The Australian Government’s Smartraveller service is progressively updating its travel advice for every country in the world to “do not travel”, following last week’s escalation to “reconsider your need to travel”.
Australians already overseas who want to come home are also advised to make those travel arrangements as soon as possible, as flight options are becoming increasingly limited and countries around the world are closing borders or restricting movements.
Speaking to media this morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that “we are upgrading the travel ‘ban’ on Australians to level 4 for the entire world. The travel advice to every Australian is 'Do not travel abroad': do not go overseas. That is very clear that instruction.”
“This is the first time this has ever happened in Australia's history,” the PM added.
The revised ‘do not travel’ advice level has already been applied to many countries popular with Australian visitors including New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the USA and Canada, and will apply to all others when updates to the Smartraveller website are complete. Here's a preview:
“That is an indefinite ban,” continued the Prime Minister, although Smartraveller highlights that it can’t actually issue a full “ban” on travel. “This is advice only,” Smartraveller clarified in a tweet.
Passengers will not be physically prevented from boarding international flights departing from Australia as a result of this update – but are strongly advised not to.
Domestic air travel remains "low risk", confirms the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The implications of “do not travel”
As the highest warning level Smartraveller can apply to a country, “do not travel” is normally reserved for destinations like Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, where the risks to visitors are the most severe.
“At level 4 (‘do not travel’), your health and safety is at extreme risk,” the Smartraveller service outlines. “Understand that you could die. Have robust risk management measures in place: this includes a detailed emergency management plan.”
But ultimately, “you should not travel to this location. If you are already in a 'do not travel' area, you should consider leaving.”
That advice is particularly relevant for Australians visiting destinations which don’t have direct flights back to Australia, requiring a transit en route: something that’s becoming increasingly difficult as airlines reduce flights and countries clamp down on border controls.
What “do not travel” means for travel insurance
When a destination is zoned as ‘do not travel’ by Smartraveller, Australians who ignore that advice and venture there anyway may not be covered by travel insurance for any claims: even minor issues like delayed baggage.
However, by classifying every overseas country as a ‘do not travel’ destination, those with imminent travel plans may be eligible to claim for cancellation costs they incur as a result of following that government advice and choosing not to travel.
To confirm what your policy covers, and what procedures must be followed before submitting a claim, contact your travel insurer.
Many insurers also require travellers to minimise their losses before submitting a claim, such as by cancelling their own bookings and obtaining refunds wherever possible.
For the latest travel advice, visit the Smartraveller website.