Tourism

Coronavirus poses bigger threat to Aussie airports than SARS: analyst

A sharp growth of Chinese travellers means the deadly novel coronavirus could pose a bigger risk to Australian boarders than its cousin, SARS, according to an analyst at a ratings agency.

When the SARS epidemic hit in 2003, Chinese passengers only accounted for 4 per cent of inbound travellers, where as now they make up more than 15 per cent, according to the Financial Review.

Meanwhile, China has placed more than 18 million people in lockdown over night as the number of those infected climbs to more than 800 with at least 25 confirmed deaths, ABC News reported.

Authorities have shut down air transport and transport networks in Wuhan; the city where the virus is thought to have originated, Huanggang and Ezhou with some reports indicating travel bans have also been placed on Chibi, Xiantao, Qianjiang, Zhijang and Lichuan.

There are 160 flights between Australia and China each week, three of which carry about 450 arrivals from Wuhan.

Each week about 450 people arrive at Sydney Airport from three direct services between Australia and Wuhan.

“[The virus] has the potential to significantly affect international passenger numbers traveling through Australian airports, particularly if restrictions are imposed on international travel to contain the spread of the virus,” Hector Lim, an analyst at Moody’s rating agency told the Financial Review.

On Tuesday, the Australian government’s chief medical officer, Prof Brandan Murphy, said that while there have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Australia, additional border measures would be put in place.

The disease has now spread to eight countries, all reportedly coming from either residents of Wuhan or recent visitors to the city, with Singapore confirming its first case yesterday.

Featured image: iStock/jarun011

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