Aussies warned not to travel to US
With only a couple of hours before results from the US election are known, Australians are being warned to steer clear of the USA.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade updated its advice saying there was a potential for violence in the coming days and weeks.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne's office said the warning against travel was already in place because of COVID-19 - with similar warnings in place for all nations - and the only change is a mention of the US election this week.
The department said there was a significant risk to travellers due to protests, terrorism and COVID-19.
It states that widespread protests and demonstrations have occurred across the country since 27 May 27, and continue in several US cities.
In recent days there has been a fresh outbreak of Black Lives Matter rioting in Philadelphia, just to the north of Washington, where thousands of looters spent several nights ransacking large parts of the city after the fatal police shooting of a knife-wielding black man.
"Protests and demonstrations continue in several US cities. Avoid areas where protests are occurring due to the ongoing potential for violence," the warning reads.
"Some protests have turned violent. Avoid areas where protests are occurring due to the ongoing potential for unrest and violence. Monitor the media for information and updates. Follow the instructions of local authorities, including by obeying any curfews."
The department said the risk of terrorism has also increased.
"The US has a heightened risk of terrorist attacks. Terrorists may use vehicles, knives, homemade bombs, and poisons or toxins," it said.
"Be alert, particularly in public places and at events. Violent crime is more common than in Australia and gun crime is possible in all areas. Follow local guidance and instructions. If you live in the US, learn active shooter drills."
The Department of Foreign Affairs also pointed out the risks posed by the pandemic.
"Follow the instructions of local authorities. COVID-19 remains a serious health risk.
"Various restrictions and public health measures are in place and vary by location. Follow the instructions of local authorities, including those related to quarantine, self-isolation, social-distancing and the wearing of masks.
"The 2020 presidential election will be held on Tuesday November 3, with the presidential inauguration taking place on January 20 2021. Monitor the embassy website for further COVID-19 related information."
The fear of significant unrest and widespread violence in the US is increasing by the day, with Walmart announcing it was removing all guns and ammunition from its sales floors - in a bid to stop looters ahead of election day.
"We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers," a Walmart spokesman said.
Retailers have been on edge after people earlier this year smashed windows, stole merchandise and, at times, set stores ablaze in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Portland and other US cities. In an another trend that has fed concern, gun sales in the United States this year have reached record highs, and more first-time buyers have purchased firearms in recent months.
The nation's economy has tanked due to the pandemic. Unemployment has spiked. Social media is awash with hate and conspiracy theories - creating a volatile rift that stretches through all sectors of US society.
A poll released by Suffolk University and USA Today found three quarters of respondents were worried about the possibility of violence on election day. In 2016, only 50 per cent of voters were concerned about violence.
Americans have been stocking up on weapons and military-style tactical gear as fearful Americans prepare to hunker down. Many gun shops have sold out of ammunition, and firearm stocks are running low.
Donald Trump would be due to vacate office by January if he loses, but he appears to be already contesting the vote by saying the election is rigged and suggesting mail-in ballots are fake.
He has been asked to confirm he will leave office if he loses, and declined to confirm that. He may be able to find ways - using court decisions to stop vote counts, for example - for him to stay.
Whatever happens, the US is in for a bumpy ride.
Originally published as Aussies warned not to travel to US