‘Do Not Travel Abroad’—Australia Updates Travel Advisory, Limits Indoor Gatherings to 100 People

March 17, 2020 Updated: March 24, 2020

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all Australians should not travel abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic, as the Australian government updated the travel advisory to level 4, which is “do not travel,” for the entire world—the first ever ban like this for the country.

“We are upgrading the travel ban on Australians to level four for the entire world. That is the first time that has ever happened in Australia’s history,” Morrison said at a news conference Wednesday morning. “The travel advice to every Australian is ‘Do not travel abroad.’ Do not go overseas. That is very clear, that instruction.”

“Regardless of your destination, age or health, our advice is ‘do not travel‘ at this time,” the advice on the Smart Traveller website says. “As more countries close their borders or introduce travel restrictions, overseas travel is becoming more complex and difficult.”

Morrison noted that the ban is indefinite and that other countries appear to be putting up similar travel restrictions.

Morrison also announced that non-essential indoor gatherings will be limited to 100 people, effective immediately on Wednesday. Previously over the weekend, the government announced that non-essential outdoor gatherings will be limited to 500 people.

Essential gatherings, as they pertain to the outdoors, include airports, public transportation and its facilities such as stations, platforms, stops, trains, trams, buses.

While essential indoor gatherings include “medical and health service facilities, emergency service facilities, disability or aged care facilities, correctional facilities, youth justice centres or other places of custody, courts or tribunals, parliaments, food market, supermarket, grocery store, retail store, shopping centre that is necessary for the normal business of those premises. Office buildings, factories, construction sites, mining sites, necessary for their normal operation.”

Everything else is non-essential, Morrison said, adding that “States and Territories have the ability to add to those lists as they see fit, based on the advice and we are seeking to coordinate that.”

There are now 454 cases of coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, in Australia and 5 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Twenty-three people have recovered.

Schools Stay Open

Schools will remain open, Morrison said. He said that Singapore has also continued to keep schools open and “they have been quite effective in managing and limiting the transmission of this virus in that country.”

“There are a number of reasons for this. The first one is that the virus operates very differently amongst younger people,” Morrison said. “It has a different manifestation amongst younger people and that presents a very different health challenge to the broader population.”

“There is only one reason your kids shouldn’t be going to school and that is if they are unwell,” the prime minister later said. ‘As parents, you are in the best position to know if your children are unwell. Don’t leave it to the teacher to work that out when they arrive.”

empty pasta shelves
Empty pasta shelves at a supermarket in Burwood, Sydney, Australia on March 17, 2020. (Mimi Nguyen Ly/The Epoch Times)

‘Stop Hoarding’

The prime minister turned his attention to the widespread phenomenon of hoarding as evident by empty shelves in supermarkets across the country.

“On bulk purchasing of supplies: Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australians’ behavior in response to this crisis,” Morrison said, later urging people to “do not abuse staff.”

“That is not who we are as a people. It is not necessary. It is not something that people should be doing. What it does is it is distracting attention and efforts that need to be going into other measures, to be focusing on how we maintain supply chains into these shopping centers.

He also waved off fears of a possible lockdown. “As I have said, we’re putting in place scalable and sustainable measures.”

“Many measures in place you have to be prepared to put in place for six months,” he later said.

Information for Australians

The prime minister has activated the Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

To find out how the Australian Government is managing COVID-19, go to Government response to the outbreak.

If you’re planning to go overseas, keep up to date with the latest advice for travellers.

Follow Mimi on Twitter: @MimiNguyenLy