Update on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Australia

Media release
05 Mar 2020
Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Health

The National Security Committee of Cabinet has agreed today to introduce new travel restrictions, update the travel advice and implement new screening measures as part of the Government’s coordinated measures to protect Australians from COVID-19.

The Australian Government’s highest priority remains the wellbeing and safety of Australians.

These actions are based on advice that the volume of reported COVID-19 cases in the Republic of Korea, and the scale of travel to Australia from the Republic of Korea, means that they present a high risk of further transmission of COVID-19 in Australia.

Therefore, screening measures alone would not be sufficient for the Republic of Korea.

For arrivals from Italy, we will implement enhanced health screening and temperature testing arrangements.

These measures are part of our ongoing strategy of containment and minimising risk to the Australian community as detailed in our pandemic preparedness plan.

As of 5 March 2020:

  • Foreign nationals (excluding permanent residents of Australia) who are in the Republic of Korea on or after today will not be allowed to enter Australia for 14 days from the time they have left or transited through the Republic of Korea;
  • Australian citizens and permanent residents will still be able to enter Australia, as will their immediate family members (spouses, legal guardians or dependants only).  They will be required to self-isolate at home for 14 days from the day they left the Republic of Korea.
  • The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will raise the level of the travel advisory for the Republic of Korea to ‘reconsider your need to travel’ (level 3 of 4) up from ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ (level 2). 
  • The level of the travel advice will also be raised to ‘do not travel’ to Daegu (level 4 of 4) because of the significant outbreak of COVID-19 there. People in the Republic of Korea should monitor their health closely and follow the advice of local authorities.

Travellers from the Republic of Korea constitute at this time a materially greater risk of COVID-19 importation than other countries outside of China and Iran.

We are grateful to the Government of the Republic of Korea for the transparent way it has dealt with this outbreak. It should be commended for its strong efforts in combatting COVID-19, including with its extensive testing regime.

The travel restrictions for the Republic of Korea will now be consistent with those in place for China and Iran.

The aim of these measures is to slow the importation of COVID-19 cases into Australia to enable preparatory measures to continue and to enable a public health response to the initial cases.

The current travel restrictions regarding mainland China and Iran continue to be successful in reducing the volume of travellers from those countries and will continue.

As part of the Australian Government’s preparedness response beyond the health system, today we have also activated the National Coordination Mechanism. The mechanism will coordinate activities across the Commonwealth, state and territory governments as well as industry to ensure a consistent national approach is taken to provide essential services across a range of critical sectors and supply chains.

While we are not immune as a country, we are as well prepared as anybody could possibly be.

The Australian Government continues to monitor and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak as it evolves.

We will work in close cooperation with state Government authorities and our international partners to coordinate our response and keep Australians safe.