We are monitoring closely the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and its implications for overseas travel. Many countries are now reporting cases. Many are introducing new entry restrictions. These are changing often and quickly. Overseas travel is becoming more complex. You need to ensure you’re informed and prepared, not just about your destination, but about the countries you might need to transit through to get there, and home.

We are keeping all our travel advisories under very close review in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee 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).

We have raised our advice level for six countries: China and Iran – to ‘do not travel’; South Korea – to ‘Reconsider your need to travel’; Japan, Italy and Mongolia – 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?

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, however several countries have now confirmed sustained or limited person-to-person transmission.

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’re considering travelling to or transiting through 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’re pregnant; if you have a weak immune system, or have a chronic medical condition.
  • Read the travel advice for your destination, and for the countries you need to transit through to get there, and get home. We are updating them regularly. There is a heightened risk of sustained community 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.

More information:

While you’re away

Health

To minimise your risk of exposure:

  • practise good hygiene to protect against infections. Good hygiene includes:
    • washing your hands often with soap and water
    • using a tissue and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze
    • avoiding close contact with others, particularly if they are unwell
  • read more about protective measures against coronavirus on the World Health Organization website.
  • monitor your health closely. If you develop symptoms (fever, a cough, sore throat, tiredness or shortness of breath), arrange to see a doctor for an urgent assessment
    • you need to isolate yourself to prevent it spreading to other people
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • you don’t need to wear a face mask if you’re 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

More information:

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.

Read and subscribe to the travel advice for all the destinations you plan to visit or transit.

Going on a cruise?

The itineraries of some cruise ships have changed in response to COVID-19. Some countries are preventing disembarkation, sometimes at short notice.

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, including transit locations. 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. Carefully consider the risks, particularly if you already have health concerns.

Coming home

Returning from a destination and you feel unwell

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.

If you develop symptoms while travelling or within 14 days of returning to Australia, see a doctor for urgent assessment. 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 China or Iran

  • Foreign nationals (excluding permanent residents of Australia) who have been in mainland China or Iran will not be allowed to enter Australia until 14 days after they have left or transited through mainland China or Iran.
  • 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 left or transited through mainland China or Iran, you must isolate yourself for 14 days after leaving.
  • 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.