Prime Minister Scott Morrison has advised Australians to avoid “non-essential” overseas travel, in a huge blow to the national aviation industry.
It came as he also banned all gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday, excluding schools, universities and workplaces. Earlier, the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Melbourne was called off.
It’s unclear how this advice will affect those who have already booked flights, and whether major airlines will offer refunds or just the ability to move dates. Currently, Qantas has waived fees to change flights until 30 June, if the booking was made between 10-31 March.
PM Morrison said, “Only essential travel should be considered if you are going overseas from this point forward.
“There was growing evidence of greater community transmission of the coronavirus throughout Australia.
“Parliament is essential. Going to school is essential. Going to work is essential. Going and getting about your normal business, going to university lectures, and taking your kids to preschool, these things will continue.
“This step we are flagging for Monday is just about a scalable precautionary response.”
Nine new cases of coronavirus were diagnosed in Victoria on Thursday, taking the number of infections in the state to 36; 14 new cases were diagnosed in NSW, bringing its total to 92.
The surprise announcement came a day after President Donald Trump declared an unprecedented ban of flights from mainland Europe to the US, which had knock-on effects for the aviation industry.