2 FEBRUARY 2020 I Hundreds of travellers from Nepal have been caught up in the novel coronavirus emergency following Australian government’s announcement that it would deny entry to all international travellers from or transiting via mainland China.
As a result of federal government’s announcement yesterday, passengers will not be allowed enter Australia for 14 days from the time they depart or transited via mainland China.
Any passenger that arrives in Australia and is subsequently found to have been in mainland China from 1 February, will have their visa cancelled, the Department of Home Affairs has warned. They will then be placed in an “alternative place of detention for a quarantine period”.
These are temporary measures which the Australian government has said will be reviewed in 14 days.
Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate family members including spouses, minor dependents and legal guardians can still travel to Australia. However, if they do enter Australia after having been in mainland China then they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days from the time they left mainland China.
Travellers with temporary visa who are ineligible for entry into Australia under these emergency measures will have their visa automatically cancelled. However, it is understood the government will make necessary arrangements to “reinstate visas as appropriate following the lifting of these enhanced border control measures”.
A Sydney-based travel agency with well-entrenched customer base within the Australian Nepalese diaspora and international students community expressed concern that not all of his customers who are currently in Nepal may be aware of the Australian government’s latest travel ban. Everest Tours and Travel’s owner Ershad Ahmed said he personally contacted close to 30 of his customers since the announcement yesterday.
“Today being Saturday, I cannot share much information but can still confirm that our agency had 193 passengers flying from Nepal via China within the next three weeks alone,” Mr Ahmed told southasia.com.au.
Many travel and tours operators Australia specialise in passengers from the Himalayan nation. Passenger traffic between Australia and Nepal is rapidly growing on the back of the rising international students and permanent residents of Nepalese origin. The country is the third largest supplier of international students.
Melbourne-based Buddha Travel Tours’ Bhim Neupane said he too had some 80 passengers expecting to travel to Australia from Nepal.
Guangzhou is a popular transit point for Nepalese travellers many of whom fly China Southern Airlines. There are two flights a day between the Chinese city and Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. However, one of them has already been cancelled amid the international emergency.
Many Nepalese passengers, those who have become aware of the travel ban enforced by the Australian federal government, are now scrambling to make alternative travel arrangements.
According to Mr Ahmed, people would now seek to travel via Malaysia and Singapore while some are also opting for big Middle Eastern airlines companies like Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad.
“To travellers from Nepal, I would like to say please reconsider your travel and travel only if you really need to. If you do please follow the recommended guidelines of using protective gears like globes, masks etc,” the Sydney Town Hall-based operator urged, “Travel via short routes like Thai, Singapore and Malaysia.”
As of Sunday morning, 12 cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Australia: 4 in New South Wales, 4 in Victoria, 2 in South Australia, and 2 in Queensland while Australian health authorities continue to test any people who show symptoms of the virus.