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A man wearing a mask, left, rides a personal transporter past the Reserve Bank of Australia in Sydney, March 19, 2020. (AP/Rick Rycroft) A man wearing a mask, left, rides a personal transporter past the Reserve Bank of Australia in Sydney, March 19, 2020. (AP/Rick Rycroft)

A man wearing a mask, left, rides a personal transporter past the Reserve Bank of Australia in Sydney, March 19, 2020. (AP/Rick Rycroft)

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde March 25, 2020

Fact-checking claim on Australia’s borders closure

If Your Time is short

  • Australia has banned entry to non-Australian residents and citizens and their immediate families. 

  • Government officials have said the coronavirus outbreak and related disruptions in Australia could last at least six months. 

  • Officials say the travel ban will remain in effect until it’s safe to lift, but have not given a specific date for its termination.

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted temporary border closures around the globe. Is Australia closing its borders for six months, as some online posts suggest? It’s possible, but that hasn’t been determined.

"Australia Closing Borders in a few hours for 6-months," said the headline of a March 20 post on sydneynews.sydney, shared on Facebook.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The headline in sydneynews.sydney gives the impression that the 6-month time frame is a certainty. That’s not the case. Other news outlets, including the Guardian and Sky News, have posted more cautious headlines, saying the borders "could be closed for six months."

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced March 19 that Australia would close its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents on March 20 at 9 p.m. Australian Eastern Daylight Time. (Exemptions apply for close immediate family members of Australian residents and citizens.)

The travel ban is part of a series of measures Australia is taking to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The government said that about 80% of coronavirus cases in Australia were people who caught the virus overseas or people in contact with individuals who returned from overseas.

The Australian government has said that the virus could be around for at least six months and that Australians should brace for disruptions in daily life. Whether the ban lasts six months is uncertain, as it’s exact duration has not been determined.

In media interviews, Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the travel ban would last as long as medical experts say it’s necessary, but that it was hard to put a precise date on when the ban would be lifted.

Here’s an exchange he had March 19 with Patricia Karvelas of ABC Radio National, according to a government transcript:

Karvelas: "So just, again, level with us. Could this travel ban last for six months at least?"

Frydenberg: "The travel ban will last as long as the medical experts tell us that we need to prevent the spread of the virus, and one way to do that is through the steps that announced today."

Karvelas: "So you accept that it could be closed. I just want to nail down a timeframe for this six-month period that we're looking at."

Frydenberg: "You're asking me to put a date on something that not even the medical experts can put a date on."

Karvelas: "No, but the Prime Minister has put a date on it. He said for six months you can expect these changes, so I expect that's the timeframe."

Frydenberg: "To be fair to him, he actually said six months at least."

Karvelas: "Does that mean a travel ban could even be longer than six months?"

Frydenberg: "Again, as your listeners would expect us to do, we follow the medical advice and not even the medical experts know how long the spread of the virus will continue and the date upon which a vaccine will be found."

Our ruling

An online post said, "Australia Closing Borders in a few hours for 6-months."

Officials have said the coronavirus outbreak and related disruptions in Australia could last at least six months. To slow the spread of the virus, Australia has banned entry to non-Australian residents and citizens and their immediate families. But it has not determined whether the travel ban will last six months.

Officials say it will remain in effect until it’s safe to lift, but have not given a specific date for its end date.

The online post is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate it Half True.

Our Sources

Wayback Machine archive of post on sydneynews.sydney March 20, 2020

Australia Prime Minister website, press release on border closure, March 19, 2020
Website for Australia Treasurer, Interview with Laura Jayes, First Edition, Sky News, March 20, 2020; Interview with Patricia Karvelas, ABC Radio National, March 19, 2020

The Guardian, Josh Frydenberg says Australia could close borders for six months amid Covid-19 pandemic – as it happened, March 19, 2020

Sky News Australia, Australia's borders could be closed for six months, March 20, 2020

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