The prime minister has issued an updated travel ban, meaning that Australia’s borders will be closed to anyone who is not an Australian citizen, permanent resident or close relative of a citizen or resident, from tomorrow evening.
Scott Morrison unveiled the news during a press conference in Canberra on Thursday afternoon and said the reason for the drastic new measure was that 80 per cent of the country’s coronavirus cases could be attributed to someone who has come from overseas or had direct contact with someone who’s come in from overseas.
The new travel ban will come into effect at 9pm on Friday, March 20 and is an upgrade from the previous restrictions which saw anyone who entered the country from overseas, whether Australian or otherwise, forced to enter self isolation for 14 days.
However the prime minster also assured Australians who are currently overseas that they will be able to return home.
He said: “There will be Australians in many places around the world who will find themselves finding it a lot harder to get back to Australia than otherwise … We’re working hard to make sure we can keep some flights open so Australians can make their way back.
“But those who find themselves in a more remote location we will have to work closely through them with our consular officers like our very professional consular officials do every day.”
He added: “I want to thank Qantas also, you are offering to work with us to make sure they maintain flights from particular parts of the world that can assist Australians to return to Australia and we will be working closely with them, and those Australians who are overseas, we have been encouraging them to return to Australia.
“Those in remote parts of the world, that can prove challenging but for those in other places, it is our intention to ensure we can maintain flights to enable them to come home as soon as possible.”
New Zealand has also implemented similar measures which come into effect from midnight tonight, as the PM added that he had been working with NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to coordinate their efforts.
The update came just hours after the Reserve Bank of Australia took the drastic measure of slashing the cash rate to a record low of 0.25 per cent.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg joined Morrison for the press conference, along with RBA Governor Philip Lowe, to discuss the economic response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and described the RBA’s actions as “extraordinary”.
“This is a very volatile time in global equity, debt and credit markets, but Australians can be reassured that our financial system remains well capitalised and strong,” the treasurer said.
“It was referred to today by the Reserve Bank governor in his statement. The Australian financial system remains strong but the measures announced by the Morrison government today, and the Reserve Bank and the prudential regulator, will even enhance this strength further.”