The federal government of Australia has confirmed that, from Wednesday, it will be taking extra steps to ensure international travel is at a minimum. Currently, there are still a small number of people who continue to ignore the recommended restrictions and are traveling overseas for non-essential purposes.
Australia has joined the growing number of countries to place strict bans on international travel in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The country banned foreigners from entering since the 19th of March. However, it had been allowing Australian citizens to both return and leave the country.
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison declared a “human biosecurity emergency” which allowed him to close borders. He has now said that unless traveling for aid purposes or compassionate grounds, no flights will be allowed to operate. The ban is expected to be in place by tomorrow.
There are over 2,000 confirmed cases in the country. Most of these cases have been found in people who had recently returned from traveling in Europe. An influx of citizens returning to the country saw a recent rise in cases. With the lockdown now being reinforced, traveling outside of Australia will be very unlikely.
The new reinforced ban will be a blow to Singapore Airlines. The airline relies heavily on connecting travelers from Australia to the rest of the world. The airline is now asking to defer the delivery of new aircraft as it assesses its financial situation.
Clearly, domestic flights within Australia are also affected. Virgin Australia has said it is looking to change its domestic flight schedule as some states require stricter self-quarantine measures than others.
Regional Express Holdings, a small airline that serves remote Australian towns, has confirmed it will cease all operations. It has said that some routes would be able to operate if the Queensland state could subsidize its losses.
Stuck in Australia
The new restrictions have been praised by many as an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. However, they have also caused panic. Many passengers from other countries are stuck in Australia and New Zealand and are trying to fly home before the ban kicks in.
New Zealand is introducing similar restrictions which will begin a day later on Thursday. While people are trying to leave, there are issues. Last Friday, Sydney airport was forced to cancel over half of its afternoon flights due to changing restrictions of other countries.
So many people complained about the new ban that Australia will extend the travel window for passengers who need to travel via Australia until 12:00 local time on 26th March. UK citizens have even requested the UK government send a chartered flight to help repatriate nationals.
While some flights will still be operational for those who need to travel, spaces are limited and prices are soaring. Travelers are being asked to isolate and stay calm until a solution can be provided. As other countries continue to change their restrictions, the confusion is likely to continue for some time.