Australians returning from Italy urged to self-isolate

“Enhanced screening measures will be in place for those visitors who have been coming through Italy and indeed Australians who are coming back from Italy,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra. “Those self-isolation arrangements will apply to them.”

Asked if this meant healthy travellers from Italy would be asked to self-isolate for 14 days, not just those who have symptoms, the Prime Minister’s office initially confirmed this would be the case for Australians returning home – but not Italians or other tourists travelling through the country. The Prime Minster’s Office later clarified the advice would only apply to those feeling unwell.

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday raised the level of the travel advisory for South Korea to “reconsider your need to travel” and said all Australian residents and citizens returning from the country would need to self-isolate.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy during a press conference on the coronavirus. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

It decided not to impose the same total travel ban on Italy after advice from Border Force that it could handle increased health screenings at the border. The increased restrictions and evolving health advice is likely to spark cancellations among Italian tourists travelling to Australia, putting further pressure on the industry.

New data from Tourism Australia to be released on Friday shows international airline bookings from Australia’s top tourism markets have plummeted.

Key markets like Singapore and Japan have fallen by up to 70 per cent since mid-February. Canada is down by 42 per cent, while the United Kingdom has fallen by 22 per cent.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham will host a crisis meeting with state tourism ministers in Canberra on Friday, as the government prepares to deliver a multi-billion dollar stimulus package. Critical parts of the package are expected to focus on ensuring tourism operators keep employees in work.

“There are no silver bullets to ease the pain being felt by many tourism businesses, with global travel bookings down and Australia one of many nations feeling the impacts of coronavirus,” Senator Birmingham said.

“I also urge Australians to maintain confidence and travel within Australia, knowing that we have taken every possible step to keep people safe.”

Karen Kim, spokesperson for the Korean Society of Victoria, said the local community was already cancelling events before the flight ban was enacted due to coronavirus fears.

“Everyone is so panicked about the virus, people are becoming quite paranoid,” she said.

More than 28,700 international students from South Korea were enrolled in Australian tertiary institutions last year.

Liz Griffin, executive director of the Australia Korea Business Council, said South Korea was an important market for tourism, education and business.

“The true economic importance of our relationship with Korea is largely unknown by many in the public, we need them and they need us,” she said.

If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

with Tom Cowie

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