Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Australia to gradually raise quota for permitted travelers from Sept. 28. Entry ban, COVID-19 restrictions ongoing; measures vary by state.

Alert Begins 19 Sep 2020 08:02 AM UTC
Alert Expires 16 Oct 2020 11:59 PM UTC

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

Summary
Australia will gradually increase the number of international passengers allowed into the country from 4,000 to 6,000 people weekly through mid-October amid reduced domestic coronavirus disease (COVID-10) activity. New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia will increase their intake of returning residents from Sept. 28. However, Queensland and Western Australia will process international passengers in phases, rising to 500 new arrivals weekly, from Oct. 5 and Oct. 12, respectively.

Domestic Restrictions
The federal government continues to use a three-step plan to ease gathering, business, and transport restrictions. Under Step 1, people can host up to five visitors in the home, and public gatherings of up to 10 people can take place. State officials can also reopen retail, restaurants and cafes, playgrounds, and allow local and regional travel to resume 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. Most of Australia is under Step 3, which permits employees to return to the workplace, interstate travel to resume, and food courts and saunas to resume operations. 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 under the final phase. 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. States and territories have the autonomy to move between the steps and determine the time frame for reducing measures, and several state governments have developed distinct phased reopening plans.

Tighter controls continue in Victoria's metropolitan Melbourne. Stay-at-home orders, gathering restrictions, and a daily 2100-0500 curfew continue in the Melbourne metropolitan area. Authorities have eased measures in other parts of Victoria; however, officials have also increased security between regional Victoria and Melbourne to prevent travel between the areas. New South Wales has 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 after the emergence of 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 citizens, long-term moves, residents in defined border areas, and essential workers, but specific border measures vary. The federal government is working with states to reopen all inter-state borders by Dec. 25, though Western Australia has yet to agree to the plan. Regardless, states maintain the ability to reopen borders at their discretion, and variations in border measures are likely to continue. Most states are also requiring advance approval to enter and health declaration forms. Authorities may require permitted visitors from Victoria and other hotspots to quarantine in designated facilities at their own expense or self-quarantine upon entry; 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
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 port of entry. Authorities continue to divert all international flights into Melbourne (MEL, AVV) to other international airports. 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 exempt from quarantine fees. 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.

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 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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