Australia at high risk from virus threat: report

AUSTRALIA has been named as one of the most at risk countries in the world from the spread of the coronavirus based on a study of air travel data and Sydney has been identified as the most exposed city in the world outside of Asia.

World population mapping experts team from the Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton have identified Australia as number 10 in the list of countries at highest risk in a bid to flag those that need to be most prepared.

Thailand was named number one, Japan number two and Hong Kong came in at three. USA is placed at six and the UK 17th.

Sydney has come in at number 12 in the list of international cities at risk, the top 11 all Asian cities with Bangkok, Hong Kong and Taipei taking out top places.


The expert team form the UK, in collaboration with the University of Toronto, St Michael's Hospital Toronto, disease surveillance organisation Bluedot in Toronto and the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, studied air travellers predicted to arrive in destinations around the world from mainland China.



"It's vital that we understand patterns of population movement, both within China and globally, in order to assess how this new virus might spread - domestically and internationally. By mapping these trends and identifying high-risk areas, we can help inform public health interventions, such as screenings and healthcare preparedness," Andrew Tatem, Director of WorldPop and professor at the University of Southampton, said.

The team used anonymised mobile phone and IP address data (2013-15)1, along with international air travel data (2018) to understand typical patterns of movement of people within China, and worldwide, during the annual 40-day Lunar New Year celebrations (including the seven day public holiday January 24 to 30).

The researchers acknowledge that their analysis is based on 'non-outbreak' travel patterns but highlight that a high proportion of people travelled with symptoms at an early stage of the outbreak, before restrictions were put in place.



Travel cordons are likely to have only coincided with the latter stages of peak population numbers leaving Wuhan for the holiday period. According to Wuhan authorities it is likely more than five million people had already left the city.

"The spread of the new coronavirus is a fast moving situation and we are closely monitoring the epidemic in order to provide further up-to-date analysis on the likely spread, including the effectiveness of the transport lockdown in Chinese cities and transmission by people returning from the Lunar New Year holiday, which has been extended to February 2," lead report author Dr Shengjie Lai said.