Coronavirus: Australia and New Zealand close borders to non residents

Countries’ prime ministers announce travel restrictions on Thursday 

Rory Sullivan
Thursday 19 March 2020 12:59 GMT
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A sign saying washing and drying your hands kills the virus is seen at Christchurch International Airport in Christchurch, New Zealand
A sign saying washing and drying your hands kills the virus is seen at Christchurch International Airport in Christchurch, New Zealand (Getty Images)

Australia and New Zealand have announced that they are closing their borders to non-residents, in a move to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The bans will come into force at 21:00 (10:00 GMT) on Friday in Australia and at midnight (11:00 GMT) on Thursday in New Zealand.

Around 600 coronavirus cases have so far been confirmed in Australia and six people in the country have died from the disease.

New Zealand has recorded 28 coronavirus infections, with no deaths yet caused by the virus.

Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, explained his decision in a televised briefing from Canberra by saying that “the overwhelming proportion of cases in Australia have been imported”.

Shortly afterwards, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced her government would also implement a ban on non-citizens entering the country.

Ms Ardern told reporters: "I'm not willing to tolerate risk at our borders.”

"Today’s decision stops any tourist, or temporary visa holder such as students or temporary workers, from coming to and entering into New Zealand," she added.

New Zealanders’ legal guardians, partners or dependent children who are travelling with them will be allowed to return.

Ms Ardern added that those who have boarded flights and those already en route will be able to land in New Zealand.

The border restrictions will extend to South Pacific countries, which were previously not included in some travel bans.

New Zealand’s prime minister encouraged people not to panic, saying that cargo would still be let into the country.

"Our shelves will be stocked...there is no reason to panic buy," she said.

Her announcement came a few days after New Zealand announced a large stimulus package, worth four per cent of its GDP, in an attempt to soften the economic fallout of the crisis.

In Australia, Qantas, the country’s biggest airline by fleet size, said it would cancel all its international flights.

It added that two-thirds of its 30,000 workers would have to take paid or unpaid leave.

Air New Zealand Ltd, which announced a limited international flying schedule on Monday, expects to make more changes, according to a Twitter post by its chief revenue officer Cam Wallace on Twitter.

Additional reporting from Reuters

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