Rapidly becoming an international problem of significant proportions, reports of new infections and of consequential fatalities, resulting from the potentially lethal COVID 19 disease, recently influenced the Australian government to extend prevailing travel bans impacting people wishing to travel to Australia, direct from mainland China.
These bans have now been in place for four consecutive weeks and will be reviewed again on March 7th.
Whilst high school students commencing years 11 or 12 (and not from Hubei province) welcomed an earlier announcement that the government would be relaxing restrictions in their favour, the Prime Minister outlined clearly that these considerations should not be considered as an “open door” policy; individuals could apply for exemptions, through State and Territory governments, which would then be considered on a case by case basis.
Should they decide to do so, State and Territory governments may seek exemptions to COVID 19 travel restrictions for year 11 and 12 high school students, providing the subjects meet strict criteria:
- The Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment, in conjunction with states/territories confirms subjects are enrolled in year 11 or 12.
- Each state or territory health agency provides assurance that the students’ (and guardians’ where applicable) quarantine arrangements meet all health requirements within its jurisdiction.
- Neither student nor guardian is unwell, nor have demonstrated any signs of illness for more than 14 days.
- Neither student nor guardian has visited Hubei province, China, since the outbreak of COVID 19.
- The Australian Border Force and the Department of Home Affairs confirm the student (and guardian where necessary) have valid and existing visas in place and security checks have been completed.
- The Australian Border Force considers each individual to meet the criteria for exemption and so advised the Australian Department of Education, Skills, Employment and Health. A weekly report consolidating the number of people to whom the Australian Border Force has Granted and refused exemptions, by state and territory, will be provided to the Australian Department of Education, Skills, Employment and Health.
- The Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment will inform state and territory counterparts of the outcomes of applications for exemptions.
- State and territory education agencies will inform schools who, in turn, will notify students of exemptions or otherwise – also advising state and territory health authorities.
- The Australian Border Force will provide uplift authority for exempt travellers.
- The Australian Department of Agriculture will conduct health/biosecurity screening of all students and guardians, at the border.
- Students and guardians complete 14 days self-quarantine, in line with state or territory requirements applicable as at the point of entry into Australia.
- State and territory health authorities monitor respective local quarantine requirements.
- Should students or guardians breach quarantine arrangements, their visas may be subject to cancellation.
Reapplying for cancelled visas onshore
The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that recent legislation which provided for certain applicants to reapply for cancelled visas whilst still onshore applies solely to a specific group who are currently onshore, as holders of Border Visas.
The Department is in direct contact with these visa holders; people whose visas were most likely cancelled whilst they were actually in transit to Australia, on the very day that the travel ban was introduced.
Other individuals cannot, on their own initiative, make an onshore application for a Border Visa to enter Australia.
Australia’s travel ban for mainland China continues and is subject to weekly reviews. The spread and severity of COVID 19, not only in China but around the world, provides an ongoing monitor but recent figures released from China show promise, so we all remain hopeful of an early reprieve.
Today, 29/02/2020, the Australian government extended an additional travel ban, to Iran; a high degree of caution has been issued with respect to those planning travel to Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand and it is anticipated that this list may grow. Now, the World Health Organisation is pondering the announcement of another global pandemic; a bold step but in reality, simply a label for an existing issue which has at last unified the scientific world.
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