Australia blocks arrival of all non-citizens, non-residents

Canberra: The entry ban takes effect from 9pm, 20 March, with exemptions only for Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family, including spouses, legal guardians and dependants.

New Zealand citizens who live in Australia as Australian residents are also exempt, as are New Zealanders transiting to New Zealand. Exemptions for Pacific Islanders transiting to their home countries will continue to apply.

Australian citizens and permanent residents and those exempt from our entry restrictions will continue to be subject to a strict 14 days self-isolation, an official statement said.

“Our number one priority is to slow the spread of coronavirus to save lives. Our government has taken this unprecedented step because around 80 per cent of coronavirus cases in Australia are people who caught the virus overseas before entering Australia, or people who have had a direct contact with someone who has returned from overseas,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

All Australians looking to return home have been urged to do so as soon as possible. This follows an upgraded travel advice for all Australians not to travel overseas, at all.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will provide consular advice and assistance, but the capacity for DFAT to provide consular services may be limited by local restrictions on movement, as well as the full scale of the challenges posed by coronavirus.

Australians who cannot, or do not want to, return home should follow the advice of local authorities and minimise their risk of coronavirus exposure by self-isolating.

The government is in discussions with airlines about the continuance of some international flights for the purpose of bringing Australians home and continuing the movement of goods and freight.

More restrictions put in place

Indoor public gatherings of more than 100 people will be banned under changes made to the State of Emergency by the Victorian Government and restrictions will be placed on aged care facilities in Victoria, following agreement by the National Cabinet.

The new measures are in addition to the banning of mass outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people and the 14-day isolation of travellers coming to Australia that are already in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The new restrictions for indoor venues come into effect at 5pm on Wednesday and will mean that any gathering at venues like restaurants, pubs, or cinemas that have more than 100 people can’t occur. There are exceptions outlined in the directions, including places like supermarkets and public transport.

From now, across Australia, visits to aged care residents will only be allowed for a short duration and by a maximum of two people per day, except for palliative care. This recognises that elderly people are particularly vulnerable to this virus.

Children under the age of 16 will only be permitted to attend aged care facilities in exceptional circumstances and further guidelines will be provided to aged care staff around hygiene practices. These directions will be enforced by the Commonwealth Government, which administers this sector.

Venues that don’t comply with these new directions on mass gatherings face fines of up to $100,000. People who don’t comply face fines of up to $20,000.

The National Cabinet has agreed to additional cleaning on public transport, which is already being implemented in Victoria, and is urging employers to consider staggered work times and remote working arrangements to reduce overcrowding at peak travel times.

The public is advised to sit in the back of taxis and ride shares, while mass transport should be avoided by people vulnerable to the virus, including the elderly.

It was also agreed to cancel ANZAC Day events, while acknowledging that due to the day’s importance there can be formalities but no crowds.

The advice to National Cabinet as it relates to schools, childcare centres, and universities has not changed and they will remain open at this time.

Advice against bulk buy

The National Cabinet has strongly endorsed the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advice against the bulk purchase of foods, medicines and other goods.

“We strongly discourage the panic purchase of food and other supplies. While some advice has been provided to have a small addition of long shelf life products in the case of illness there are a range of mechanisms in place to support people in self-isolation, including food and other deliveries. AHPPC notes that the risk of individual Australians being asked to quarantine in coming weeks is low, and encourages individuals to plan with friends and family in the event of the need to isolate. We recognise the importance of supply lines to remote communities.”

(Media release)