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16,000 Australians Flew Out of the Country Despite a “Do Not Travel’ Advisory and Are Now Stuck Overseas

16,000 Australians Flew Out of the Country Despite a “Do Not Travel’ Advisory and Are Now Stuck Overseas

Around 16,000 Australians flew overseas between March 19 and 30 despite the Department of Foreign Affairs issuing a Level 4 ‘Do not travel’ alert on March 16 covering the entire world. It was the first time Australia has ever issued such a sweeping travel advisory – a Level 4 warning is the highest available and warns of “extreme risk” to health and safety.

The Australian authorities issued the alert in response to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic and came as both Qantas and Virgin Australia announced plans to temporarily suspend all international flights because of a general slump in travel demand and widening travel restrictions.

As Virgin Australia short haul cabin crew you'll be operating on the airline's fleet of A320 aircraft. Photo Credit: Virgin Australia
Photo Credit: Virgin Australia

Despite most travel insurance policies being annulled as soon as a ‘Do not travel’ warning is issued, 16,000 travellers flew overseas from Australian airports to popular holiday destinations like Bali, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

While 3,800 of those left the country with a special exemption after the Australian government banned all normal overseas travel on March 25, around 12,200 Australian’s went on holiday despite clear advice from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to stay put.

“The travel advice to every Australian is ‘do not travel abroad’. Do not go overseas. That is very clear instruction. For those who are thinking of going overseas in the school holidays, don’t. Don’t go overseas,” Morrisson said on March 17 – a warning that wasn’t heeded by some.

Australians are now only allowed to leave the country if they have applied for a special exemption and these are only granted to specific groups like those who don’t ordinarily live in Australia, airline crew and those working for the government and travelling in an official capacity.

Over 300 Australian tourists left Abu Dhabi on Thursday after becoming stranded in the country when the Emirati authorities suspended all air travel for two weeks. The repatriation flight was organised by the Australian consulate and further rescue flights have been arranged around the world after normal commercial services were grounded.

All returning Australians will have to spend 14-days in enforced quarantine at designated hotels close to airports. There are now calls for anyone who left the country after the Level 4 advisory was issued to be charged for the time they spend in quarantine.