Australians abroad encouraged to return home

DFAT says "Do not travel" overseas: travel now deemed "complex and unpredictable"

**** UPDATES as of 5:00pm, 19 March 2020 *** Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that a travel ban will be placed on all non-residents (not Australian citizens) coming into the country, effective 9pm Friday 20 March, 2020.

Morrison said there was already a “very significant” drop in the travel to Australia by non-citizens and residents of about 1/3 of normal levels at this time of year, fuelled by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’ve seen reductions, even in the last few days when we put in place the bans which required people to self isolate for 14 days. And so as a result of that decision, we’ve seen that the traffic reduce quite significantly. And we believe it is essential now to take that further step to ensure that we now no longer will be allowing anyone unless they’re a citizen or a resident or a direct family member,” Morrison said.

The Prime Minister said he was in consultation with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden to make special  arrangements for transTasman travellers.

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**** As of 9.30am, 18 March 2020 **** DFAT is now advising Australian travellers ‘do not travel’ overseas as the global COVID-19 situation continues to worsen. Previously the advice was “reconsider your need to travel”.

‘Do not travel’ is the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s highest advice level.

“Regardless of your destination, age or health, our advice is do not travel at this time,” the Department said this morning.

Announcing the travel warning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed it was the first time in the country’s history to issue a travel ban for the entire world.

“The travel advice to every Australian is ‘do not travel abroad’. Do not go overseas. That is very clear, that instruction. For those who are thinking of going overseas in the school holidays, don’t. Don’t go overseas,” Mr Morrison said in Canberra.

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Last night, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued an updated travel advisory, recommending that citizens abroad and who want to return home should do so “as soon as possible by commercial means”. The advice comes as the government warns travellers that there is a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 overseas, and potentially on long-haul flights and at “crowded airports”.

“Regardless of your destination, age of health, if your overseas travel is not essential, consider carefully whether now it the right time,” the new update states.

The move follows the Morrison Government’s decision over the weekend that requires all international arrivals to self-isolate for 14-days, thereby shutting down the country’s tourism business beyond gateway cities.

DFAT warns: “As more countries close their borders or introduce travel restrictions, overseas travel is becoming more complex and difficult. You may not be able to return to Australia when you had planned to.”

The advisory suggests travellers abroad to take into consideration their access to health care and support systems should they become ill overseas. The Government organisation also flagged commercial options to get home from foreign ports may become “less available”. Already, multiple airlines including Australia’s own Qantas have slashed international capacity and frequencies, while other overseas airlines have pulled out on popular routes, including the likes of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and LATAM across the Pacific alone.

Aussies who remain overseas are urged to follow the advice of local authorities.

“Take care to minimise your risk of exposure to coronavirus including by self-isolating. If you choose to stay, note our ability to provide consular assistance in some places may be limited due to restrictions on movement and other services,” DFAT warns, adding that Australians abroad may be placed in quarantine or denied entry to some countries.

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