Coronavirus: Historic global "Do Not Travel" warning for Aussie travellers

Digital Editor · 18 March 2020
Australia’s travel advice for all overseas destinations has been raised to its highest level – a Level 4 ‘Do Not Travel’ warning – the Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today.

Mr Morrison addressed the nation this morning, saying that the government was calling all Australians home and lifting the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) travel warning to Do Not Travel, which could have implications for travel insurance.

A “COVID-19 and Travel” alert on DFAT’s Smartraveller website now states “Do not travel overseas at this time. If you wish to return home, do so as soon as possible.”

“We now advise all Australians: do not travel overseas at this time. This is our highest advice level (level 4 of 4),” the alert states.

“If you are already overseas and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means.”

What should you do if you are already overseas?

“As more countries close their borders or introduce travel restrictions, overseas travel is becoming more complex and difficult,” a statement published this morning on the Smartraveller website read.

“You may not be able to return to Australia when you had planned to. Consider whether you have access to health care and support systems if you get sick while overseas. If you decide to return to Australia, do so as soon as possible. Commercial options may become less available.

“If you are overseas and cannot, or do not want to, return to Australia, follow the advice of local authorities. Take care to minimise your risk of exposure to coronavirus including by self-isolating. If you choose to stay, note our ability to provide consular assistance in some places may be limited due to restrictions on movement and other services.

“If you decide to return to Australia, you will now be required to self-isolate for 14 days. This applies to all travellers, including Australian citizens. For details see the Australian Border Force website.”

What could this mean for travel insurance?

“Contact your airline, travel agent or insurance company to discuss your travel plans and options for cancelling or postponing current bookings, or to arrange commercial flights back to Australia,” the Smartraveller statement said.

“If the travel advice level is raised to ‘Level 3: Reconsider Your Need to Travel’ or ‘Level 4: Do Not Travel’, and you want to cancel your trip, contact your insurer,” DFAT’s website states. “Find out if you can make a claim to cover cancellation costs, or changes to your itineraries. Each travel insurance company will be different. Check with yours directly.”

What does a Do Not Travel warning normally mean?

The Smartraveller website states that its Level 4: Do not travel warning advice is:
“If you do travel, get professional security advice. Your travel insurance policy might be void. The Australian Government may not be able to help you.

“At level 4, your health and safety is at extreme risk. This may be because of a high threat of terrorist attack, conflict, violent social unrest, widespread infectious disease or critical levels of violent crime. It could be a combination of risks.

“If you travel to this location you’re at a high risk of death, imprisonment, kidnapping or serious injury.

“If you get into trouble, the Australian Government may be unable to help. In most cases, our ability to provide consular assistance in these destinations is extremely limited.

“You should not travel to this location. If you are already in a ‘do not travel’ area, you should consider leaving.”

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On 13 March: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued a warning via its Smartraveller website, stating that the travel advice for every nation had now been elevated to “Level 3 – Reconsider Your Need to Travel”, apart from 15 countries which had previously been allocated a “Level 4 – Do Not Travel” warning, including China and many Middle Eastern and African countries.

“Regardless of your destination, age or health, if your overseas travel is not essential, consider carefully whether now is the right time,” the advice stated.

“We have issued this advice for two principal reasons:

  • You may be more exposed to contracting COVID-19 overseas. You may come in contact with more people than usual, including during long-haul flights and in crowded airports. Health care systems in some countries will come under strain and may not be as well-equipped as Australia’s. You may not have your normal support networks overseas.
  • Overseas travel has become more complex and unpredictable. Many countries are introducing entry or movement restrictions. These are changing often and quickly. Your travel plans may be disrupted. You may be placed in quarantine or denied entry to some countries. Think about what this might mean for your health, and your family, work or study responsibilities.

“There are some countries in the world where we advise you do not travel. These are mostly for security reasons but some – China and Iran – are also because of a very high risk of coronavirus transmission. Do not travel to these countries.

“If you’re overseas and can’t or don’t want to return to Australia, follow the advice of local authorities. Take care to minimise your risk of exposure to coronavirus.

“Contact your airline, travel agent or insurance company to discuss your travel plans and options for cancelling or postponing current bookings, or to arrange flights back to Australia.

“For urgent consular assistance contact +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 from within Australia. For non-urgent queries contact”

DFAT said in a Twitter message that while a blanket warning had been issued via the site, there would be a slight delay in updating the advice for each country listed on it.


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