Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Australia to maintain gathering and business restrictions until at least May 14. Domestic, international movement controls continue.

This alert affects Australia

This alert began 16 Apr 2020 17:25 GMT and is scheduled to expire 14 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Coronavirus-related restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least May 14
  • Impact: Travel ban, enhanced health screenings, quarantine measures, transport and business disruptions

Summary
Australian authorities are maintaining domestic movement restrictions to help curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). On April 16, officials announced that restrictions would remain in place until at least May 14. The government has banned gatherings of more than two people in public; the measure does not apply to persons in the same household. No more than five people may attend weddings, and up to 10 people may attend funerals. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also encouraged all residents over 70, individuals with preexisting conditions above 60, and indigenous people above 50 to remain indoors. Though the federal government's announcement is nonbinding, state and territory governments will very likely enforce the guidelines; some jurisdictions could pass local laws or threaten violators with fines or jail time.

The existing closure of nonessential social venues - including cafes, casinos, clubs, gymnasiums, religious buildings, pubs, restaurants, and sports venues - will also continue through at least May 14. Most retail shops and offices remain open. Hotels also generally remain operational; however, restaurants and other social venues on their premises must close. Officials recommend that nonessential domestic travel be canceled; however, Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that work-related essential travel and travel on compassionate grounds may continue. Mandatory nationwide school closures have not been implemented, though in most states, schools are only open for the children of essential personnel.

Several Australian airlines will resume flights from April 17 following major service suspensions due to severely reduced demand and financial difficulties. The government is providing major airlines Virgin Australia (VA) and Qantas (QF) with funding, enabling them to resume limited domestic operations on key routes between major cities. Virgin Australia will resume some domestic flights from April 17 through at least June 7. Authorities are only allowing essential travelers to board the flights. The airline will operate 64 round-trip flights per week between airports serving Melbourne (MEL), Brisbane (BNE), Sydney (SYD), Canberra (CBR), Perth (PER), and Adelaide (ADL).

Several states, including Queensland, Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, and Tasmania, are maintaining movement restrictions at state borders as of April 16. 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. Authorities in the state have also closed the Kimberley region to all visitors and restricted travel between local government areas in Kimberley, including Broome. 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 increase police deployments to enforce the measures, and authorities can fine and/or jail those disobeying the orders. Some states, including New South Wales and Victoria, have declared states of emergency to enforce control measures. Nonessential services have been closed in the states. Other states could implement similar measures in the coming days.

International Travel Restrictions

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintained its outbound international travel advisory for citizens at the highest level ("Do Not Travel") as of April 16, and the country has banned residents from most outbound travel. However, residents of other countries, government officials on business, and workers at offshore facilities are exempt from the restriction. Exemptions are also in place for airline and maritime staff and crews for international cargo shipments. An entry ban for foreign nationals remains in effect. Permanent residents and long-term pass holders, as well as their immediate relatives, are exempt from the restriction. As of April 16, the government is requiring all returning passengers to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated facilities.

Travel restrictions have significantly impacted international flight operations. Qantas has canceled its international flights. Meanwhile, Virgin Australia has halted all international operations through June 14. Virgin Australia subsidiary Tigerair Australia (TT) has suspended all flight services from March 31, though TT could adjust its operational plans in the coming days. Officials have also banned cruise ships from docking in Australia.

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.

Resources
Government of Australia: www.australia.gov.au

Department of Home Affairs: www.homeaffairs.gov.au

Department of Health: www.health.gov.au

World Health Organisation (WHO): www.who.int