Air quality

Planned burns are happening across Tasmania, which may impact local air quality. People with asthma and other lung conditions may worry that smoke in the air will increase their risk of catching COVID-19.

I’m asthmatic and worried about poor air quality increasing my risk of catching COVID-19

Tasmania has some of the best air quality in the world. Evidence suggests that the short period of smoke exposure from a planned burn (less than one day), when there is normally excellent air quality, is unlikely to cause an increased risk of infection from COVID-19.

Studies linking increased respiratory infections, chronic lung conditions and poor air quality come from places that have long-term air pollution, like large cities outside Australia. These are not conditions we experience in Tasmania when planned burns are underway.

What can I do?

For people more sensitive to smoke, you can:

  • Keep track of your local air quality. Visit the Department of Health website and download the free AirRater app.
  • When air quality is poor, stay indoors with your windows and doors closed. This will reduce your exposure to smoke and fits with current COVID-19 recommendations to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Consider purchasing an air cleaner to reduce any smoke entering your house.
  • Follow your asthma action plan and see your GP if you don’t have a plan.
  • Eat a balanced diet and try to exercise on days when air quality is good. This will be most days in autumn.

Why are planned burns happening at this time?

In Tasmania, autumn planned burns normally happen from early March to late April and help reduce the fuel load of bushland close to houses. These normally happen when conditions are cooler, there is little wind and the soil is still dry enough to maintain a fire. These types of burns (often called hazard reduction burns) are important to reduce the danger of summer bushfires.

Planned burns are controlled through the Coordinated Smoke Management Strategy, administered by the Forest Practices Authority. The Department of Health was involved in the development of this strategy in 2008 and continues to be each year.