British backpackers booted out of Down Under: Australian PM orders all foreign tourists home after fury at bad behaviour during coronavirus crisis
- Australian Prime Minister urged everyone on student or visitor visa to go home
- He said ‘Australia must focus on its citizens and its residents’ amid corona crisis
- Comes after fury at backpackers and hostels for ignoring social distancing
- British backpacker argued that people were simply ‘jealous’ at them having fun
Australia’s Prime Minister has told all foreign visitors and students to leave the country now amid fury at backpackers for failing to follow social distancing rules.
Scott Morrison said that while those with essential skills – such as visiting doctors and nurses – will be encouraged to stay, it was past time for everyone else to ‘make their way home’.
It comes after one hostel in Sydney was shut down after police were called to break up a party, while tourists also packed on to Bondi Beach despite warnings not to gather outdoors.
British backpacker Peter Leggatt then prompted further outrage when he suggested that people were simply ‘jealous’ that backpackers were still having fun.
There were more than 1million people in Australia on visitor and student visas on December 31 – thought to include tens of thousands of UK and US tourists – though it is unclear how many remain in the country.
Police were called to a hostel in Sydney to break up this rooftop social gathering, where revellers were visibly flouting social distancing rules
British backpacker Peter Leggatt (pictured) defended the party, saying it is ‘impossible’ to socially distance in a hostel, where many travellers are ‘trapped’ as flights dry up
There are fears that backpacker hostels – with cramped living conditions and communal facilities – could become hotbeds of disease (pictured, a hostel in Bondi that was forced to shut after an outbreak there)
A cluster of cases among backpackers was also traced back to two parties at nightclubs near Bondi Beach in March, even as the government advised people not to take the threat of the virus lightly.
Health minister Greg Hunt branded the situation in Bondi ‘unacceptable’ and called on the local council to ‘stop that from occurring’.
Mr Morrison stopped short of ordering foreigners to leave as he spoke Friday, but made it clear they will not be a priority during the crisis.
Mr Morrison said: ‘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… to make your way home.
‘Australia must focus on its citizens and its residents to ensure that we can maximise the economic supports that we have.’
Australia has so far confirmed 5,330 cases of the virus with 28 deaths.
There are fears that backpacker hostels – with crowded living arrangements, shared kitchen and limited hygiene facilities – could turn into virus hotbeds.
Some backpackers have complained that they are effectively trapped in the country as hundreds of flights are grounded and costs for the remaining seats soar.
Police were filmed breaking up a rooftop party at one hostel in Sydney recently, where residents were ignoring social distancing rules.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged all foreigners in the country on visitor or student visas to ‘make your way home’ as the country’s coronavirus crisis intensifies (pictured, tourists leave a hostel in Bondi on Friday)
There were more than 1million people in the country on student and visitor visas on December 31, though it is unclear how many remain (pictured, backpackers leave a hostel in Bondi)
Some backpackers have complained of being effectively trapped in Australia as hundreds of flights are grounded and prices for the remaining tickets soar
Mr Morrison said Australia will be prioritising its own citizens and residents for economic help as the country moves towards a lockdown over the virus
That prompted Briton Peter Leggatt to hit back on social media, saying it is ‘impossible’ to socially distance in a hostel and those cheering on police were simply ‘jealous’ of the fun they were having.
He also pointed out that many backpackers in Australia have no choice but to remain in the country, since departing flights are being repeatedly cancelled.
He wrote: ‘We’re stranded here, a lot of us without family or even friends, a huge chunk now out of work, and even more of us having flights home repeatedly cancelled leaving us with no funds and no way out.
‘But let’s ignore all that, and blame us solely for the outbreak in Bondi (because apparently it was only backpackers there).’
Backpackers have been singled out in the police blitz after a virus cluster emerged in the city’s eastern suburbs, a hotspot for young travellers staying in cramped hostels.
Figures released last week identified Waverley Council, which covers Bondi, as having the most confirmed coronavirus cases in New South Wales.
The prime minister explained that some travellers to Australia, such as those on working-holiday visas could work in fruit picking and other agricultural work.
But he said they must first self-isolate before travelling to regional areas, amid fears the migration could spread the virus from cities to ‘more vulnerable’ regions.
He also said workers will be required to abide by social-distancing rules.
‘This is being done to ensure that those producers can get the work done but also to ensure that the communities are protected,’ he said.
Departing travellers wearing face masks are seen at Sydney airport on Monday (pictured), with thousands now encouraged to leave Australia
It comes as Australians continue to return home to see out the pandemic. Passengers returned on a special flight repatriating Australians from abroad (pictured on Thursday in Brisbane)
Police screen incoming passengers at the domestic airport in Brisbane on Friday (pictured)
‘You can’t have six backpackers in a caravan up out in rural parts of the country,’ he added.
‘That’s not on. Not going to happen.’
He reiterated the current visa regulations which state that students who come to Australia must prove they have enough money to support themselves for 12 months.
Mr Morrison commented that given students will have known about this rule before arriving, it is ‘not unreasonable’ to expect them to look after themselves.
‘That is a requirement for their visa when they come for the first year,’ he explained.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 5,350
New South Wales: 2,389
Western Australia: 422
South Australia: 396
Australian Capital Territory: 91
Northern Territory: 21
TOTAL CASES: 5,350
‘That is not an unreasonable expectation of the government that students would be able to fulfill the commitment that they gave.’
But those who can be useful to the health system, such as student nurses, have had restrictions on their visas lifted – bringing 20,000 more nurses into the workforce.
‘For those backpackers 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 added.
‘But our focus and our priority is on supporting Australians and Australian residents with the economic supports that are available.’
The call comes soon after Mr Morrison told Australians not to go on holiday for Easter, fearing mass movement could increase the spread of the deadly virus.
He said families should not even drive to see relatives and instead stay at home, with many state borders already shut.
‘People should not be going away for Easter holidays. Holiday at home,’ he said.
‘People should not be getting in their cars and going to other places.’
The prime minister said his wife Jenny and two daughters had set up decorations at his house in Canberra in preparation for next weekend.
Mr Morrison said places of worship are closed to the public but services will be live-streamed.
He made the comments in a press conference in which he announced the government is working on a plan to save commercial tenants from eviction.
French nationals are seen queuing to enter Sydney airport to be repatriated to France on Thursday (pictured), with the French government chartering three A380 Airbus planes
Young sunseekers at St Kilda beach (pictured) on March 27, despite strict social distancing rules to stop the spread of COVID-19. Police have broken up several backpacker parties
Under a national code of conduct proposed by real estate groups, tenants participating in the JobKeeper scheme could ask landlords for a rent reduction proportionate to the amount of revenue they have lost due to coronavirus.
‘The turnover reduction of the tenant needs to be reflected in the rental waiver of the landlord,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘We want both parties to negotiate in good faith.’
This could mean that some tenants have to make no rental payments for months.
The code, expected to be finalised next week, will be mandatory and incorporated into state and territory legislation.
SOCIAL DISTANCING LAWS EXPLAINED STATE-BY-STATE: HOW TO AVOID GETTING CAUGHT OUT
Gatherings are restricted to two people, with residents only allowed out of their homes for a few essential reasons.
This includes buying food or essential goods, getting a medical treatment or engaging in physical exercise.
You can also visit a terminally ill relative or attend a funeral.
Students are also allowed to attend childcare, school, college or university.
From April 3, the state’s borders will be closed to everyone except residents and essential workers.
New South Wales
NSW officials are also enforcing the two-person limit, with residents legally obliged to stay at home unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’.
This includes travelling to work or school, buying food or other essentials, exercise and medical reasons.
It is left up to police officers to decide who will get the fines, with the maximum being an $11,000 fine or six months in prison.
The state has also brought in the two-person limit inside and outside the home – not counting pre-exisitng members of the household.
Its chief medical officer Dr Brett Sutton confirmed an exception would made for people visiting their boyfriend or girlfriend if they lived separately.
Otherwise, people are allowed to leave the house for one of five reasons – shopping for food, work and education, care reasons, exercise or other extenuating circumstances.
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT is also enforcing the two-person limit, but people are allowed up to two guests inside their homes – only if there is at least four square metres per person.
It also only allows people to leave home for essential reasons, including shopping for essentials, medical reasons, exercise, work or study.
Offenders are being issue with warnings, but may get a fine if they are found to be breaking the rules again.
As well as closing its borders to non-residents, WA has also introduced fines for people who cross out of their region.
Nine regions have been carved up, and people cannot move between them for anything but an essential reason.
This includes going to work, medical appointments, school or other types of education.
Drivers are also allowed to transport freight, and people can go to a shop outside of their area if the essentials are not available closer to home.
In NT, police are still enforcing a 10-person limit rather than just two people.
But chief minister Michael Gunner warned it may take further action if people don’t stick to the rules.
All non-essential arrivals in the state must self-quarantine for 14 days, and people are not allowed to visit remote communities.
Tasmania also has brought into law the two-person limit, with residents only allowed to leave home for essential reasons.
This includes shopping, exercising, and going to healthcare apppointments.
Going to a vet is also allowed, as is going to school or caring for another person.
Arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days.
SA has also stuck to the 10-person limit, with $1,000 on-the-spot fines for people who have a larger group.
Again, all arrivals into the state must self-isolate for 14 days.
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