Australian Prime Minister To Visitors: ‘Time To Make Your Way Home’
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison encouraged all visitors to return to their home countries during a press conference on Friday, April 3, as he discussed the country’s latest efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“As much as it’s lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this, if you are a visitor in this country, it is time—as it has been now for some while, and I know many visitors have—to make your way home and to ensure you can receive the supports that are available where they are in your home countries,” said Morrison. “At this time Australia must focus on its own citizens and its residents to ensure that we can maximize the economic supports that we have,” he said.
The statement comes on the heels of a number of hostel parties and beach gatherings that were held by travelers in Bondi Beach and Byron Bay despite the strict social distancing regulations currently being enacted all over the country. The National Cabinet declared on March 29 that no more than two people should be out in public at a time unless they are part of your household.
So far, there seems to be one exception: visa holders with medical backgrounds and other skills that would be helpful to Australia during its time of need.
“For those backpackers in Australia who are nurses or doctors, or have other critical skills that can really help us during this crisis, then there will be opportunities for them,” Morrison said.
Morrison also mentioned some new rules for travelers holding Working Holiday Visas, who are encouraged to stay if they’re able to support themselves and are willing to assist the country’s agricultural industry through harvesting, fruit picking and other necessary farm work.
To prevent the virus from spreading to smaller, regional areas however, those interested will first be required to register through the government’s website, Australia.gov.au, and self-isolate for 14 days in their current location. Afterward, potential employers will be able to check to ensure proper precautions have been taken care of before new employees are allowed to begin working. It’s a win-win for Working Holiday Visa holders, who will now have a chance to fund their future travels, as well as for farmers, who desperately need the workers.
According to Morrison, accommodation for backpackers working on farms would also need to be up to snuff and follow the current guidelines for social distancing, adding that it would not be acceptable for several people to share a caravan or RV, as may have been a typical example of backpacker accommodation in the past. Local authorities, he said, would be working together with state, territory and federal government offices to make sure everyone was adhering to the necessary health regulations.
To be clear, this all applies to visitors and Working Holiday visa holders who are already in Australia, as all travel to the country has been restricted as of March 20, with the exception of Australian citizens, residents, New Zealand citizens who regularly reside in Australia and their immediate family members. As of March 28, you’ll still be required to undergo quarantine for 14 days even if you are allowed to enter, while each state also has its own guidelines for self-isolation following interstate travel. At the same time, Australian citizens and permanent residents are barred from overseas travel as of March 25, with very few exceptions. Travel restrictions regarding border closures and overseas travel are expected to be in place for at least six months so it’s best to check the Tourism Australia’s website for important updates if you have any trips planned to the land down under in 2020.