Research indicates the coronavirus could land a multi-billion-dollar blow to the Australian economy as China imposes a ban on tour groups and airlines suspend flights.
Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that Australia’s GDP could fall by as much as $2.3 billion and 20,000 jobs could disappear if the 9.2 billion spent per year by Chinese tourists and students declined, according to The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).
This would be on top of the damage already done to the Australian tourism industry as a result of the bushfires and drought.
“We’ve had a soft economy, the drought, the bushfires and now this virus,” PwC Australia chief economist Jeremy Thorpe told SMH.
“It’s bad news on top of bad news.”
The research came as the Chinese government imposed a ban on tour groups overseas to try stem the spread of the virus, forcing thousands of Chinese tourists to cancel their plans to travel to Australia.
According to the Financial Review, the ban could last for as long as two months.
China Eastern Airways is also taking measures to stop the spread, suspending its Wuhan-Sydney service at least until the end of March. The service runs three times a week and is the only direct link between Australia and Wuhan, where the disease outbreak began.
China is the largest source of short-term visitors to Australia, with 1.45 million arrivals last year.
Meanwhile, the Australian government is assessing how it can help evacuate Australians trapped in the Hubei area, where Wuhan is located.
ABC News has reported that at least 100 Australian children are in the area, which is now in lockdown. The children are believed to be in the area celebrating Chinese New Year which occurred over the weekend.
Foreign minister Marise Payne said the government is exploring “all opportunities” to get Australians out of the region but there were “limitations” as Australia does not have a consular presence in the area.
“We don’t have a consular presence on the ground so getting in to help, given the travel restrictions, continues to be a significant difficulty,” she said, according to ABC News.
“We also have to remind ourselves that the Chinese Government has placed the travel restrictions in place in these areas to contain the coronavirus outbreak itself.”
At least 80 people have died so far from the virus, with confirmed cases climbing to 2,744 including five people in Australia.
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