Last updated: 25 March, 2020
As the number of (COVID-19) cases in Australia climbs to over 2000, with a death toll of eight, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has enforced new strategies to slow the spread of the virus across the nation.
From Wednesday 25 March, the Federal Government is banning Australians from all international flights. The ban, enabled by the Biosecurity Act 2015, “will help avoid travellers returning to Australia with coronavirus and the risks of spreading coronavirus to other countries”, says Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Exceptions will be made for those who are residents overseas, where travel is essential or in our national interest, or if travel is on humanitarian grounds. Eligibility will be determined by the Australian Border Force.
Domestic travel within Australia has also become limited as most states begin to close their borders.
This comes after the government upgraded its travel advice to a ‘Level 4’ for the entire globe, for the first time in Australia’s history.
“The travel advice to every Australian is ‘do not travel abroad’. Do not go overseas. That is very clear that instruction,” Scott Morrison said.
“This is an indefinite ban.”
As well as this, Australia’s borders will now be shut to all non-citizens, effective from Friday March 20 at 9pm.
International cruise ships are also now banned from docking in Australia for the next 30 days. However, bespoke arrangements will be made for Australians needing to return home.
Travel bans for China, Iran, South Korea and Italy, which have reported the highest numbers of cases, have been extended, meaning anyone who has been in these nations will not be allowed into Australia for 14 days from the time they left those countries.
If you’re already overseas and wish to return back to Australia, the government is recommending you do so as soon as possible by commercial means. There are predictions that Australia may eventually have to close its borders.
As well as these travel guidelines, new “social-distancing” guidelines have been set to minimise the spread of the disease.
According to the guidelines, people are to avoid handshakes, limit social interaction and attempt to stay 1.5m away from other people.
The new recommendation has been met with some arguments around the practicality of distancing oneself 1.5m from others, especially in school and work environments or scenarios like travelling on public transport. On Twitter, the hashtag #lockdownaustralia has spiked dramatically in the last 24 hours with some people – particularly parents – believing a two-week lockdown should be implemented now.
While the government are currently standing by the decision to keep schools and public places open, Health Minister Greg Hunt has stated that nothing is off the table and the decision may change in the coming months depending on advice from medical professionals.
However Scott Morrison believes a two-week lockdown will not be sufficient enough and instead they are looking at a six-month strategy (at least) to deal with the impending spread.
“There is no two-week answer to what we’re confronting. There is no short-term, quick fix to how this is dealt with in Australia,” Morrison said.
For now, the Australian government has launched a multi-million-dollar national advertising campaign focused on good hygiene and informing all Australians about the coronavirus and recommendations.
Find out more: health.gov.au