We give you a breakdown on what the latest domestic travel and public life restrictions in Australia mean for you.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a travel ban on international travel and a range of other restrictions late on Tuesday night to help slow the spread of coronavirus in Australia.
This comes after most of our states and territories have imposed strict interstate travel restrictions and the Prime Minister’s call for all non-essential domestic travel to stop.
But what constitutes ‘non-essential travel’ and are there any exceptions? Below you can find all the up-to-date information, clarification about the latest announcements, and how you can support the local tourism industry during this increasingly turbulent time.
A ban on international travel
Emerging from a National Cabinet conference call with state and territory leaders on March 24, Morrison announced the previous warning not to travel overseas will become an international travel ban.
While most Australians have heeded the warning not to travel there were some people who continued to ignore the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s “do not travel” warning.
The ban will come into effect from 12pm Wednesday, March 25.
Aid workers and those who need to travel for compassionate or work-related reasons will be exempt from the travel ban.
All non-essential domestic travel to stop
According to regulations announced by the Prime Minister at a press conference on March 22, “all non-essential travel should be cancelled.”
Non-essential travel is any travel undertaken purely for leisure. If you have family holidays booked, weekends away with friends or any other leisure travel planned, you need to postpone it for the foreseeable future.
Domestic travel that is allowed includes travel undertaken for:
– Work purposes
– On compassionate grounds
– Transporting of essential supplies
– For services needed to keep Australia running
Domestic travel restrictions by state and territory
Most of Australia’s states and territories have declared a state of emergency and implemented strict border controls in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus from state to state. These regulations apply to all international and interstate travellers as well as returning residents.
Here is a breakdown of the current restrictions.
On March 19, Tasmania became the first Australian state to announce that all non-essential travellers arriving from both interstate and overseas will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
All visitors and returning residents to the state must complete a Tasmanian Arrivals Form online before entering. If you qualify as an essential traveller you may be exempted from the 14 day quarantine requirement.
From March 24 the Northern Territory implemented a mandatory self-quarantine for all non-essential travellers for 14 days. Arrival cards will be issued at all airports, ports and road checkpoints and are also available online to complete in advance.
Travellers will need to declare they are planning to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival to the territory and provide details of where they will be staying. Fines of up to $62,600 will be issued for noncompliance.
As of March 24, Western Australia requires all arrivals to the state to self-quarantine for a fortnight. Premier Mark McGowan has also strongly advised travellers to cancel their holiday plans and that non-essential travel between WA’s regions should stop immediately.
If these guidelines are not followed he warned that more extreme blanket lockdowns will follow and more jobs would be lost.
Freight trucks, rail and air cargo carrying medical supplies, food and other products are still allowed entry into the state.
Emergency services and health workers, food delivery services, and employees who maintain utilities for essential services such as Western Power, Water Corporation and NBN technicians will also be permitted entry.
As of midnight on Wednesday March 25, all non-essential travellers to Queensland will have to self-quarantine for 14 days after their arrival regardless of whether they are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or not. Penalties for disregarding these regulations include fines of up to $13,345.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczul said the travel restrictions are not aimed at “border communities who cross to shop or work, attend medical appointments and return to their home’’ but are aimed at stopping holidaymakers from spreading the virus further in the state.
“People should stay in their own states and in their own suburbs,” the Premier said.
“That applies to Queensland as well.”
Under the regulations all rail services will be terminated, border road closures and police checks on vehicles will be in place on all major highways and travellers arriving at Queensland airports will be met by police and other officers.
Exemptions include freight, emergency vehicles and workers, those travelling to and from work, court orders, travel on compassionate grounds and for medical treatment.
On Sunday March 22 Premier Steven Marshall announced a 14-day self-isolation period for all non-essential travellers and returning residents.
Police will be stationed at 12 border patrol facilities in the state and all who cross will be required to sign a declaration about their health and ability to self-isolate for two weeks.
Harsh penalties have been put in place for those who choose not to comply, with fines of up to $20,000 for individuals and $75,000 for corporations to be issued to anyone illegally bypassing the checkpoints.
Exemptions that fall under the umbrella of essential travel may include health services, national and state security and governance workers, skills critical to maintaining key industries or businesses, essential medical treatment, transport and freight services, emergency services workers, cross-border community members, those passing through en route to other states and those travelling on compassionate grounds.
Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island
Travel to both Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island is now banned for anyone except residents and essential services personnel. Those returning home will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Are flights, trains and buses still operating?
Domestic and international flights
The ban on all non-essential travel and the new state and territory border restrictions have had a significant impact on airlines.
“The efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus have led to a huge drop in travel demand, the likes of which we have never seen before,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin have suspended all international flights, and significantly decreased the capacity of their domestic flights. On March 25 Virgin Australia announced they will cut 90 per cent of their domestic capacity. TigerAir will also suspend all flights immediately.
For a full list of Qantas and Jetstar cancelled routes and suspended regional networks head here.
For more information on what the latest Virgin Australia and TigerAir announcements mean for you visit their website here.
Social distancing measures have already been implemented by workplaces to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, with many offices encouraging their employees to work from home.
This has somewhat alleviated the volume of people travelling on public transport, however, at this stage, most buses and trains are operating as normal.
Those using public transport are urged to stagger travel and consider changing the times you need to use services. Travelling outside of peak times will help to reduce the number of people using the network and support social distancing measures.
According to Public Transport Victoria and Transport NSW, all of their trains, trams and buses will have increased sanitation touch points, and be disinfected more often.
Are outdoor activities still allowed?
The federal and state governments are gradually introducing stricter measures to keep Australians apart as the number of COVID-19 infections continue to rise.
At Bondi Beach last week, thousands convened on the sand, grass and in cafes with little care for their potential infection. Minister Greg Hunt rightly criticised such a laissez-faire attitude to the pandemic, and councils responded by closing Sydney’s most popular beaches.
All people are required to practice social distancing when outside, with distances of 1.5 metres to be kept between two parties at all times. Outdoor personal training and bootcamps are still permitted to continue but restricted to 10 people (including trainers) while practicing the 1.5 metre rule.
As for outdoor activities as a whole, the Prime Minister has urged everyone to stay inside where possible and to take these safety measures seriously.
What restrictions have been placed on indoor activities?
A new phase of shutdowns for Australian businesses were brought into effect on March 25.
The Prime Minister has announced the closure of shopping centre food courts, beauty therapy stores (including tanning, waxing and nail salons), places of worship, auction houses and open house inspections, tattoo parlours, amusement parks and arcades, community and recreation centres, galleries, museums and historic sites, indoor and outdoor play centres, swimming pools, all fitness centres including yoga and barre studios.
Outdoor and indoor markets are also ordered to close with the exception of food markets like Sydney’s Flemington which are crucial to the region’s food supply.
This is in addition to the previous closures of cinemas, clubs, pubs, gyms, casinos and nightclubs.
Restaurants and cafes are only allowed to offer takeaway services. Hairdressers and barber shops are allowed to stay open under strict guidelines.
The only things that will remain open are “essential services,” which includes hospitals, bottle shops, petrol stations, pharmacies, supermarkets, hardware stores, schools, convenience stores and home delivery services.
Indoor gatherings in people’s homes are also restricted to a maximum of 10 people and must adhere to the four-square metre rule and the social distancing practices.
The Prime Minister has warned the closures could continue for six months but has said if Australians follow the advice we can avoid a full lockdown.
“We know it is a massive change to our lives but if we do it, and we do it consistently, and we do it patiently and understandingly, then we will get through this,” he said.
Can I still book a hotel or Airbnb?
Many hotels have amended their policy to allow for more flexible booking arrangements. Meaning that if you have paid to stay somewhere in the near future, you can alter your dates free of charge. Those will be best negotiated with your particular provider, and vary on a case by case basis.
Alternatively, Airbnb has updated its “extenuating circumstances” policy to allow free cancellations of reservations booked between certain dates. You can read the full policy here.
All non-essential travel should be postponed but you can continue to dream and plan your travel for the future.
How do I support domestic travel businesses?
Once we’re on the other side of this, businesses within the travel industry will need your support more than ever.
In Australia, the tourism industry employs around 1,000,000 people – both directly and indirectly. Chances are that someone you know has had their job impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, which has left many of us wondering what exactly we can do to help in the short-term.
If you are in a position to be able to postpone, rather than cancel a holiday that is a great start.
Continue to support businesses that remain open, especially in the hospitality industry – we have written about six ways you can do that here.
There are also a number of virtual events and performances – some free and some that are charging a fee – that you can add to your calendar to help support the arts and events sector. You can read more about this here.
Coronavirus has made both international and domestic travel hard to plan, but it doesn’t mean you have to stop dreaming and planning. One of the great joys of travel is taking the time to plan. Keep adding to your bucket list and remember to factor in travel to bushfire and drought affected towns around the country in the future.
Where can I find specific information?
Smart Traveller has the most factual, real-time information pertaining to Australians and travel. If you have a question about cruising suspensions, refunds and updates head here. If you have a question about coronavirus and international travel, find the latest information here.