'Time to go home': Coronavirus crackdown on backpackers

Nick Whigham
·Assistant News Editor
·3-min read

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged non-Australians to think about heading home while announcing strict new rules for backpackers who stay in the country during the coronavirus outbreak.

While many travellers have already left the country, Mr Morrison said those on visitor and working holiday visas who are unable to support themselves should think about booking a flight home.

“If they are not in a position to support themselves then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries,” he said in a press conference Friday afternoon.

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“We still have quite a number of people who are here on visitor visas. As much as it is lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this if you're a visitor in this country, it is time, as it has been now for some while ... to make your way home.”

Mr Morrison has urged travellers who are unable to support themselves to head home. Source: AAP
Mr Morrison has urged travellers who are unable to support themselves to head home. Source: AAP

Commercial flights from major Australian cities are continuing, with a number of Qatar Airways flights still operating to major hubs like London.

“At this time, Australia must focus on its citizens and its residents,” Mr Morrison said.

New rules for backpackers who stay

Backpackers travelling to farms for fruit-picking and other jobs will be forced to self-isolate for 14 days to avoid spreading coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the new measures on Friday for working holiday-makers, with the move designed to protect rural and regional communities from the pandemic.

He also urged backpackers to follow social distancing rules, warning people of the ban on groups travelling the country in campervans.

For those travelling in Australia, the PM says backpackers looking for work such as fruit picking will be required to register with the government online and complete two-weeks self-isolation before they travel to work for producers. Once the self-isolation period is completed, farmers and other employers will have to check backpackers' documents before they can start work.

Mr Morrison said it was important rural and regional areas without coronavirus did not face infections being brought in from cities.

Meanwhile rural employers will also have to make sure any worker accommodation meets social distancing requirements.

“You can't have six backpackers in a caravan... that's not on,” Mr Morrison said.

It comes as backpackers have been removed from buses trying to cross into the Queensland border and a rooftop party at a backpacker hostel in Sydney was broken up by police on Tuesday for breaching social distancing orders.

However, Mr Morrison also highlighted the opportunity for trained health workers on working holidays visas in Australia at the moment.

“For those backpackers in Australia who are nurses or doctors, or have other critical skills that can really help us during this crisis, then there will be opportunities for them as well,” he said.

“But our focus and our priority is on supporting Australians and Australian residents with the economic supports that are available.”

Social distancing has cut cases in half

Mr Morrison said had the virus kept growing in Australia as it was 12 days ago, there would be more than 10,500 cases – double the current number.

After the national cabinet met on Friday morning, Mr Morrison praised the states for their hard work as the number of untraced cases of the virus have begun to slow.

“Those figures of untraced cases have fallen dramatically,” he said.

There were more than 5,315 confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia as of Friday morning.

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