Australians overseas have been urged to return home as soon as possible as the Morrison government prepares to unveil a new stimulus package to protect the airline industry from collapse over the coronavirus outbreak.
The dramatic warning was announced as federal cabinet met to thrash out a potential ban on non-essential gatherings in pubs, cinemas and restaurants that is certain to lead to job losses.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued new advice on Tuesday night recommending all Australians abroad who wish to return home do so as soon as possible.
It warns that travellers may not be able to return home at a later stage with more countries closing their borders due to the rapid spread of coronavirus.
A lot of discussion about this. I hope the Govt can provide more clarity on what it is recommending to the hundreds of thousands of Australians overseas. And DFAT must always remain ready, and be resourced, to assist Australians overseas who need help. https://t.co/Yw9YINU75m
— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) March 17, 2020
“If you’re already overseas and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means,” the advice states.
“Regardless of your destination, age or health, if your overseas travel is not essential, consider carefully whether now is the right time.
“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.
“Consider whether you have access to health care and support systems if you get sick while overseas.
“If you decide to return to Australia, do so as soon as possible. Commercial options may become less available.”
Travellers who can’t or don’t want to return to Australia are advised to minimise the 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,” the advice states.
“If you decide to return to Australia, you’ll now be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
“This applies to all travellers, including Australian citizens. For details, see the Australian Border Force website.”
The Morrison government has already banned cruise ships that have sailed from a foreign port from entering Australian ports for 30 days.
DFAT said it had issued the new advice for two reasons:
- There may be a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 overseas. You may come in contact with more people than usual, including during long-haul flights and in crowded airports. Health care systems in some countries may come under strain and may not be as well equipped as Australia’s or have the capacity to support foreigners. You may not have your normal support networks overseas
- Overseas travel has become more complex and unpredictable. Many countries are introducing entry or movement restrictions. These are changing often and quickly. Your travel plans may be disrupted. You may be placed in quarantine or denied entry to some countries, and you may need to self-quarantine on return to Australia. Think about what this might mean for your health, and your family, work or study responsibilities.