As bushfires continue to rage across Australia, travelers may be wondering if it’s safe to continue with their vacation plans there.
On Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the bushfires could go on for months and that the recovery agency, which was created to aid those impacted by the fires, would be run for at least two years.
Hundreds of bushfires have already devastated the country, with 1,500 homes having been destroyed and millions of hectares razed, hitting New South Wales and Victoria – home to the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, respectively – the hardest.
According to the New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service, there are 136 fires that continue to burn on the southeastern region of Australia, with 69 uncontained as of 6 a.m. local time. Today, crews will focus on containment of these large fires, working with heavy plant and aviation assets.
At 6am, there are 136 fires which continue to burn across NSW, 69 uncontained. All fires remain at Advice. Today crews will focus on containment of these large fires, working with heavy plant and aviation assets. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/f2OWkze8nC— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 5, 2020
Rain and cooler temperatures will provide some relief. However, it is expected the temperatures will rise later this week.
The neighboring state of Victoria is also issuing warnings over "smoky conditions" with residents advised to minimize time spent outside, where 31 fires continue to burn.
Victoria is currently under a state of disaster and the NSW has declared a state of emergency.
Off the coast of South Australia, popular tourist getaway Kangaroo Island has been severely affected by the fires. Over half of its 50,000 koala population died in Friday's devastating bushfire and have forced authorities to push a total fire ban across the island and issue a bushfire advice for the western half of the island.
Western Australia, including capital Perth, Queensland and the Northern Territory, are dealing with several brushfires, but they are reportedly under control and the region remains safe to visit.
According to a statement from Tourism Australia, while bushfires continue to impact parts of the country, “many areas are unaffected and most tourism businesses are still open.”
“We would encourage all travelers coming to Australia to seek the most up-to-date information prior to departure, and remain informed about changing conditions whilst on the ground,” Phillipa Harrison, the managing director of Tourism Australia, wrote.
Travelers, and travel advisors, can get the latest weather updates for all parts of Australia, including fire warnings, on the country’s Bureau of Meteorology website.
The council that governs the Blue Mountains National Park closed all reserves, campgrounds, lookouts, and walking tracks in December because of the bushfire threat.
Fires near Melbourne have shed doubt on whether or not the Australian Open, which is hosted in the city, will be able to start on time on Jan. 20, because of poor air quality in the area (although, according to the Guardian, conditions are expected to improve over the next two weeks).
Travelers heading to affected areas should consider wearing P2-rated masks, which can filter out the hazardous microscopic PM2.5 particles produced by bushfire smoke.
Most airports, including Sydney Airport, the country’s largest, are still operating regularly, though Sydney has experienced delays recently because of poor visibility that was partly caused by the fires that have intensified around the city.
Etihad Airways – which has daily service through Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – will waive flight change fees for Australian residents affected by this ongoing national emergency. The waivers will apply for travel to or from Australia.