Australians have been urged to avoid all non-essential international travel as the coronavirus pandemic grips the world.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread to every Australian state and territory, with 156 confirmed cases, including three deaths, nationwide.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had advised anyone planning an overseas trip to “consider carefully whether now is the right time” regardless of their age or health.
“We are effectively putting in place what is called a level-three travel advice,” he said.
It marks the first time the Australian government has advised citizens to reconsider all global travel and comes after The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the outbreak is a pandemic.
“At level three, there are serious and potentially life-threatening risks. This can make the destination unsafe for tourism and unsuitable for most travellers,” Smart Traveller, the Australian government’s official site for travel safety information, warns.
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So should you still travel overseas if you have somewhere you really need or want to be? And what if you’re simply willing to take the risk?
WHAT ARE THE RISKS IF I GO?
The decision to recommend Australians reconsider international travel plans was made to protect citizens’ health and limit their exposure to coronavirus, according to Mr Morrison.
There may be a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 overseas, according to Smart Traveller.
“You may come in contact with more people than usual, including during long-haul flights and in crowded airports,” the site says.
“Health care systems in some countries may come under strain and may not be as well-equipped as Australia’s or have the capacity to support foreigners.
“You may not have your normal support networks overseas.”
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Overseas travel has become more complex and unpredictable. Many countries are introducing entry or movement restrictions. These are changing often and quickly. Your travel plans may be severley disrupted, according to official government advice. You may be placed in quarantine or denied entry to some countries, and you may need to self-quarantine on return to Australia.
“Think about what this might mean for your health, and your family, work or study responsibilities,” Smart Traveller says. India has banned foreign visitors by cancelling tourist visas for a month to try to contain their outbreak.
The Marshall Islands has closed off all airline travel into the country for two weeks, the ABC reports.
In New York, all Broadway shows have been cancelled for an entire month, museums have closed, and the typically bustling streets are eerily quiet.
Other major tourist attractions in many cities across the world have also closed their doors in a bid to contain the outbreak.
WHAT IF I REALLY NEED TO BE SOMEWHERE?
While many international flights and cruises are being cancelled, there is nothing to prevent Australians from travelling on a plane or ship overseas if they really want to.
But the Australian Government is urging everyone to think twice about following through on their international travel plans.
“It’s your responsibility to reduce your risks and stay safe. The Australian Government is limited in how and when it can help if you get into trouble,” Smart Traveller says.
WHAT THE LEVELS OF ADVICE MEAN
Smart Traveller categorises travel advice relating to overseas destinations by four levels.
Level one advises Australians to “exercise normal safety precautions”, while level two warns them to “exercise a high degree of caution”.
“At level three, there are serious and potentially life-threatening risks. This can make the destination unsafe for tourism and unsuitable for most travellers,” the Smart Traveller site says.
Level four instructs people: “do not travel”.
Australians are currently urged not to travel to China and Iran under any circumstances because of the high risk of COVID-19 transmission there.
“Do not travel to these countries,” the Smart Traveller says.