Q: Why has the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic?
A: On 11 March the WHO characterised the coronavirus as a pandemic. In a Press Conference announcing its decision, the WHO Director General cited the rapid increase in cases of the coronavirus outside of China; its expectation that the number of cases, deaths and affected countries will climb higher; and concern about the alarming levels of spread and severity of the virus; and the inaction by certain countries in responding to the outbreak as the reasons for its decision.
Q: What does the WHO pandemic announcement mean for Australia?
A: Australia is advanced in its preparedness having activated the Government’s ‘pandemic plan’ on 27 February 2020, to put in place measures aimed at protecting Australians and visitors to our country.
On Sunday 15 March, the Government moved to the second phase of the plan and announced the implementation of additional measures. All passengers arriving in Australia area now required to self-isolate for 14 days from their arrival. Cruise ships from foreign ports are banned in Australia for the next 30 days. Australians are also being advised to practise more ‘social distancing’.
Australia has a world class health care system and is well-equipped to handle the coronavirus. The Government has committed $2.4 billion to a National Health Plan $30million of which has been allocated towards an Australia-wide public health campaign. The campaign aims to reduce the risk to individuals and families by enabling them to make informed decisions and to take up health recommendations.
Q: What does the WHO pandemic announcement mean for Australian tourism?
A: Without knowing what additional measures, if any, the Government may put in place to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, or how long the outbreak will last, it’s impossible to predict the full tourism impact – but it is likely to be significant.
The Prime Minister has unveiled plans for a $17.6 billion stimulus package to aid Australia’s economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus, $1 billion of which has been set aside to support those regions and communities that have been disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of the Coronavirus, including those heavily reliant on industries such as tourism, agriculture and education. This will include:
- the waiver of fees and charges for
tourism businesses that operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the
waiver of entry fees for Commonwealth National Parks.
- additional assistance to help businesses identify alternative export markets or supply chains; and
- targeted measures to further promote domestic tourism.
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is also providing administrative relief for some tax obligations for people affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, on a case-by-case basis. The ATO will set up a temporary shop front in Cairns within the next few weeks with dedicated staff specialising in assisting small business. In addition, it will consider ways to enhance its presence in other significantly affected regions, making it easier for people to apply for relief. The ATO is considering further temporary shop fronts and face-to-face options.
Q: What is the latest update on the coronavirus outbreak globally?
A: Europe is now the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak with more cases of the virus reported in countries outside of Mainland China than in China itself.
As at 16 March 2020, almost 170,000 cases of the coronavirus have been reported globally, including more than 6,500 deaths. 148 countries and regions now have confirmed cases of the virus. Over 77,000 are reported to have cleared their infections.
Q: What is the latest update on the coronavirus outbreak in Australia?
A: As at 16 March, there have been 298 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Australia, 27 of which are reported to have recovered. The death toll in Australia has reached 5.
Q: What can I tell customers who are planning to travel to Australia?
A: Australia has a world class health care system and is well-equipped to handle the coronavirus. Compared to other countries, Australia has had a relatively small number of confirmed cases of the virus.
The Australian Government is monitoring the coronavirus outbreak closely and effective from midnight Sunday 15 March 2020 all passengers arriving in Australia will be required to self-isolate for 14 days from their arrival. In addition, cruise ships from foreign ports are banned from Australia for the next 30 days.
Stringent border restrictions for travellers from China, Iran, the Republic of Korea and Italy also remain in place. These measures are temporary and are being reviewed every 7 days.
The following arrangements are currently in place and are due to be reviewed by 21 March:
- Australia will deny entry to anyone who has left or transited
through mainland China in the last 14 days with the exception of Australian
citizens, permanent residents, and immediate family members of Australian
citizens and permanent residents including spouses, minor dependants and legal
- Australian citizens who have left or transited through mainland China in the last 14 days must isolate themselves for 14 days from the date of leaving mainland China.
- People who have had close contact with a proven case of novel coronavirus must isolate themselves for 14 days from the date of last contact.
- Foreign nationals who have left Iran (excluding permanent
residents) on or after 1 March, will not be allowed to enter Australia until 14
days after they have left or transited through Iran.
- Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family will still be able to enter Australia but will be required to self-isolate for 14 days after the date they left Iran.
The Republic of Korea
- Foreign nationals who have left the Republic of Korea (excluding
permanent residents) on or after 5 March, will not be allowed to enter
Australia until 14 days after they have left or transited through the Republic of Korea.
- Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family will still be able to enter Australia but will be required to self-isolate for 14 days after the date they left the Republic of Korea
- Health and aged-care workers returning from the Republic of Korea must also self-isolate for 14 days before returning to work.
- Foreign nationals who leave Italy (excluding permanent residents)
at or after 11 March, will not be allowed to enter Australia until 14 days
after they have left or transited through Italy.
- Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family will still be able to enter Australia but will be required to self-isolate for 14 days after the date they left Italy
All international airports are open. Many airlines have reduced or cancelled flights to accommodate a drop in demand for international services in response to the spread of the virus and Australia’s border restrictions.
Precautionary measures have also been put in place in Australian airports, including:
- enhanced ill-traveller screening processes;
- pre-recorded announcements (in English and Chinese) in arrivals areas at international air and seaports; and
- informing travellers of the symptoms of the virus and what to do if they experience symptoms.
Q: What advice is there for Australians considering travelling overseas?
A: On 13 March 2020, the Australian Government advised all Australians to reconsider the need to travel overseas regardless of destination, age or health.
In addition, from 15 March 2020 all passengers arriving in Australia (including international visitors, Australian nationals and citizens) are required to self-isolate for 14 days from their arrival.
Guidance on self-isolation is available here and specifically for guests staying in hotels here.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) continues to adjust its travel advice as new information becomes available. For the most up-to-date travel advice visit DFAT’s Smartraveller website.
If you are considering travelling overseas or returning to Australia you should contact your airline, travel agent and insurance company to discuss your travel plans and options for cancelling or postponing current bookings or to arrange flights back to Australia.
Q: Where can I get more information about the coronavirus?
For the latest information about the coronavirus visit the Australian Government’s Department of Health.
DFAT’s Smartraveller website also provides advice to Australians considering overseas travel or who have returned from travel feeling unwell.
If you have questions about the virus you can contact your state or territory public health agency or the national virus hotline:
- Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080
- ACT – 02 5124 9213
- NSW – 1300 066 055
- NT – 08 8922 8044
- QLD – 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84)
- SA – 1300 232 272
- TAS – 1800 671 738
- VIC – 1300 651 160
For further information on staying healthy please visit the Department of Health coronavirus public health campaign page here.
Tourism Australia will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available.
Q: What measures can I put in place to protect guests against coronavirus?
A: The Australian Department of Health recommends that everyone should practise good hygiene and social distancing to protect against infections.
Good hygiene includes:
- covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
- disposing of tissues properly
- washing your hands often with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet
- using alcohol-based hand sanitisers
- cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
- if you are sick, avoiding contact with others and staying more than 1.5 metres away from people
Social distancing includes ways to stop or slow the spread of infectious diseases. It means less contact between you and other people. More information on how to do this is available here.
Specific advice for hotels and hotel staff is available here.
Q: Where should I report concerns about myself or my guests?
A: If you or your guests become unwell and suspect you may have symptoms of coronavirus, you should seek medical attention. More information can be found here. To speak to a registered nurse about your health concerns contact the Australian Government’s Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080.
Q: What actions is Tourism Australia taking to support travellers and industry?
A: Tourism Australia is continuing to monitor the situation very closely, following the advice provided by the World Health Organisation and Australia’s Department of Health, but it’s a complex and fast evolving situation.
We also continue to stay very connected with the Federal Government to get the latest information and advice and to provide industry with as much accurate and up-to-date information as we can to share with their customers.
On 24 February Tourism Australia launched a new international recovery campaign, aimed at restimulating demand in the short term and gradually rebuilding Australia’s international reputation. The new campaign takes inspiration from TA’s long-standing and successful There’s Nothing Like Australia global campaign platform, reminding the world that There’s Still Nothing Like Australia.
We also continue to update Australia.com with information on the outbreak and links to relevant websites where travellers can access the latest health and travel advice.
Q: Will Tourism Australia’s upcoming Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) still go ahead?
A: Tourism Australia is aware of the announcement by Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and the Prime Minister advising that mass gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled.
The health and welfare of anyone attending any of our events is paramount. Full risk assessments are carried out for all TA events.
We’re currently reviewing the implications this announcement has for our program of industry and trade events, including talking to relevant partners. This includes our forthcoming Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) event due to take place in Melbourne in May.
We will provide a further update on this shortly and make sure all registered delegates are fully informed of future decisions.
Source: Tourism Australia