Australia announces ‘biosecurity emergency’ and bans overseas travel

Canberra, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday declared for the first time ever a “human biosecurity emergency” in the country and upgraded the travel advisory to the top-most “level-4,” instructing Australians: “do not travel abroad, do not go overseas.”

“Life is going to continue to change, as we deal with the global coronavirus… This is a once-in-100-year type event,” Morrison said in a press conference in Canberra, Deutsche press agency (dpa) reported.

“We are upgrading the travel ban on Australians to level four for the entire world. That is the first time that has ever happened in Australia’s history,” he said, adding it is “an indefinite ban.”

“The biggest risk we have had and the biggest incidents of cases we have had… has been from Australians returning from overseas.

The government has also banned all non-essential gatherings of 100 people or more in an indoor setting, effective immediately. It comes after a ban on outdoor events of more than 500 people.

Places exempt from the ban include public transport, medical facilities, courts and jails, airports, supermarkets and shopping centers, parliaments, factories and construction sites, among others.

Schools will continue to remain open, Morrison said, while announcing restrictions to visiting aged care facilities, with a complete ban for unwell visitors or people returning from overseas.

According to Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, as the country as of Wednesday morning recorded 454 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the potentially fatal disease caused by the new coronavirus, with the number of new cases increasing each day.

Murphy also said the majority of new cases in Australia are imported – people travelling from overseas coming back with the virus or people who have had close contact with them.

Morrison asked people to stop hoarding supplies, as Australian supermarkets have been facing mass “panic buying” in bulks sparked by the spread of the virus.

“It’s ridiculous, it’s un-Australian, and it must stop,” he said.

“It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behavior in response to this crisis.”

Morrisons also said some 20,000 student nurses will have their work restrictions lifted to help respond to the pandemic.

Annual World War I commemoration Anzac Day ceremonies, both international services, including the Gallipoli ceremony in Turkey, and domestic ones have been cancelled, with the Australian War Memorial to broadcast a national dawn service that will be closed to the public.

Over the weekend, Australia announced a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine regime for all people arriving from overseas.

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia cancelled all international flights and cut domestic services by 50 percent, while the government announced a 715-million-Australian-dollar ($ 428 million) lifeline for coronavirus pandemic-impacted aviation sector.

Source: Bahrain News Agency