Travelling during coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know [Updated]

Posted: 29 March 2020 10:09 am

Your options for travel explained.

As travel restrictions continue to tighten across the world due to coronavirus (COVID-19), the government is advising against all non-essential travel, both domestic and international.

If you have a trip booked, or you were hoping to get away soon, what does this mean for your travel plans?

Here are some considerations to bear in mind.

International travel bans are in place

Smartraveller has issued a "do not travel" alert to all nations across the world. And Prime Minister Scott Morrison has advised that all non-essential travel should be avoided. This is regardless of age or health and applies to domestic and international trips.

As all uneccesary holidays and trips are ground to a halt, so too are many flights. On 26 March, Tigerair suspended all of its domestic flights indefinitely. Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar have all pared back their international and domestic services dramatically.

The remaining services are being kept for essential travel such as medical, goods and freight services as well as repatriations of Australians back to their home cities.

If your flight is cancelled, the airline should contact you to make alternate arrangements. This might include offering to fly you home on an earlier flight or issuing you travel credit for use on a future journey.

Even if you haven't been notified of changes or cancellations to your itinerary, it's a good idea to check its status before your departure.

If you're an Australian currently outside of Australia, it's important that if you wish to return home, you do so immediately.

Initially, returning visitors were required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days, at home or at their hotel. The Government has now extended this requirement, however. As of midnight March 29th, returning travellers will be placed in mandatory isolation at a designated facility, such as a hotel.

All non-essential domestic travel is essentially banned

Restrictions are tightening by the hour. On 22 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that all non-essential travel be reconsidered. This includes domestic travel.

In line with this advice, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have all restricted access into their states. Anyone arriving - including residents - must self-quarantine for 14 days unless they are an essential service.

It's not recommended to travel right now, even within your own state.

Cancelling or postponing your trip for free is possible

If you had plans to travel in the upcoming months, it's a good idea to consider other arrangements. That is, unless they've already been cancelled by the ever-growing number of flights being grounded. In which case, you should be contacted and compensated for your purchase, likely in the form of a refund or travel credit.

Many airlines, cruise companies and tour operators are currently letting passengers postpone their upcoming travels to dates as far into the future as 2021 without any penalty. Some are even allowing you to cancel your trip for a full refund or a travel credit to be used in the far future.

For example, Virgin Australia is letting anyone booked on a flight before 30 June to cancel for a travel credit, valid for 12 months. Emirates is allowing travellers who booked flights prior to 31 March the chance to rebook their dates or re-route their flight an unlimited number of times so long as travel is completed within 11 months from the original ticket issue.

A list of airlines offering free changes or cancellations can be found here.

Travel insurance will only cover you in limited circumstances

In order to be eligible to claim from travel insurance due to coronavirus, you'll have had to purchase it before mid-January, which is when COVID-19 became a known event. Other factors may play a factor in your eligibility including where you were headed and when, your specific policy and its cut-off date.

It's also important to know that some travel insurers in general exclude epidemics and pandemics from cover. Whatever the case, it's worth contacting your insurer to see what your options are.

Any general travel insurance you have purchased for non coronavirus-related claims may also be eligible for cover, if purchased before 18 March depending on your policy. Contact your insurer for specific information.

You should also be able to cancel for a refund if you purchased cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) insurance prior to 13 March 2020.

If travel is essential, look after your health while away

Whether you're travelling to an affected area or not, it's important to remain vigilant with good health practices. This includes washing your hands often with soap or sanitiser, avoiding contact with anyone who's unwell and using social distancing.

You're not required to wear surgical masks as their purpose is to prevent those infected from spreading the virus, not to prevent you from contracting it.

It's also important to monitor your health closely. If you are feeling ill, seek medical attention immediately.

Prior to departure, it's a good idea to contact your doctor for further advice, particularly if you are travelling with young children, are pregnant or have a suppressed immune system.

This story was updated on 29 March 2020 to include new information from the government guidelines.

Picture: GettyImages

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