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Coronavirus—travel ban

Number: A009/2020

Date: 18 March 2020

In recognition of the Indian Ocean Territories (IOT) of Christmas Island (CI) and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI) being remote communities, and their vulnerability to coronavirus, I have declared a state of emergency in both territories.

This decision has been made to protect the IOT communities, which currently have no known cases of COVID-19. The CI and CKI Emergency Management executive met with me yesterday and I thank them for their support of this declaration.

Effective from today, 18 March 2020, a travel ban is in place in relation to passenger arrivals to CI and CKI. Only residents and essential staff will be able to travel to CI and CKI until further notice, and anyone returning to CI or CKI will need to self-isolate for 14 days once on CI or CKI.

Decisions regarding the definition of ‘essential staff’ will be made by me as chair of the EMC in consultation with the relevant Territory Controller.

The remote location of the IOT and its limited health facilities, makes our communities more vulnerable to the virus and some people would need to be aeromedically evacuated.

Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) has been informed and agencies are working with the airline to manage the new arrangements. VARA flights will continue but only carry passengers who are residents or essential staff. We are having discussions with VARA, freight forwarders and local businesses about freight needs.

Earlier this week, a commercial decision was made to suspend all Malindo Air flights to and from CI. Garuda Indonesia has no flights currently scheduled.

Anyone travelling to CI or CKI from the mainland, whether they have travelled overseas or remained in Australia, is required to self-isolate for the specified 14-day period on their arrival to CI or CKI.

My office will work with the IOT Administration (IOTA), the IOT Health Service (IOTHS) and other stakeholders to support those in self-isolation to access essential services and items as needed.

Please see this fact sheet for further information and guidelines for self-isolation.

I understand that the impact to the community will be significant, and businesses and individuals on CI and CKI will have access to a range of measures designed to protect the economy, maintain confidence and keep people in jobs in line with the Australian Government's economic response to COVID-19, including the recently announced $17.6 billion stimulus package.

Within this package, $1 billion has been set aside to support regions and communities that have been disproportionately affected, including those that are heavily reliant on industries such as tourism and education.

Coronavirus can lead to respiratory illness. Please follow the health advice provided by the Australian Government Department of Health and the IOT Health Service (IOTHS).

If you have respiratory illness symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and are concerned you may have been exposed to coronavirus, then isolate yourself and call IOTHS to discuss your circumstances—do not attend the health service without calling ahead.

I will provide regular updates to you through my official communications channels, including my Facebook page. IOTHS will also be distributing public health information.

I thank government representatives, commercial providers, community groups and other stakeholders for their support for these arrangements to protect our communities. These are unprecedented times and I ask each and every one of us to support each other and work together as we respond to, and navigate, this situation.

I continue to work with Australian Government agencies, our Emergency Management Committees and the IOTHS to ensure appropriate local response plans for coronavirus.

If you have questions or require further information, please contact my Office on 9164 7960.

For further information, see www.health.gov.au or phone the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

Mrs Natasha Griggs
Administrator of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Declaration of State of Emergency