Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Some Australian states begin to ease restrictions amid lower COVID-19 activity as of April 28. Nationwide measures in effect through May 11.

This alert affects Australia

This alert began 28 Apr 2020 06:08 GMT and is scheduled to expire 11 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least May 11
  • Impact: Travel ban, enhanced health screenings, quarantine measures, transport and business disruptions

Summary
Authorities in some Australian states are beginning to ease restrictions, as of April 28, amid decreased coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Western Australia is allowing gatherings of up to 10 people. Officials in the state have also lifted restrictions on the use of recreational areas, and activities - such as picnics, boating, and group exercise - are allowed. Queensland will start easing measures from 2359 May 1. Authorities will allow residents to travel up to 50 km (31 miles) from their homes and shop for nonessential goods. Officials will also reopen national parks in the state. However, only people from the same household can travel together. Governments in both states require people to adhere to social distancing recommendations while in public.

National restrictions continue to apply in other states through at least May 11. Though the federal government's announcement is nonbinding, state and territory governments are enforcing the guidelines in most areas. The government has banned gatherings of more than two people in public, though the measure does not apply to people 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.

The closure of nonessential social venues - including cafes, casinos, clubs, gymnasiums, religious buildings, pubs, restaurants, and sports venues - will also continue through at least May 11. 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 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 state leaders, especially in Victoria and New South Wales, intend to continue with these more restrictive measures, authorities could start to ease restrictions in the coming days.

More stringent measures remain in place near outbreaks in Western Australia's Kimberley region and northern and western Tasmania. Authorities in Western Australia have closed the Kimberley region to all visitors and restricted travel between local government areas in Kimberley, including Broome. People cannot depart the region and then return unless traveling for essential reasons. Officials in Tasmania have extended a ban on nonessential business activity in Latrobe, Kentish, Devonport, Central Coast, Burnie, Waratah-Wynyard, Circular Head, and West Coast through at least 2359 May 3. Schools in these areas will remain closed until May 4.

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 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.

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.

Travel Restrictions

An entry ban for foreign nationals remains in effect. Permanent residents and long-term pass holders, as well as their immediate relatives, are allowed to 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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