Update on coronavirus measures
Media release 27 Mar 2020
Australian governments met today as the National Cabinet to take further action to slow the spread of coronavirus to save lives, and to save livelihoods.
We will be living with this virus for at least six months, so social distancing measures to slow this virus down must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives, to help Australia to keep functioning and to keep Australians in jobs.
National Cabinet noted the latest statistics and medical advice in relation to COVID-19.
There are more than 3,000 confirmed cases in Australia and sadly 13 people have died. Of the newly reported cases in the last week, the majority have been from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
National Cabinet noted that the vast majority (around 85%) of cases in Australia remain overseas acquired or locally acquired contacts of a confirmed case.
Testing keeps Australians safe. Australia has one of the most rigorous coronavirus testing systems in the world with more than 180,000 tests completed - more than the USA, France or the UK, which have much larger populations. Australia’s per capita testing rate is amongst the highest in the world, now surpassing South Korea.
Intensive Care Units (ICU) will be critically important to protect the health of Australians. National Cabinet noted that Commonwealth, states and territories are working on increasing ICU and ventilator capacity - with surge capacity being prepared in the case of outbreaks.
National Cabinet received a comprehensive economic update from Treasury Secretary Dr Steven Kennedy. It noted the Commonwealth and states and territories have implemented major new economic support packages, but that even with these packages it is expected there will still be significant impacts on unemployment and economic activity.
National Cabinet thanked all Australians who are adhering to social distancing and self-isolation arrangements. Hygiene, social isolation and contact tracing are our most important measures to reduce the spread of the virus. We recognise this is a distressing time for Australians and we must stand together to ensure that we support each other.
We will continue to look at further measures as and where necessary to protect Australians. Any further measures to restrict activity may need to be flexible and calibrated to the extent of outbreaks by jurisdiction and the impact on the wellbeing of Australians and economics activity. Our goal is to start businesses and economic again after this health crisis has ended.
National Cabinet will meet again on Sunday, 29 March 2020 and consider issues including responses to address. Commercial and residential tenancies and health supply arrangements.
Substantial numbers of returned travellers and small community outbreaks associated with travellers continue to contribute most of the significant further growth in COVID-19 cases in Australia.
In order to help drive down this concerning number of imported cases, National Cabinet has agreed to take action to further restrict the movement of incoming travellers and to increase compliance checks on travellers who are already undertaking their mandatory self-isolation period at home. This is about reducing the spread of the virus in Australia and saving lives.
National Cabinet agreed that:
- As soon as possible, but no later than 11:59pm Saturday 28 March 2020, all travellers arriving in Australia will be required to undertake their mandatory 14 day self-isolation at designated facilities (for example, a hotel).
- Travellers will be transported directly to designated facilities after appropriate immigration, customs and enhanced health checks.
- Designated facilities will be determined by the relevant state or territory government and will ordinarily be in the city of entry where the traveller has cleared immigration, but facilities in other areas may be used if required.
- These requirements will be implemented under state and territory legislation and will be enforced by state and territory governments, with the support of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Australian Border Force (ABF) where necessary.
- The Commonwealth will provide support through the ABF and ADF for these arrangements across Australia, and that states and territories would meet the costs and determine any contributions required for travellers arriving within their jurisdictions.
- Air and maritime crews will be required to continue to undertake the existing precautions they are following where they self-isolate in their accommodation if they enter Australia until their next work voyage.
- The Australian Defence Force will begin assisting state and territory governments to undertake quarantine compliance checks of those who are required to be in mandatory isolation after returning from overseas.
- ADF personnel will bolster local police efforts in visiting the homes and residences of Australians who are in mandatory isolation as directed by state and territory governments and will report to the local police whether the identified individual was at the residence.
ADF assistance will be provided under the Defence Assistance to the Civil Community arrangements.
These new requirements will build on the existing support the Australian Defence Force is providing to the COVID-19 response, including:
- Assistance to the states and territories to support contact tracing efforts.
- Supporting industry with the production of surgical masks.
- Provision of planning and logistics support to Commonwealth, state and territory agencies.
- Provision of personnel to other agencies, including Services Australia.
- Supporting the NT Police with border control operations.
- Assisting states and territories to support the production of food hampers to supply to isolated civilians.
Statement on Schools by the National Cabinet
It is no longer business as usual for our schools, as we adapt to the impact of COVID-19.
We are now in a transition phase until the end of term as schools prepare for a new mode of operation following the school holidays.
For principals, teachers and support staff, the next few months will bring incredible challenges for our education system. We understand they need time to engage in the professional preparation and planning that is required to ensure that every child has access to education during this difficult time in a sustainable and effective manner for the rest of the 2020 school year.
Some states and territories have moved to pupil-free days already and each state and territory will come to their own transition arrangements with their workforce for the rest of this term.
While the medical advice remains that it is safe for children to go to school, to assist with the transition underway in our schools to the new mode of operation we ask that only children of workers for whom no suitable care arrangements are available at home to support their learning, physically attend school. This is vital to ensure that no parent should be forced to choose between their employment and the children’s education.
We understand the need for clear, nationally consistent health and safety advice so we have asked the AHPPC to develop guidelines about how staff in schools can protect themselves, manage social distance requirements and cater for those students who are at school. This will include guidelines for staff who work with vulnerable children, particularly those who have additional needs.
For education staff who identify as high risk, vulnerable or are caring for vulnerable family members, you will be supported to work from home.
We will continue to meet with education stakeholders and unions so that we can understand the education challenges for our communities and work constructively towards solutions. That will include the National Cabinet’s consideration of the measures needed for early childhood settings and TAFE.
Partnering with private hospitals
National Cabinet agreed to the importance of a strong and viable private hospital sector to bolster Australia’s response to COVID-19.
State and territory governments committed to urgently finalise arrangements with private hospitals under the COVID-19 National Partnership Agreement by 29 March 2020, to ensure sufficient and viable capacity exists within the private hospital sector both through the COVID-19 response and on an ongoing basis.
The private hospital system can play an important role in supporting the acute and intensive care needs of infected Australians together with other continuing urgent care needs. The capacity of the private system for non COVID cases and for overflow, particularly from ICU facilities, may be critical to Australia’s response.
Prime Minister of Australia
The Hon Scott Morrison MP
Important message for foreigners currently in Switzerland as tourists and/or for family reunion
Swiss authorities advise all foreign tourists are required to contact the Cantonal Office of Population and Migration in their area to obtain a temporary residence permit. A full list of cantonal authorities can be found here: Swiss Office for Migration.
You must also arrange accommodation and travel insurance during your time in Switzerland.
All foreigners will receive the same level of medical care as Swiss residents but may be required to guarantee payment in advance. We recommend you contact your insurer to seek advice.
Australians abroad during COVID-19
- The Hon Michael McCormack MP, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Regional Development, Leader of The Nationals, Federal Member for Riverina
- Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Women
25 March 2020
COVID-19 is affecting hundreds of thousands of Australians who are travelling abroad, disrupting their movement and in some cases making it difficult for them to return to Australia. We acknowledge that this is an anxious time for many Australians and their loved ones.
There have been rapid reductions in commercial flight options, including flight cancellations with little or no notice and increased restrictions on travel and transit. Many countries are closing their borders and restricting internal movement.
The situation is changing rapidly and will continue to do so. As well as the scale of challenges posed by the global Covid-19 pandemic, our capacity to provide consular services in this environment is constrained.
The Government’s assurance to all Australians abroad and their families is that the staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, whether at home or at our missions abroad, is working around the clock to provide information and assistance to those affected by this crisis.
The Government has strongly urged, and continues to urge, Australians overseas who want to come home to return as soon as possible. We acknowledge this is difficult for many.
Limited commercial flights are still operating from some countries and cities but we are aware that in many countries they are no longer an option. We urge Australians who do have access to these opportunities to act quickly.
The Government thanks Qantas and Virgin for their willingness to engage on continued services to key hubs for the purpose of bringing Australians home, where existing commercial flights are exhausted.
Last night, the Government also agreed to consider, on a case-by-case basis, supporting our airlines to operate non-scheduled services to less central locations to bring Australians home. These will only be done where it is feasible, where all other commercial options have been exhausted and where local authorities will permit such flights.
We do not have plans for assisted departures, such as those conducted to the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, Wuhan in China and Japan.
As many travellers are doing, it may be necessary for some Australians to stay where they are overseas, and as far as practicable remain safe and comfortable, including by following the directions of local authorities. Given the unprecedented scale of the global interruption to travel, the options outlined will not return all Australians travellers home.
For those of you who may be overseas in coming weeks, Australia’s diplomatic missions around the globe will do whatever they can to provide you with regular advice and support. This will include information on local restrictions, food and necessities, and other support. Please ensure you sign up to their social media accounts, as well as Smartraveller.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555
An important message to all Australians overseas trying to get back home to Australia.
There are hundreds of thousands of Australians overseas at any given point. With the scale of the COVID-19 crisis, the number of Australians trying to get home at once is unprecedented. Most countries have arrangements that allow foreigners to leave. If you want to come back to Australia, book with your travel agents and airlines *as soon as possible* as flight options are diminishing. In countries where airlines have stopped operating, we’re working with the airline industry, likeminded countries and foreign governments to help Australians find ways to get home.
Consular officials are doing all they can to assist those most in need. It’s important to understand that our ability to assist in some places may be very limited due to movement and service restrictions. In some cases, Australians may have to stay where they are for longer until departure can be arranged or border closures are lifted. We understand this is a very stressful and difficult situation. If you’re staying somewhere longer than planned, follow the advice of local authorities.
Protect yourself from exposure to COVID-19 & stay in touch with friends and family back home. Monitor www.smartraveller.gov.au & the closest Australian diplomatic mission’s social media.
For urgent consular assistance contact your nearest Australian embassy, high commission or consulate or call DFAT’s Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 from Australia or +61 6261 3305 from overseas.
We now advise all Australians: do not travel overseas at this time.
This is our highest advice level (level 4 of 4).
If you are already overseas and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means. Visit www.smartraveller.gov.au for up-to-date travel advice and the websites of the Australian Department of Health and the Federal Office of Public Health for the latest medical advice.
For questions about Australian travel restrictions, please refer to the website of the Department of Home Affairs at https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/news-media/current-alerts/novel-coronavirus. This website is regularly updated and will give you the latest official information.
The Permanent Mission and Consulate-General want to provide a safe environment for both staff and visitors and we ask that everyone adhere to the advice of local authorities. In support of host government protocols in place in response to the SARS-Cov-2/COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General in Geneva have decided to postpone all non-urgent passport and notarial appointments until 30 April 2020.
If you have a consular or passport emergency, please email the Consulate on Australian.email@example.com or call us on +41 22 799 91 00. If you require urgent consular assistance outside of business hours please contact +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 from within Australia.
Medical authorities have implemented certain safety measures to limit and control the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes limiting large social gatherings, not traveling, exercising good hygiene measures and limiting physical contact. We urge you to respect the advice from local authorities and the mitigating actions suggested to contain and reduce the spread of Covid-19. More information can be found on the website of the Federal Office of Public Health.
Australia’s travel and medical advice can be found on Smartraveller and on Australia’s Department of Health websites. For up-to-date advice on entering Australia, please visit the website of the Department of Home Affairs https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/news-media/current-alerts/novel-coronavirus.
As at 9pm AEDT, Friday 20 March 2020, Australia is closing its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents. Exceptions are only for Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family, including spouses, legal guardians and dependants. Australian citizens and permanent residents and those exempt from the entry restrictions will continue to be subject to a strict 14 day self-isolation.
If you require urgent consular assistance, please call the Australian Consulate in Geneva on +41 22 799 91 00 or the 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on:
1300 555 135 (within Australia)
+61 2 6261 3305 (from overseas)
SMS to +61 421 269 080
use our online contact form
Visas and citizenship
The Australian Consulate-General in Geneva has no visa function - Please visit the Department of Home Affairs website or call the Global Service Centre in Australia on +61 2 6196 0196. The Consulate-General is unable to provide information on visas, immigration, customs or citizenship.
Information about passport and/or consular services for Australians can be found here:
The Consul-General for Switzerland and Liechtenstein is Ms Natalie Grant.
Ph. +41 (0) 22 799 9100
Fax. +41 (0) 22 799 9178
Australian Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organisation
Information about the work of the Australian Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organization can be found here.
Ph. +41 (0) 22 799 9100
Fax. +41 (0) 22 799 9189
The Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization is Ms Frances Lisson.
Australian Permanent Mission to the Office of the United Nations and Conference on Disarmament
Information about the work of the Australian Permanent Mission to the Office of the United Nations can be found here.
Information about the work of the Disarmament Delegation can be found here.
Ph. +41 (0) 22 799 9100
Fax. +41 (0) 22 799 9175
The Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and to the Conference on Disarmament is Ms Sally Mansfield.