Earlier this week, health minister Greg Hunt confirmed that the “human biosecurity emergency period”, which enabled the government to place restrictions on international flights and cruise ships last year, will be extended. The restrictions that were enforced on 17 March 2020, and were initially scheduled to lift on 17 March 2021, have been extended by an additional three months, and are now expected to lift on 17 June 2021.
“The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has advised the Australian government the COVID-19 situation overseas continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk to Australia, including the emergence of more highly transmissible variants,” Mr Hunt said in a statement. “The extension of the emergency period for a further three months is about mitigating that risk for everyone’s health and safety.
“The international world remains a challenging and dangerous environment and Australia won’t be fully safe until the international community is safe,” said Mr Hunt.
“The disease is spreading as quickly as ever,” he noted.
Since the initial restrictions were introduced last year, more that 100,000 Australians have obtained an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force, permitting them to leave the country.
People wanting to re-enter the country, however, will be forced to continue their wait. Currently, 39,000 Australian citizens are registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, wanting and waiting to return home but remaining stranded due to regulations. Flights home remain, rare, exorbitantly expensive and are cancelled frequently.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Chris Moy told the ABC: “We do need to bring Australians back home; we’re seeing Australians that are coming home and they’re pretty scared about what’s happening over there.”
Were you hoping to travel overseas before June? Do you know anyone who is stranded outside the country?
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