Australia has introduced tough new border controls in an effort to curb the transmission of COVID-19. All foreign nationals will be banned from entering the country from from 9pm (AEST) on Friday March 20.
The ban applies to all non-citizens and non-residents. Australians returning from overseas – Qantas and Virgin Australia cease international flights at the end of the month until at least the end of May – will still be required to quarantine for 14 days from their return.
“About 80% of the cases we have in Australia are either the results of someone who has contracted the virus overseas or someone who has had direct contact with someone who has returned from overseas. So, the overwhelming proportion of cases in Australia have been imported,” the Prime Minister said.
The closure could last for up to six months.
Earlier today the Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein declared a state of emergency. Domestic travellers people visiting the Apple Isle will have to quarantine for 14 days from midnight on Friday. Essential travel – for health and emergency reasons – is exempt. The new rules apply to residents as well as visitors, with a threat of six months’ jail for flouting the self-quarantine law, alongside fines of up to $16,800 fine.
There were 50 new cases of covid-19 recorded in Queensland overnight. The largest spike recorded for the state and for the first time exceed the growth in cases in NSW. New diagnoses have not been confined to the city, with cases confirmed in regional centres of Cairns, Townsville and Rockhampton for the first time.
The surge in confirmed cases has prompted Queensland Chief Medical Officer Dr Jeanette Young to call for recently returned travellers experiencing symptoms to come forward for testing.
“The group of people that I want to see come forward and get tested are those people who’ve returned from overseas in the last 14 days and become unwell with a fever of 37.5 degrees Celsius or above, or any respiratory symptoms — a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat. It’s important they get tested.
“The second group of people who need to come forward to get tested is anyone who’s been in contact with a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. So we’ve now seen 144 people in Queensland with confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus — so people are getting rung up and told, “You’ve been in contact with this case, so you need to go into quarantine in your home and, if you get sick, come forward and get tested.
“Then, the third group are our healthcare workers and our aged care workers. If they have fevers and respiratory symptoms, they need to be tested and not go to work. That’s really important because they work with vulnerable people,” she said.
There are now 568 cases nationally. Six people have died.
Additional reporting from Simon Thomsen