We are monitoring closely the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and its implications for overseas travel. On 27 February, the Prime Minister said the virus could become a pandemic. We will continue to provide up to date travel advice.
We are keeping all our travel advisories under close review in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer and our network of overseas embassies and consulates.
In most countries, we continue to advise Australians to ‘exercise normal safety precautions’. For the coronavirus, this means taking sensible measures to minimise your risk of exposure such as practising good hand hygiene (see Health). It does not mean reconsidering or cancelling your travel plans to these countries.
We have raised our advice level for four countries: China – to ‘do not travel’; South Korea, Japan and Mongolia – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. We have also raised our advice levels for regions in northern Italy – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’.
On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
On 27 February, the Prime Minister said the virus could become a pandemic. This article covers the following topics:
This article covers the following topics:
- What is coronavirus?
- What to do before you travel
- How to stay safe and healthy while you're away
- What to do if you're concerned about your cruise
- Returning from your travels
- Leaving China
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Initial human infections of the novel type of coronaviruses were acquired from exposure to animals at a live animal market in Wuhan. On 20 January, Chinese authorities confirmed the novel coronavirus is spreading person-to-person. It remains unknown how easily the virus spreads from person-to-person. Limited person-to-person transmission has now been confirmed in a number of countries around the world.
The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has been named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization.
Common symptoms of the disease include a fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Severe cases can cause pneumonia, and even death.
More resources for the public, health professionals and industry (some in simplified Chinese) are available from the Department of Health.
What we recommend
The World Health Organization is closely monitoring the situation. If you are considering travelling to any destination with cases of COVID-19, we strongly recommend the following.
Before you travel
- Talk to your doctor before travelling with young children, babies or an elderly person; if you are pregnant; if you have a weak immune system, or have a chronic medical condition.
- Read the travel advice for your destination. We are updating them regularly. There is a heightened risk of sustained local transmission in some countries.
- Read our advice about infectious diseases and medical assistance overseas before you go.
- Check with your travel agent, airline, cruise operator, accommodation provider and travel insurance provider to consider your options regarding any potential changes in services.
- Understand the risks you’re taking and that efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 may cause further travel disruptions and restrictions.
- Subscribe to your destination and our news and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive latest updates on the situation as they occur.
While you're away
To minimise your risk of exposure to this and other infections, we recommend you:
- Avoid all:
- high-risk areas such as farms, live animal markets, and areas where animals are slaughtered, including fish and seafood
- contact with animals (alive or dead), including pigs, chickens, ducks and wild birds
- surfaces with animal droppings or secretions on them
- If you come into contact with any animals or animal products, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth until you have thoroughly sanitised your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet
- Avoid contact with others (touching, kissing, hugging, and other intimate contact), especially if they are sick
- Monitor your health closely. If you develop symptoms (fever, a cough, sore throat, tiredness or shortness of breath), you should arrange to see a doctor for an urgent assessment
- Follow the advice of local authorities
- Contact your airline or travel company for information about changes to flight services
- You do not need to wear a face mask if you are well. Surgical masks in the community are only helpful in preventing people who are infected with coronavirus from spreading it to others. However, if you are travelling in an affected country, you must follow the advice of local authorities
Transport – entry, exit and transit
If you’re in an affected area or transiting an area with cases of COVID-19, contact your travel agent and accommodation and transportation providers about any potential changes in services or entry requirements. Check with your travel insurance company about how your specific policy covers the situation.
Many countries have introduced entry restrictions and screening measures at border crossings and transport hubs, including some which have not had cases of COVID-19. You may not be allowed to enter or transit, or you may be quarantined, based on your previous location and symptoms.
Entry, exit and transit conditions can change at short notice. Not all officials or transport providers are applying their policies consistently. Contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the countries you are visiting before you travel.
Going on a cruise?
The majority of cruise itineraries outside North Asia are operating as normal.
If you're concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on your cruise plans, check with your travel agent or cruise company and read and subscribe to our travel advisories for your destinations. See also the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) Australasia's policies to prevent the spread of the virus, which all CLIA ocean member cruise lines are required to implement.
Returning from a destination and you feel unwell
If you develop symptoms while travelling or within 14 days of returning to Australia, you should see a doctor. You should call the doctor's clinic or hospital before you arrive and advise them of your travel history.
Guidelines from the Department of Health recommend Australian doctors consider testing people with a clinically compatible illness who have travelled to certain countries in the 14 days before onset of symptoms.
The list is based on the volume of travel between those countries and Australia and China, and/or the current epidemiology of COVID-19, and is updated regularly.
Returning from a destination with reported cases
Australia has in place border, isolation, surveillance and case tracing mechanisms to protect the Australian community.
Australia has well established mechanisms to respond to ill travellers at points of entry.
Airlines must report passengers on board showing signs of an infectious disease, including fever, sweats or chills. Ill travellers are met on arrival by biosecurity officers who make an assessment and take necessary actions, such as isolation and referral to hospital, where required.
Returning from China
- Foreign nationals (excluding permanent residents of Australia) who are in mainland China will not be allowed to enter Australia until 14 days after they have left or transited through mainland China.
- Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family are able to enter Australia, as well as airline crews who have been using appropriate personal protective equipment
- If you’ve travelled to Hubei Province in the last 14 days, you must isolate yourself for 14 days.
- If you’ve left or transited through mainland China on or after 1 February 2020, you must isolate yourself for 14 days after leaving China.
- If you’ve been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must isolate yourself for 14 days after your last contact with them.