What if you have to travel during the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak?

Posted on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 - 11:40

We have already seen massive disruptions to daily life since the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) throughout this year. The latest advice from SmartTraveller, the overseas assistance site by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is “do not travel overseas at this time” or a Level 4 advisory, the highest advice level.

SmartTraveller also urges any Australian citizens and permanent residents needing to return to Australia to do so as soon as possible.

“Regardless of your destination, age or health, our advice is do not travel at this time,” their official advisory reads. 

This is advice and not a rule enforced by the Australian Border Force. If you absolutely must travel overseas for whatever reason, you still can for the time being (as of writing.)

Things you must consider before travelling

The Government has advised people to reconsider any non-essential travel overseas. This may be for holidays, study trips, work related trips, or any other activity that can be postponed.

If you must travel urgently, you need to realise the following:

Many countries are closing borders or imposing restrictions

To stop the spread of the disease, many countries such are closing their borders to foreign travellers or imposing self-isolation or quarantine rules on any new entries, even if they are tourist or business travellers.

If you intended to travel to Europe then to the United States, the United States has banned all flights from Europe (Schengen Area) for 30 days from 12 March. The European Union has also closed most of its borders for the same period.

These areas include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Some countries are also requiring foreign travellers to self-isolate upon arrival.

You’ll need to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return

All travellers, irrespective of their original destination, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

All cruise ships that sailed from a foreign port will also be banned from entering Australian ports for 30 days.

Commercial flights may not be available

If you were intending to travel to Asia or Europe, may commercial airlines have cut their routes or suspended operations to those countries apart from allowing foreign nationals to return to their country of origin.

As of 18 March, Virgin Australia has suspended all overseas flights and cut domestic travel capacity by half. You will be reliant upon the local health system if you do fall ill

Even if you do manage to gain entry to a foreign country and/or fulfill their own quarantine procedures, you’ll be reliant on the local health system if you do fall ill. Though you may have travel insurance to cover the costs, some hospitals and urgent care facilities are stretched to their limits. It is possible you may not get the care you need if you do fall ill.

Look to postpone your travel plans

Some airlines and cruise liners are allowing passengers to postpone or cancel their flights for full refunds. You may be able to cancel your travel insurance.

As of writing, many major insurance providers have suspended travel insurance sales including “cancel for any reason” insurance.

Look at your airline or insurance provider website for more information.

Domestic travel and health

Travelling domestically is still an option using plane travel. However, as mentioned, the risk of transmission is higher in crowded places such as airports.

Regardless of where you go or how you get there, you should practice social distancing, washing your hands with soap or sanitiser regularly, and avoid high risk areas.

For more advisories and warnings, visit SmartTraveller.gov.au.

Resources: 
www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-18/coronavirus-australia-live-updates-covid19-latest-news-anzac-day/12064922
www.smartraveller.gov.au/news-and-updates/coronavirus-covid-19
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