A leading expert in infectious diseases has praised a move made by the Australian government that was once considered “terrible”, as it has prevented possibly thousands of deaths in Australia. 

Professor Sharon Lewin, head of the Doherty Institute, says she doesn’t believe the decline in positive COVID-19 results doesn’t have anything to do with “good luck” but it was the government’s quick response to the pandemic that allowed numbers to stay low in comparison to the rest of the world.

Professor Lewin singled out Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s “brilliant” choice to ban foreign travellers arriving from China, or anyone who had spent time in another country, from February 1st.

She says she believes the move prevented a widespread outbreak.

“For me, I [initially] thought that was a terrible decision, I’ll say honestly, and the World Health Organisation, too, said that blocking flights was the worst thing that you could do for a global health crisis,” she admitted.

“But it saved Australia, because it actually stopped seeding at the very beginning.”

Professor Lewin went on to note that Italy and the US banned flights from China at a similar time, but they were still acquiring Chinese nationals and those who’ve visited China from other countries.

She also went on to deny the idea that Australia had less positive coronavirus results and less deaths than any other country simply “because it’s an island and it’s summer”.

“Actually, between mid and late March, when the epidemic was taking off in the end of summer, the doubling time was every two days. The outbreak was proceeding with the exact same rate as anywhere else in the world,” she said. 

World Health Organisation chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told countries they should have listened to advice given by the WHO in January to prevent a significant outbreak.

The WHO has a close relationship with China and it is this relationship that has caused tension between many western countries including the US whose president Donald Trump pulled the country’s funding.

Mr Morrison also caused tension between China and Australia when he pressed for an independent review on the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak.

This article originally appeared on Over60.