine permitted visitors from Victoria or other hotspots in designated facilities at their own expense; only essential personnel are exempt from the requirement. Some state governments require mandatory COVID-19 tests for isolated people before their release and may extend the quarantine period for people who refuse tests.

Travel Restrictions
The federal government continues to limit international arrivals into the country, reducing availability by approximately 4,000 seats weekly. State governments have also issued limits on arriving passengers to ensure sufficient quarantine conditions. The federal government is working with state governments on a plan to reopen all inter-state borders by Dec. 25; all states except Western Australia have agreed with the government’s plan as of Sept. 4. However, states maintain the ability to reopen borders at their own discretion and variations in border measures are likely to continue. Authorities continue to divert all international flights into Melbourne (MEL, AVV) to other international airports. 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. All returning international passengers must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated facilities at the city of entry. States are also working with the federal government to increase the number of Australian citizens allowed to return to the country per week. Although details of the plan remain unclear, flight increases are most likely in Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, and Canberra. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is maintaining its global 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.

Several state governments are charging international and interstate arrivals for quarantine costs. Multiple states mandate entrants to pay quarantine fees, including Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia, and New South Wales. However, people flying into New South Wales that booked flights before July 13 are not required to pay for quarantine. Costs vary by state; most governments do not require up-front payment and have programs for those with financial constraints.

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.

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 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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