Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Australia further easing restrictions amid lower COVID-19 activity as of May 11. Restrictions vary by state. Transport disruptions ongoing.

This alert affects Australia

This alert began 11 May 2020 07:30 GMT and is scheduled to expire 04 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel ban, enhanced health screenings, quarantine measures, transport and business disruptions

Summary
Authorities have begun to ease some restrictions across Australia, as of May 11, due to decreased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity. The federal government has outlined a three-stage process for reopening the economy nationwide. 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 in place. Officials will further reduce restrictions under Step 2; authorities will 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 will allow public gatherings of up to 100 people, employees to return to the workplace, and inter-state travel to resume. Officials will also reopen food courts and saunas. The federal government plans to review measures every three weeks.

Despite federal guidelines, state governments have the autonomy to move between the steps and determine the time frame for reducing measures depending on COVID-19 activity, and restrictions will likely vary by state. As of May 11, the following measures are in place:

Australian Capital Territory: As of May 9, officials are allowing gatherings of up to 10 people, including home visits. Religious services, weddings, and outdoor boot camps and personal training can resume, with physical distancing measures in place. Officials will permit indoor funeral services with 20 people and outdoor services of up to 30 people. Schools will begin reopening from May 18.

New South Wales: Officials are allowing up to two adults to visit other homes within the state. State authorities have also approved more retail activity to resume, with social distancing and hygiene measures in place. From May 15, the government will permit gatherings of up to 10 people - including weddings and religious services - and up to five visitors in the home. Cafes and restaurants may serve 10 customers at a time. Officials will permit indoor funeral services with 20 people and outdoor services of up to 30 people. Some outdoor recreational facilities, including some outdoor pools, will reopen, with restrictions.

Queensland: As of May 11, authorities are permitting residents to host two visitors from separate homes or up to five people from the same household at home. Queensland residents can travel up to 50 km (31 miles) from their homes and shop for nonessential goods; however, only people from the same household can travel together. Officials have reopened national parks in the state. Schools have resumed for kindergarten, Year 1, Year 11, and Year 12 students. From May 15, authorities will allow home visits for up to five guests. Officials will reopen a variety of public spaces, including pools, parks, outdoor gyms, and libraries, among others. The government will also permit retail outlets; dine-in options at restaurants, cafes, and pubs; salons; and places of worship. However, public gathering limits of 10 people will apply, and owners must implement physical distancing measures. Residents can also travel up to 150 km (90 miles) for recreational travel. The Queensland government will ease rules even further for residents in the outback from May 15, with trips allowed up to 500 km (310 miles) from home. Restaurants, cafes, and pubs can have 20 local patrons at a time.

Northern Territory: The government has reopened public parks and reserves, as well as playgrounds, water parks, swimming pools, as well as outdoor religious services, public markets, weddings, and funerals with no limits. Home visits between residents have also resumed. From 1200 May 15, the territory government plans to reopen several businesses, including bars and cafes, gyms, libraries, places of worship, tourist sites, salons, and indoor markets, among others. The government intends to further reduce restrictions beginning June 5, depending on COVID-19 activity.

South Australia: As of May 11, officials are allowing public gatherings of up to 10 people. Outdoor dining at restaurants and cafes has resumed, while authorities have also reopened libraries, community and youth centers, and campgrounds, among others, with physical distancing measures in place. The government is also allowing regional travel to resume. Officials intend to further reduce restrictions from June 8, depending on COVID-19 activity in the state.

Tasmania: Officials continue to enforce stay-at-home requirements for most residents, except for essential trips, such as groceries, medical care, exercises, and work or school attendance. Public gatherings of two people can take place. Most nonessential businesses, places of worship, and public venues remain closed. From May 11, officials are allowing funerals of up to 20 people to take place provided owners have a COVID-19 safety plan in place; funerals under 10 attendees do not require the plan.

Western Australia: A state of emergency remains in effect through 0001 May 14, but extensions are possible. The government has been allowing gatherings of up to 10 people and lifted restrictions on the use of recreational areas and activities - such as picnics, boating, and group exercise - since late April. Starting May 18, officials will allow indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 20 people; outdoor weddings and funerals may have up to 30 attendees. Authorities will also allow dine-in options for up to 20 people at a time for restaurants, pubs, bars, and hotels and casinos with meal service. Religious services, fitness classes, public pools, libraries, and community facilities will reopen with a maximum capacity of 20 people. Officials will also allow residents to return to work. The government will also permit more regional travel within the state; however, people must get permission for travel between designated regions. More stringent measures remain in place in the Kimberley region, which continues to ban all but essential workers from visiting. Travel between local government areas in Kimberley, including Broome, remains restricted. People cannot depart the region and then return unless traveling for essential reasons.

Victoria: Premier Daniel Andrews has extended a state of emergency through at least 2359 May 31. However, the government is easing restrictions from 2359 May 12. Officials will continue to allow outdoor movement for shopping for essential supplies, caregiving, exercise, and work, but have expanded outdoor activity to include walking groups, hiking, fishing, and golf. Authorities will also permit home visits for up to five people, and public gatherings - including weddings - may have up to 10 people; groups of up to 20 people can attend indoor funerals, and up to 30 people may attend services outside.

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

Officials recommend that residents cancel nonessential domestic travel; however, Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that work-related essential travel and travel on compassionate grounds may continue. While some Australian airlines have resumed domestic operations, flights remain limited to key routes between major cities. Authorities are only allowing essential travelers to board the flights. International flight disruptions are ongoing. Officials have also banned cruise ships from docking in Australia. State authorities have reduced rail and bus services throughout the country, especially on long-haul or interstate routes.

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. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

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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