Popular destination could face travel ban

 

ITALY could be the next country subject to travel bans or heightened travel advice, after Health Minister Greg Hunt ordered the nation's top medicos to review its coronavirus situation.

It comes as Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton revealed border security had the power to block entire plane loads of people from coming in if there are fears related to the pandemic on board - but suggested it was 'highly unlikely' to be used.

Australia's current travel advice to Italy is only to exercise high caution in the country's north.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered the nation’s top medicos to review travel advice to Italy. Picture: AAP Image/Erik Anderson
Health Minister Greg Hunt has ordered the nation’s top medicos to review travel advice to Italy. Picture: AAP Image/Erik Anderson

Italy's confirmed coronavirus cases have now exceeded 1000 and its death toll increased by eight overnight to 29 people.

Following this, Mr Hunt confirmed he had asked the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), headed by the chief medical officer, to review the travel advice.

"I have asked them specifically today as part of their work to consider what the appropriate level of advice is for Italy," he said.

"The good thing is, they make advice, they give advice, without fear or favour.

"But I have specifically asked them today to consider whether or not the current arrangements need to be changed in any way, shape or form."

It follows the Federal Government extending its China travel ban to Iran, people returning to Australia from that country testing positive to the disease.

The AHPPC's advice as of Saturday was that further travel restriction should not be helpful at this stage.

"AHPPC believes that, in general, border measures can no longer prevent importation of COVID-19 and does not support the further widespread application of travel restrictions to an increasing number of countries that have community transmission," it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Mr Dutton confirmed the Australian Border Force Commissioner could block a plane of people entering the country if there were severe concerns related to coronavirus on board.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says it is unlikely Border Force would use its powers to block entire plane loads of people from entering Australia. Picture: ABC
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says it is unlikely Border Force would use its powers to block entire plane loads of people from entering Australia. Picture: ABC

"He can, if he believes there's grounds to do so, but that would be highly unlikely," he told the ABC.

"The more likely nature would be that those who are seated around the person that's sick would be identified, would be tested and - but the health is the most important aspect to start with."

Mr Dutton said incoming passengers presenting as unwell on arrival in Australia from countries with known outbreaks would be isolated.

"There would be a call made about the extent of the illness. People within the immediate proximity of this person who had come into contact with that person would be identified," he said.


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