Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Australia easing restrictions amid lower COVID-19 activity as of June 1. Restrictions vary by state. Transport disruptions ongoing.

This alert affects Australia

This alert began 31 May 2020 19:32 GMT and is scheduled to expire 16 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions

Summary
Authorities in Australia have further eased some restrictions due to decreased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. Most states and territories are under Step 2 of a three-stage recovery process outlined by the federal government. Under Step 2, authorities allow public gatherings of up to 20 people and reopen nonessential businesses such as gyms, salons, cinemas, and museums, among others. Employees can continue to work from home, if possible. Some interstate travel can take place. Step 3 allows public gatherings of up to 100 people to take place, employees to return to the workplace, and inter-state travel to resume. The federal government plans to review measures every three weeks.

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; hence, restrictions vary by state. As of June 1, the following measures are in place:

Australian Capital Territory: Under the Step 2 guidelines, officials are allowing social gatherings of up to 20 people. Most businesses are allowed to operate with limited seating capacity and physical distancing restrictions. Officials permit funeral services with 50 people. Further relaxation of measures is planned from June 18.

New South Wales: Officials are following Step 2 guidelines, allowing social gatherings of up to 20 people. Most businesses, including restaurants, are allowed to operate with limited seating capacity and physical distancing restrictions. Officials permit funeral services with 50 people. The government is allowing nonessential travel within the state.

Queensland: Officials are following Step 2 guidelines, allowing social gatherings of up to 20 people. Most businesses, including restaurants, are allowed to operate with limited seating capacity and physical distancing restrictions. Officials permit funeral services with 50 people. The government is allowing nonessential travel within the state, with the exception of travel to specific indigenous communities.

Northern Territory: Officials are following Step 2 guidelines, allowing social gatherings of up to 20 people, as of June 1. Most businesses, including restaurants, are allowed to operate with limited seating capacity and physical distancing restrictions. Officials permit funeral services with 50 people. The government is allowing nonessential travel within the state. Step 3 guidelines are scheduled to be implemented from June 5, further relaxing gathering, business, and movement controls.

South Australia: Officials are following Step 2 guidelines, allowing social gatherings of up to 20 people. Most businesses, including restaurants, are allowed to operate with limited seating capacity and physical distancing restrictions. Officials permit funeral services with 50 people. The government is allowing nonessential travel within the state. Non-contact outdoor sports are authorized.

Tasmania: Officials continue to following Step 1 guidelines, enforcing stay-at-home requirements for most residents, except for essential tasks, such as purchasing groceries, obtaining medical care, engaging in physical exercise, or traveling to/from work or school. Most nonessential businesses, places of worship, and public venues remain closed. The government is allowing funerals of up to 50 people to take place. Stage 2 measures are scheduled from June 15.

Western Australia: Officials are following Step 3 guidelines, allowing social gatherings of up to 100 people, or up to 300 people in venues with partitions. Most businesses, including restaurants gyms, spas, and saunas are allowed to operate with limited physical distancing restrictions. Officials permit funeral services with 50 people. The government is allowing nonessential travel within the state, with the exception of travel to specific indigenous communities. Sports are authorized.

Victoria: Officials are following Step 2 guidelines, allowing social gatherings of up to 20 people. Most businesses, including restaurants, are allowed to operate with limited seating capacity and physical distancing restrictions. Officials permit funeral services with 50 people. The government is allowing nonessential travel within the state. Employees are required to continue working from home, if possible.

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

Officials recommend that residents cancel nonessential domestic travel. Work-related essential travel and travel on compassionate grounds may continue. Several states, including Queensland, Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, and Tasmania, are maintaining movement restrictions at state borders. Queensland officials have closed all crossings with New South Wales, except Highway 1 (M1), Gold Coast Highway, and Griffith Street. Western Australia has banned all border crossings, except for essential personnel such as medical workers, shipping and airline crews, and defense personnel. Checkpoints have been set up at many state border crossings across the country to monitor cross-border traffic. Authorities in states with border restrictions require all arriving travelers - including mainland Australian and Tasmanian residents - to self-quarantine for two weeks. Only essential personnel are exempt from the requirement. Staff will conduct screenings for arriving passengers and require arrival cards before entry into the impacted states. Officials will likely maintain police deployments to enforce the measures, and authorities can fine and/or jail those disobeying the orders.

Travel Restrictions

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
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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