The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory was closed on Tuesday, August 4, a day after members of the indigenous community blocked roads leading to the site over coronavirus disease (COVID-19) concerns. Several dozen members of the Mutitjulu community reportedly set up a roadblock on the main route leading to Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, on Monday and turned tourists away from the site after 39 travelers arrived on a flight to the nearby Yulara Airport (AYQ) from the Queensland city of Brisbane, a declared COVID-19 hotspot. Parks Australia subsequently confirmed that the park would be closed for an indefinite period in response to concerns from the Mutitjulu Aboriginal Community Corporation (MCAC). The local indigenous community had requested that all travel to the park be banned from areas declared COVID-19 hotspots by Northern Territory authorities, including Sydney, Port Stephens, and Eurobodalla Shire in New South Wales, Brisbane, Ipswich, and Logan in Queensland, and the entire state of Victoria.
Social distancing measures and other local restrictions remain in place across Australia, with strict lockdown orders and travel restrictions being implemented in some COVID-19 hotspots, notably Victoria.
Only Australian citizens, returning permanent residents, and their immediate family members are currently permitted to enter Australia, with few exemptions. All those entering the country are required to undertake a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a designated facility (typically a hotel) on arrival. Conditions of the quarantine period, including financial obligations, vary depending on the state or territory authority.
As of August 4, there have been 18,730 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, with 232 associated fatalities. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China).
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover the mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
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