US Softens Australia Travel Warning After PM Steps In–But Flags Air Quality – Forbes

The US has downgraded warnings issued last week for tourists traveling to Australia, while continuing to drive home the potential hazardous air quality in some regions.

According to a Sky News report, the Prime Minister has convinced the Trump administration to revise its upgraded travel warning for the country which urged tourists to consider postponing travel to affected regions of Australia, due to the bushfires.

“The (heightened) travel warning for American tourists was revised following the prime minister’s intervention,” the television channel claims. “Scott Morrison reportedly made the plea to ‘people very close’ to the US president and the request was discussed at ‘senior levels’ within the White House.”

This comes after the U.S Department of State late last week issued a Level 2 warning–telling travelers to ’Exercise Increased Caution’–for Australia.

American tourists should “consider postponing their trip” it read, to areas affected by bushfires and poor air quality … “some areas have increased risk.” Tourists, it added, should possibly rethink “when considering travel to areas affected by bushfires until the danger of natural disaster has passed.”

The Level 2 alert did not advise Americans not to travel to Australia, yet immediately caused outrage in Australian political circles for putting the country’s dangers on the same level as places including Gaza and Mexico.

Tuesday’s Sky News report states that “Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham says the government is continuing to work to have the US warnings dropped back to the original levels.”

Yet the current Level 1 warning–”Exercise normal precautions in Australia”– is at the “original levels”. Ostensibly. Despite reverting to a Level 1 alert, it nonetheless continues to spell out possible dangers and annoyances such as “poor air quality”, adding “Areas affected by bushfires have increased risk.”

“Exercise increased caution in areas affected by bushfires and air quality issues,” the Travel Advisory urges, “until the risks posed by bushfires, and resulting poor air quality, have passed.”

The current alert flags air quality issues in particular: “Smoke from bushfires is causing poor air quality, which can increase health risks for travelers with related health conditions. Check the air quality for your destinations and take precautions as needed.”

The advice follows news of a $5 million government probe into the health effects of bushfires, which have seen soaring cases of people with respiratory-related illnesses such as asthma.

It also comes after Melbourne, on the heels of Canberra, recorded “the worst air quality in the world” on Tuesday, a situation which is partially improving today as storms help clear the hazardous smoke haze, as they have done in Sydney. Nonetheless the threat of deteriorating air quality, along with that of critical fires, is just around the corner.

All the same, Victoria’s Environmental Protection Agency says air quality Thursday ranges from “good to very poor” and advises people to stay indoors. A scenario repeated throughout southeast Australia over recent weeks, that offers very little joy for locals, or tourists.

Everyone including healthy people are at risk under such conditions said Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton. The most vulnerable groups–children under 14, over 65 year-olds, pregnant women and people with pre-existing medical conditions–need to take extra care.

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