Australia’s devastating bushfires may have minimised the spread of coronavirus by discouraging tourists from travelling Down Under during peak season.
For five months, hundreds of bushfires ripped through 18.6million hectares of land, destroying tens of thousands of buildings and claiming 30 lives.
The ferocious blazes became international news and hurt the tourism industry during what should have been the peak summer season.
But according to Australian National University’s infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon, the drop in international tourists, particularly from countries now inundated with coronavirus cases, was actually a blessing.
Australia’s deadly bushfire season destroyed 18.6 million hectares of land (pictured: Bilpin fires on December 19), tens of thousands of buildings and claimed 30 lives
‘A lot less people came here and went elsewhere instead. So, perversely in retrospect the bushfires may have protected us,’ he told news.com.au.
Following the fires, travel to Australia dropped by about 10-20 per cent, according to the Australian Tourism Export Council.
Potential holidaymakers had either been scared off by pictures of blood red skies and burned out bush, or had been advised against visiting during the crisis.
By late February, the bushfire season was officially declared over. But Australia, along with the rest of the world, was already in the grips of a coronavirus pandemic.
There were concerns within the tourism industry that it was haemorrhaging as much as $3 billion every month as borders were forced shut and travel was banned – even among states.
Passengers from Cambodia pictured boarding buses to take them to isolation after landing at Sydney International Airport on April 13
A woman has her temperature checked before entering the Sydney Fish Market on Friday April 10
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,351
New South Wales: 2,863
South Australia: 429
Western Australia: 517
Australian Capital Territory: 102
Northern Territory: 28
TOTAL CASES: 6,351
The loss comes after the Australian Tourism Export Council confirmed 70 per cent of its 850 members – all businesses in the industry – received cancellations ranging from $5,000 to $500,000 during the bushfires.
ATEC Managing Director Peter Shelley gave a ‘conservative’ estimate of $4.5 billion in lost profits for the tourism industry in 2020 – before even factoring in COVID-19.
‘ATEC’s focus is on international arrivals, and we’re seeing a lot of cancellations from our big key markets – America, Britain and China,’ Mr Shelley told the Australian Financial Review.
America, China and the UK have experienced some of the worst coronavirus outbreaks globally.
Wuhan, a Chinese city in the Hubei province, was the original epicentre of the deadly respiratory infection, but quickly spread to Europe and now the United States as infected travellers carried the disease internationally.
Water bombing helicopters were deployed across much of the east coast of Australia in an attempt to put out some of the flames. Pictured: A helicopter fighting fires in Victoria’s East Gippsland region on New Years Eve
An estimated one million animals were impacted during the bushfires. Pictured: A wildlife rescuer saving a charred koala from Kangaroo Island, southwest of Adelaide
There are currently 557,071 known cases of COVID-19 in America, 84,279 in the UK and at least 82,000 in China.
According to Professor Collingnon, if the bushfires hadn’t impacted travel to Australia from our three key markets, coronavirus carriers could have arrived on home soil in droves, completely changing the local landscape of the virus.
As it stands, Australia is successfully flattening the curve of COVID-19, following weeks of restrictive travel bans and social distancing measures.
Overnight, just 33 new cases of the infection were diagnosed nationwide, taking the toll to 6,313. Of those cases, 61 people have died and at least 3,200 have recovered.
Pictured: A firefighter standing in front of a wall of flames in northern NSW on November 14
Australia has made significant progress in the fight against coronavirus, with a clear flattening of the curve on the graph that measures the daily infection rate