TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — With the death toll of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) rising to 7,970 worldwide, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday (March 18) announced that citizens must cancel all non-essential overseas travel and declared the pandemic a "human biosecurity emergency."
In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, Morrison has banned all Australians from international travel indefinitely, as well as unnecessary gatherings of 100 people or more. This is the first time in history that the Australian government has placed such a restriction on its citizens, and the new policy is expected to be in place at least six months, according to CNA.
Morrison called the crisis a "once in a 100-year type of event," adding that the country has not experienced something as dramatic as the current pandemic since the end of WWI. He advised Australians who are currently abroad to return home immediately before their host countries issued lockdowns.
The prime minister stressed that any citizens who decide to remain overseas should closely follow the orders given by the local governments. However, he warned that some countries might not be able to share their medical resources with foreign nationals if the outbreak worsens.
Despite the new travel ban, Morrison said schools will remain open for the time being, as their closure would have a "severe" impact on Australia's society and economy. He reiterated the importance of handwashing and social distancing, but he discouraged the panic buying of food or medical supplies, reported ETtoday.