Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that, as of 9pm Friday night, Australian borders will be closed to all non-citizens, in an unprecedented move to protect the nation from the deadly coronavirus.
After consultation with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Mr Morrison made the announcement late Thursday, justifying his decision based on advice that most new coronavirus cases in Australia were coming from travellers returning from overseas.
Closing the borders should prevent the influx of more coronavirus sufferers.
“We will be resolving to move to a position where a travel ban will be placed on all non-residents, non-Australian citizens coming to Australia, and that will be in place from 9pm tomorrow evening,” said Mr Morrison.
“We have already seen a significant reduction in the travel to Australia by non-citizens in residence.
“It is about one-third of what it would normally be at this time of the year.
“We believe it is essential to take a further step to ensure we are now no longer allowing anyone, unless they are a citizen or resident or direct family member, as is applied to all the other travel bans put in place previously,” Mr Morrison said.
Tasmania has effectively shut itself off from the rest of the country, now requiring anyone who arrives in the island state to undergo mandatory self-isolation for 14 days.
The decision came just prior to the biggest surge in COVID-19 Australia has seen so far. As of Friday morning, we now have 709 confirmed cases, with 307 in New South Wales, 150 in Victoria, 144 in Queensland, 42 in South Australia, 52 in Western Australia, 10 in Tasmania, three in the Australian Capital Territory and one in the Northern Territory.
At least 259 of these cases were considered to be overseas acquired, says the Department of Health, with most coming from the UK, USA, Iran and Italy; and the likely place of exposure for 206 reported cases still under investigation and the source of infection for 28 cases currently unknown.
Australians returning home from overseas will still be allowed to enter the country.
“They will be subject to 14 days of isolation upon arrival back in Australia,” he said.
“These arrangements will enable, over the next 24 hours or so, for people to make other arrangements if they were intending to come to Australia.”
Qantas has offered to help Australians get home.
“We will be working closely with them, and those Australians who are overseas, we have been encouraging them to return to Australia,” said Mr Morrison.
Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong says the one million or more Australians still overseas will need more information about their rights and how they are to get home.
“The government needs a plan to help Australians stranded overseas amid flight cancellations, changing travel advice and closing borders,” she said.
The government will on Friday discuss a second stimulus package and finalise further advice, including bans on indoor gatherings of more than 100 people in cinemas, theatres, hospitality venues and those organising weddings, funerals and events. Social distancing guidelines for public transport will also be discussed, as will additional support for vulnerable Australians.
Do you agree with the government’s closure? How are you coping with the coronavirus crisis?
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