Australia has upgraded its “do not travel” advisory for overseas travel into a total ban. The changes were announced by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Canberra late Tuesday [24 March, 2020] evening and aim to further curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Addressing media on the latest restrictions on movements and business operations that will be enforced in Australia from midnight Wednesday, PM Morrison said that the overseas travel ban would come into force using the “biosecurity powers” provided by the Governor-General via the Minister of Health.
Morrison said that the number of Australians heading overseas had “reduced dramatically” since the government implemented the ‘do not travel’ advisory, while acknowledging that there were exceptions in place for the likes of aid workers in the Pacific or those travelling on compassionate grounds or essential travel for employment.
“But still, it strikes me on those numbers that there are people defying that advice and still looking to go overseas on leisure travel,” Morrison said. “They can’t do it because when they come home, that’s when they put Australians at risk.
“I had hoped that would have been fully complied with and I’ve got to say, Australians have been pretty good about it. But we need to put that arrangement in place,” he said.
Morrison insisted that no one should be getting on a plane and going overseas.
“We’ve been making that point for some time,” he said, adding that the specific details of when the international travel ban will be enforced will be signed of by Health Ministers imminently.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said a significant proportion of new coronavirus cases in the country are presented by returning travellers or contacts of returned travellers. Professor Murphy said it was crucial that returning travellers self isolate immediately upon re-entering the country.
“You leave the airport, you go home and stay there for 14 days and the states and territories will be checking on you. We will not tolerate anybody putting the community at risk as a return traveller,” he said.
“Don’t go anywhere on the way from the airport or the cruise ship or wherever you’re from … You must not go to the chemist when you’ve been told you’ve got the disease. Some people have been doing things like being told they’re a positive case and going into the chemist or the supermarket on the way home. If you’re isolating because you’re a positive case or you’re isolating because you’re a contact, you go home and you isolate and you obey those rules,” Murphy emphasised.
Morrison further reiterated the point, saying the 14-day self isolation on returning travellers is required by public health order at the state level.
“They’re required to do it. It’s the law and that’s where they need to go and that’s where they need to transfer to immediately, not to go via the shops, not to pop in and see a friend on the way home and not to go for a wander around the park. You go straight home and you self isolate,” PM Morrison added.
Lead image: screen grab of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison