Downscaling of Ebola border screening measures

Enhanced screening measures have been put in place at the border to protect the Australian public from Ebola.

Page last updated: 20 November 2015

On 3 November 2015, the Prime Minister the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP approved the downscaling of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) domestic border screening measures at airports and seaports to reflect the decreased risk to Australia.

The strategy to downscale domestic border screening measures was implemented at airports and seaports on 13 November 2015.

Noting the reduced risk of EVD, passengers will see the following changes in border screening measures undertaken by the Departments of Health, Agriculture and Water Resources and Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP):

  • Cessation of the requirement to complete an Ebola related Travel History Card at airports and seaports; and
  • Cessation of temperature screening.
These revised arrangements will identify passengers from EVD affected countries through regular screening protocols adopted by the Departments of Agriculture and Water Resources and DIBP. In addition, SmartGate clearance will continue to ask question about travel to an EVD affected country and the Australian Border Force will more closely scrutinise the Incoming Passenger Cards of travellers and ask further questions of people who indicate recent travel to Africa.

The following information answers some key questions about these measures.

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Ebola virus disease – downscaling border arrangements: questions and answers

Question 1

What is the chance of a case of Ebola in Australia?

The risk of having a case of Ebola in Australia is very low. Since 9 August 2014, there have been 2,081 referred travellers from West Africa and 25 people tested for Ebola, all who have tested negative.

Over the past 13 weeks the World Health Organization has reported no more than five new cases of Ebola in West Africa per week. Exit screening is in place for people departing affected West African countries, to ensure that people of high risk or displaying symptoms of Ebola are not able to board an aircraft. These combined factors demonstrate that the risk of a traveller arriving in Australia with Ebola is exceedingly low.

Question 2

How will the revised border screening arrangements affect my travel?

The revised border screening arrangements will eliminate the need for you to complete an Ebola Travel History Card before you enter Australia. This will limit the documentation you will have to complete and ease congestion at airports and seaports, making the process more streamlined at the border.

Question 3

Will I still need to complete the Ebola Travel History Card?

No. The downscaled border screening arrangements will rely on a series of regular screening protocols adopted by the Departments of Agriculture and Water Resources and Immigration and Border Protection to identify and assess passengers who have been in an Ebola affected country in the past 21 days.

There will be no need to complete the Ebola Travel History Card.

Question 4

Do I still need to declare if I have been in an Ebola affected country?

Yes, if you have recently been to an Ebola affected country you will need to declare at SmartGate that you have been to an Ebola affected country (Guinea) and declare on your Incoming Passenger Card that you recently travelled to Africa. The Australian Border Force will continue to assess the Incoming Passenger Cards of travellers and ask further questions of people who indicate recent travel to Africa (either in the past six days, or where the majority of their time overseas was in Africa or one of the Ebola affected countries).

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Question 5

How will these changes ensure that Australia will continue to be protected from Ebola?

While the number of new cases of Ebola is diminishing, the Australian Government continues to monitor the number of people entering Australia from West Africa and continues to work with the State and Territory health authorities to ensure appropriate monitoring arrangements are in place for travellers returning from an Ebola affected country.

In conjunction with the downscaled border screening arrangements, the Government is still receiving details from non-government organisations about aid workers returning from Ebola affected countries.

In addition, regular notifications are received through the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations National Focal Point on individuals who will be arriving into Australia are undergoing monitoring in other countries, and are still within their 21 day incubation period, to ensure that monitoring can continue.

These combined arrangements help to identify people most at risk of Ebola and ensure that appropriate health protection measures are in place.

Question 6

What if there is a sick passenger on board a flight suspected of having Ebola?

Any passenger on an aircraft or at the border who is unwell on arrival would be cared for under existing border arrangements, which includes a requirement under the Quarantine Act 1908 for commanders of vessels coming into Australia to report any ill travellers on board prior to arrival. If required, a Biosecurity Officer and a Human Quarantine Officer can assess any ill travellers.

Question 7

Why has the Australian Government acted now to downscale border screening arrangements?

With the closure of the Australian run Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone in April 2015 the number of health care workers (with high risk roles) and other travellers entering Australia from Ebola affected countries has markedly decreased. Combined with the very low number of new cases of Ebola being reported in West Africa, the risk of a person arriving in Australia with Ebola has reduced significantly.

The Australian Government has taken into account the need to balance screening and identification methods with the need to protect Australians from Ebola. The current reduced risk in West Africa presents the appropriate timing to downscale border screening arrangements.

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