The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised Australians to return home as soon as possible by commercial means because travel abroad is becoming “more complex and difficult” as countries impose travel restrictions and close their borders.
The new travel tip, released Tuesday evening, sparked speculation that the Morrison government may be about to impose a blockade on Australia. But officials told Guardian Australia that he was not in contemplation.
Governments are poised to unveil new social removal measures after a meeting between Scott Morrison and the premiers on Tuesday evening. Leaders discussed further restrictions on indoor meetings and new measures for the aged care sector and remote indigenous communities.
In addition to efforts to slow community broadcasting of the disease, the Morrison government is also preparing a second multi-billion dollar “safety net” package. The coalition is considering a boost to income support for welfare beneficiaries and support to businesses at risk following the economic shock associated with the coronavirus.
While a second pump preparation cycle is being prepared, senior ministers warned Tuesday that extra spending will not be enough to avoid the widespread job loss resulting from the Covid-19 health crisis.
Health Minister Greg Hunt on Tuesday also reported a massive boost in public tests for the disease, concerned about the lack of test kits, saying he will make an “important announcement” about the country’s testing regime on Wednesday.
According to the Department of Health, the global shortage of test kits is the reason for the government’s decision to undertake targeted rather than widespread testing.
Dfat’s new travel advice asks Australians to reevaluate all overseas travel if it is not essential and says: “If you are already abroad and want to return to Australia, we recommend that you do it as soon as possible with commercial means” .
As more and more countries are closing their borders or introducing travel restrictions, Dfat has warned that people may not be able to return to Australia when they need it. “If you decide to go back to Australia, do it as soon as possible. Trading options may become less available, “said Dfat.
The department said the advice was adapted because there may be a greater risk of contracting the virus abroad and “you may get in touch with more people than usual, even during long-haul flights and at crowded airports.” He says health systems in some countries “can be severely tested and may not be as well equipped as Australian ones or have the ability to support foreigners.”
“Traveling abroad has become more complex and unpredictable. Many countries are introducing restrictions on entry or movement. These are changing often and quickly. Your travel plans may be interrupted. You may be quarantined or denied entry to some countries and you may have to self-quarantine on your return to Australia. “
“Think about what this could mean for your health and your family, work or study responsibilities.”
As of Tuesday, there are 438 confirmed cases of viruses in Australia, with a third federal politician – liberal Senator Andrew Bragg – among the last to be disease positive.
Three senators who attended a commission hearing with Bragg last week – Jenny McAllister, Tony Sheldon and Rex Patrick – are now in solitary confinement.
The rapidly growing crisis prompted the Coalition to quickly develop another wave of economic stimulus, which is expected to be more far-reaching than the $ 17.6 billion package announced last week.
The federal cabinet discussed options at a meeting Tuesday, with measures also discussed by the cabinet’s expense review committee, however it is understood that no final decisions have been taken.
The government is seeking ways to increase support through existing programs and mechanisms, but the package is unlikely to be announced until the Reserve Bank of Australia intervenes again Thursday through another emergency rate cut or significant purchase of securities. of state.
The government is expected to put the new measures into a restricted parliament next week to be voted ahead of the Easter break and May budget.
It is possible that the government will also provide a separate assistance package for the airlines before unveiling the second set of stimuli over the weekend or early next week. Qantas has reported that it will close 90% of international flights and 60% of domestic flights by the end of the month.
The government and the opposition have agreed that only 90 of the country’s 151 parliamentarians will come to Canberra for the next parliamentary session, along with 54 of the country’s 76 senators.
The package is expected to cover both heavily affected industries and vulnerable low-income workers.
However, even with billions of dollars more in government support, finance minister Mathias Cormann warned that the “sad reality” was that jobs would be lost while the country was facing a crash. economic “unprecedented”.
“We are very aware that as we look at things today, many companies will close and many Australians will lose their jobs,” said Cormann on Tuesday.
“We will ensure that they have obtained adequate levels of support through this transition on the other side, when there is a strong rebound and a strong recovery.”
The finance minister also revealed that the government was examining specific measures to help vulnerable low-income workers, who admitted that they would be hit hard by a recession.
“We are seriously considering what appropriate supports we can provide, particularly to the most vulnerable in our community and in particular to those most affected,” said Cormann.
“This will be a difficult period. There will be a strong recovery on the other side, but it will be a difficult period. We are all together. We are going to find the best way to overcome this period.”
While asking the government to do more to protect casual workers, the industrial relations minister, Christian Porter, said that the current social safety net is the best delivery mechanism “for those who will need help on time difficult future. “
“But as many people may need help in difficult times to come, because they discover they are unable to work or because they have experienced unemployment due to changing economic conditions, the best assistance mechanism is the welfare system at because of its proven ability to provide income support for affected workers, “Porter told Guardian Australia.
“This is the most effective way to ensure that income support reaches the needy in the easiest and quickest way possible, by giving up regular waiting periods.”
Porter said that while the government was not considering a “global structural change” in the industrial relations system, the hardest hit people needed “income support until things got better”.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO James Pearson called on the government to offer greater support to all members of the workforce who need to isolate themselves without access to income, including both employees and small business owners.
“Many companies pay to cover isolated periods, even when there is no legal obligation to do so,” said Pearson.
“But small family businesses that struggle to survive, let alone keep the staff they have, don’t have the resources to support additional casual payments.”