Australians travelling overseas have been advised to come home, sooner rather than later.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has told travellers: “If you’re already overseas and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means.”
It comes as Coles supermarkets introduced new buying restrictions amid problems with customers’ hoarding and panic buying.
DFAT issued the urgent advice on Tuesday night as an increasing number of airlines drastically reduced their number of international flights.
“We now advise all Australians to reconsider your need for overseas travel at this time,” a statement on the Smartraveller said.
“Regardless of your destination, age or health, if your overseas travel is not essential, consider carefully whether now is the right time.“
The DFAT statement said as more countries closed their borders or introduced travel restrictions, overseas travel was becoming “more complex and difficult”.
“You may not be able to return to Australia when you had planned to,” DFAT said.
“Consider whether you have access to healthcare and support systems if you get sick while overseas. If you decide to return to Australia, do so as soon as possible. Commercial options may become less available.”
Australians overseas who can’t or don’t want to return to Australia have been told to follow the advice of local authorities.
“Take care to minimise your risk of exposure to coronavirus including by self-isolating,” DFAT said.
”If you choose to stay, note our ability to provide consular assistance in some places may be limited due to restrictions on movement and other services.“
The government’s ability to help citizens stuck overseas could be limited as the situation worsens across the globe.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne advised Aussies keen to come home to do so sooner rather than later.
“Transport options will likely become more limited as countries respond to the COVID-19 outbreak,” she said.
“DFAT’s capacity to provide consular help may be limited.”
It comes as Indonesia shut down to tourists from every country, closing its borders for a month from Friday.
It has emerged that severely ill patients may not be admitted to intensive care units if they have chronic health conditions that mean it is unlikely they will survive COVID-19 under dramatic new guidelines.
The rules, released by the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society, warn that in the event of an overwhelming demand for critical care services during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Senior Intensive Care medical staff, recognising available resources, should consider the probable outcome of the patient’s condition, the burden of ICU treatment for the patient and their family, patients’ comorbidities and wishes, and likelihood of response to treatment,” the guidelines read.
The guidelines just released forecast demand for ICU care will exceed capacity when up to 50 per cent of hospital beds are occupied by patients with pandemic illness.
To prepare for the expected overwhelming demand on ICU beds under COVID-19, the society is calling for elective surgery to be deferred or sent to private hospitals to free up ICU beds.
It calls for the opening of additional ICU capacity in sites outside the hospital (eg newly built but unfinished hospitals or previously decommissioned hospitals).
And for use of a centralised co-ordination and retrieval service which connects all ICU beds within a region.
It warns some patients may have to stay longer in emergency department beds and operating theatre recovery rooms to free up ICU capacity for COVID-19 patients.
Hospitals have been urged to quantify their existing stock of ventilators, renal replacement therapy, intravenous infusion pumps and order more.
There is a very real fear Australia does not have enough ventilators to cope with a serious COVID-19 outbreak that will see many people develop severe pneumonia and require support to help them breathe.
The guidelines urge hospitals to identify staff working on other areas who have ICU experience or who could be quickly trained up to work in the units.
And it says work should be done on repurposing operating theatres and other hospital rooms that could be turned into spaces where ventilation can be provided.
COLES INTRODUCES BUYING LIMITS
It comes as Coles has introduced new buying limits on a range of goods, according to reports.
As of today, customers will be restricted to purchasing two lots of:
sugar; dairy milk; grocery milk; canned tomatoes; pasta sauce; liquid soaps.
Coles has already introduced limits on toilet paper, pasta, flour, rice, paper towels, paper tissues, hand sanitisers, mince meat, eggs and frozen vegetables and desserts.
The restrictions were brought in as a result of the panic-buying and hoarding of groceries seen across Australia since the COVID-19 outbreak.
TRUMP TO SEND CHEQUES TO AMERICANS
It came as US President Donald Trump said the government wants to send checks to Americans in the next two weeks in an effort to curb the economic cost of the coronavirus outbreak.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made the announcement.
‘The payroll tax holiday would get money to people over the next six to eight months. We’re looking to send checks to Americans immediately,’ Mr Mnuchin said. “Americans needs cash now and the president wants to give cash now.”
“And I mean now – in the next two weeks,” Mr Mnuchin added.
He said the amount could be more than $US1000. There would also be some income cut-offs.
“You don’t need to send people who make a million dollars a year checks,” he said.
The White House is asking Congress to approve a massive emergency rescue package to help businesses as well as taxpayers cope with the economic crisis that is paired with the pandemic.
Sec. Mnuchin planned to outline that roughly $US850 billion ($A1.4 billion) package to Senate Republicans at a private lunch, with officials aiming to have Congress approve it this week.
Vice President Mike Pence has also urged US construction companies to donate their inventories of safety masks to hospitals and forgo new orders as the nation battles the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Pence said the single-use N95 masks, which are designed to filter 95 per cent of airborne particles and commonly used in the construction industry, are “perfectly acceptable” for hospital use.
Mr Pence, who is heading up the White House Coronavirus Task Force, visited the Minnesota headquarters of 3M, the maker of the N95 mask, earlier this month to discuss the production increase.
Mr Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams have said the average American does not need to go out and buy a mask. They have urged Americans to leave the masks for medical professionals.
JOHNSON ANNOUNCES ECONOMIC RELIEF
Britain has announced $A667 billion of government-backed loans to help businesses stay afloat, with homeowners also to get three-month mortgage holidays to deal with the coronavirus cash crisis.
The unprecedented bail out comes as major centres across the UK on Tuesday local time were deserted as millions of people began to work from home, with fears of mass job losses and business closures.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that families and businesses needed urgent financial support.
He pledged to do “whatever it takes”.
“We must act like a wartime government and do whatever it takes to support our economy,” he said early on Wednesday Australian time. “We support millions of businesses and tens of millions families and individuals through coming months. The Government must and will act with a profound sense of urgency.”
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak also said that more money would be provided if needed in a desperate bid to save jobs across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“We want to provide security to people,” he said.
The money will be loaned at attractive interest rates, but it was unclear whether some businesses would rather go bust than take on more debt.
It comes after France promised a similar figure, providing a guarantee that no business would go bankrupt as a result of coronavirus.
The European Union has banned all travel to Europe for 30 days, except for citizens, as Germany joins Italy in closing all shops, except food stores and pharmacies.
As he announced the police intervention, French president Emmanuel Macron declared: “We are at war. Day and night there is nothing that should distract us.”
Anyone caught on the streets of France will be at risk of fines up to $250, with schools already closed.
Mr Macron also announced a $523 billion fund to ensure no French business would “go bankrupt”.
Shops across the UK are running short of supplies despite government pleas for the public to avoid stockpiling.
Mr Johnson said he was confident of a “farm to fork” supply chain that would not require panic buying.
He did not respond to questions about whether he had made a joke about a “last gasp” attempt to supply ventilators when he was on a conference call with manufacturers including Rolls Royce, Force, Honda and Vauxhall.
It comes as the number of coronavirus deaths in England climbed to 67, including a 45 year old, while it was 71 across the UK.
National Health Service England said: “A further 14 people, who tested positive for the Coronavirus (Covid-19) have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in England to 67. Patients were aged between 93 and 45 years old and had underlying health conditions. Their families have been informed.”
There were claims that fewer than 20,000 deaths would be a likely result if the UK population stayed at home and avoided non-essential contact.Insurers have confirmed they would pay out to businesses for claims as a result of the coronavirus, with many industries, particularly food and entertainment at risk, the government said.
Schools currently remain open in the UK but it was expected they would close at some point in the coming weeks, potentially either side of the Easter school holidays.
TRUMP DOUBLES DOWN ON ‘CHINESE VIRUS’ CALL
Despite garnering anger after calling the coronavirus the “Chinese Virus”, Mr Trump has used the term again in an early morning tweet.
Mr Trump took a swipe at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for saying all US states should be treated the same.
“All states aren’t the same,” Mr Trump tweeted. “Some are being hit hard by the Chinese Virus, some are being hit practically not at all. New York is a very big ‘hotspot’, West Virginia has, thus far, zero cases. Andrew, keep politics out of it.”
Cuomo wants “all states to be treated the same.” But all states aren’t the same. Some are being hit hard by the Chinese Virus, some are being hit practically not at all. New York is a very big “hotspot”, West Virginia has, thus far, zero cases. Andrew, keep politics out of it….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2020
Geng Shuang, a spokesperson from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accused “certain American politicians” of promoting stigmatisation by connecting the novel coronavirus with China.
He did not name Mr Trump specifically, but was referring to his tweet, reported Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
“We express strong indignation and resolute opposition to this,” Mr Geng said at a daily news briefing.
Asked about using the term “coronavirus”, Mr Trump said that he was angry that China “was putting out false information that our military gave it to them.”
He said he felt “Chinese Virus” was “ a very accurate term”.
The Chinese government announced that it will revoke press credentials for American journalists who work for The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal and whose credentials were set to expire in 2020, retaliating for state media restrictions by the Trump administration.
The US State Department announced last month that it has designated five Chinese state media outlets as “foreign missions,” meaning that they will be treated as arms of the Chinese government.
NO PLANS TO QUARANTINE NEW YORK
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tried to assure reporters that there are no plans to quarantine New York City amid the coronavirus outbreak — as he announced the number of cases statewide spiked 432 overnight to 1374.
The jump was driven by a 187-case rise in the Big Apple, for a total of 644 cases. But as Mayor Bill de Blasio admitted he’s mulling a shelter-in-place edict, Gov. Cuomo sought to assure reporters he has no current plans to order the city closed.
“People will panic at the thought of being quarantined,” Gov. Cuomo said at a press briefing.
Gov Cuomo said 264 of the state’s COVID-19 patients are hospitalised.
Westchester County has 157 new cases, with a total of 380 to date.
The spike in cases comes as the Empire State has stepped up its testing capacity.
Originally published as Aussies warned to return home from overseas