The Australian government has just slapped a travel ban on foreigners visiting from Iran in response to the rising number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases.
The restrictions are similar to those placed on foreigners coming from China. Australian citizens returning from Iran will also be made to quarantine themselves at home for two weeks.
However, no such restrictions exist for foreigners travelling from South Korea or Italy.
So far there have been 593 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Iran, compared to over 3,100 in South Korea and over 1,100 in Italy.
Iran does have the most confirmed fatalities from the coronavirus outside of China. A total of 43 fatalities have been reported in Iran, out of 106 non-Chinese deaths.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told ABC’s Insiders that it’s impossible to implement a blanket travel ban on all affected countries.
“As the chief medical officer has pointed out, it’s not possible to extend the ban to every country and we’ll see what phase we move into next,” he said.
Dutton accused Iranian officials of “underreporting” the number of coronavirus cases, and said that South Korea’s “more advanced” healthcare system made their figures more reliable.
Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif Tweeted earlier in the week that the coronavirus “knows no borders.”
Like other viruses – incl terrorism – #COVID19 knows no borders and doesn’t distinguish between ethnicities or faiths.
To combat it, neither should we.
In line with #HOPE, Iran calls for more regional cooperation incl long overdue Joint Center for Disease Control & Prevention.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) February 25, 2020
Australia’s most recent coronavirus case was a man who returned to Sydney from Iran on February 22. He did not present symptoms until days later, and only tested positive for the virus yesterday.
“Travellers from Iran should be particularly vigilant for symptoms as there has been a rapid increase in COVID-19 activity there in recent days,” NSW Chief Heath Officer Kerry Chant said.
As the death toll rises in Italy, Minister for Health Greg Hunt has said that a third travel ban is also being discussed.
“I specifically asked [the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee] today, as part of their work, to consider what is the appropriate level of advice for Italy,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
“I have specifically asked them today to consider whether or not the current arrangements need to be changed in any way, shape or form.”
Including China, there have been over 86,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, and almost 3,000 deaths.