The Australian Government has implemented strict new border control measures in an effort to halt the “escalating threat” of the new strain of coronavirus on our shores.
Twelve people in Australia have been diagnosed with the virus, all of whom have recently returned or arrived from China. There has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission in Australia.
But with 152,000 Australians visiting China yearly, and the Chinese tourist market generating about $20 billion annually for Australia, the restrictions are likely to affect a large amount of Australians and their families.
So what effect will these new travel restrictions have on travellers going to and from China, and how much will they impact your life?
Can I travel to China?
The Government is urging you not to.
On Saturday, authorities raised the Smarttraveller alert level to a four, the highest possible.
This means the government advice across the board for China is “do not travel”.
That restriction now applies to everywhere in China, not just Hubei province and its capital Wuhan where the virus originated.
If you do have a trip to China coming up in the near future, the best advice is to reach out to your airline, travel agent, or travel insurer and work out your next steps.
Even if you wanted to flout the travel advice and go anyway, you may find it difficult, with a growing list of major airlines, including Australia’s carrier Qantas, cutting flights to China.
What if I have a trip to China booked in the near future?
The Smarttraveller advice is indefinite, so there’s no saying exactly how long it will last.
For this stage, Mr Morrison said “utmost precaution” was warranted due to the “changing epidemiology of the coronavirus in China and the uncertainty that remains around its transmission and virulence”.
After the threat has passed, the Government will want to re-establish free movement between Australia and China as quickly as possible.
Although you’ll probably want more certainty than this, the best advice is to wait and see.
And of course follow the ABC News live-updated coronavirus explainer for all the latest information.
Can my friends and family members from China still visit Australia?
If they’re leaving China in the next 14 days, it could be dicey.
As well as the level four advice for Australians heading to China, foreign nationals in China will be denied entry in Australia for 14 days from the time they have left China unless they meet several exceptions.
If they are Australian citizens, permanent residents, or airline crews, the travel ban doesn’t apply.
If you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident and the person travelling is a member of your immediate family — your spouse, dependent children, or legal guardian — they will be exempt from the ban.
If they do arrive in Australia, and choose not to immediately return to their point of origin, they will be subject to mandatory quarantine.
Prime Minister Morrison said this decision was a temporary measure and will be reviewed in 14 days.
What about Hong Kong and Macau?
These restrictions apply to the Chinese mainland only, and given Hong Kong and Macau are not considered part of mainland China, you don’t need to be concerned.
But again, you may find yourself subject to flight cancellations or changes.
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