All Australians overseas who wish to return home are being urged to jump on a commercial flight ASAP.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issues a warning to all Australians on Tuesday night, advising they may not be able to return home at a later date due to countries closing their borders.
“We now advise all Australians to reconsider your need for overseas travel at this time,” the government’s Smart Traveller website said.
“If you’re already overseas and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means.
“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.”
Already, cruise ships which have sailed from a foreign port have been barred from entering Australia for 30 days.
It comes as the world grapples to contain the spread of coronavirus, which has infected more than 160,000 people worldwide and killed more than 6,600 people.
All arrivals to Australia, whether citizens or not, are now subject to a 14-day self-isolation period.
The government has issued this new warning for two key reasons: possible restrictions on movement in the near future, and a greater risk of infection while travelling.
“There may be a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 overseas,” Smart Traveller said.
“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.”
Aussies who are overseas and either can’t or don’t want to return to Australia are advised to listen to local authorities, as well as 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 government said.
Both China and northern Italy are currently on the government’s “do not travel to” list due to coronavirus outbreaks.
A number of countries around the world have implemented strict 14-day self-isolation rules upon entering, such as New Zealand, while others have similar rules in place depending on where you have entered from (e.g. people travelling from Italy to Germany).
Already Canada has closed its borders to all non-citizens, with the exception of Americans, but this may change in the coming days.
You can find out more about getting home at the Smart Traveller website.Image: DFAT