February 2nd Update: The UK and USA have raised alerts advising against travel to China indefinitely and most airlines have suspended all flights to the mainland. The White House has hinted at ceasing all US-China flights temporarily.
It’s one of the scariest thoughts in the world: a virus that springs up with more questions than answers that’s capable of killing healthy people, by person to person contact. It’s not alarmist, it’s just fact, and it’s something travellers now face with the newest strain of China’s Coronavirus outbreak, which has now claimed over 1,900 lives and infected over 70,800 people.
Travel warnings continue to mount, so here’s what you need to know about the Coronavirus virus, where it is and what you can do to avoid it as best you can, in these uncertain times…
For travel to most parts of the world, it’s business as usual – but if your travel plans involve China, or connections in China, many governments are urging against non essential travel and flights are being suspended.
China has confirmed that the Wuhan Coronavirus, a respiratory virus, can be spread by person to person contact, as feared by many around the world, even before symptoms are realised.
In short: someone might not look sick, but could still spread the illness.
This doubles down on a fear that China has not been entirely forthcoming with the origins or timing of the virus, and that the spread is vastly under reported…
The coronavirus, believed to have spread from contact between animal and human in Wuhan fish and meat markets in mid December 2019 is now a greater concern, with the knowledge that it can indeed be spread via human to human contact and may not be immediately visible via symptoms.
This makes anyone travelling by air more susceptible than originally thought, thanks to the uncomfortably close quarters and shared air. Airlines have suspended flights to Wuhan, and China has banned tour groups from leaving the country.
Making matters worse, proper systems weren’t put in place until it was far too late, based on initial belief that humans could not spread it between each other.
China has quarantined the entire city of Wuhan, but more than 5,000,000 people already fled the city and cases have been confirmed in other provinces outside of Hubei.
Coronavirus has spread to the far reaches of the globe, including USA, France, Japan, South Korea, Nepal, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and virtually all major cities in China.
Health officials around the world are now screening passengers in airports for symptoms. 1900+ people have died, and 70,000+ are believed to be infected thus far.
The worry is that with so many people boarding flights from infected areas to far reaches of the globe, the virus could spread much further. The virus is already more than doubly worse than the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, which tragically killed over 700 people.
Chinese officials have admitted that nearly a month lapsed between initial outbreaks in Wuhan and adding infrared temperature screening at airports to look for infected travellers. Tragically, the Wuhan doctor who attempted to Chinese authorities and was thwarted by Chinese police has died from the illness. The head of Wuhan hospital has died in the infection.
What Are Symptoms Of Coronavirus?
According to the CDC (Centres For Disease Control), Coronavirus symptoms are flu-like, with fever, muscle pains, headache, cough and sore throat. The incubation period can last over a week, so it’s possible that you won’t feel anything for days after contracting the virus. In other words: don’t get off a flight and just assume it’s something else if you feel unwell in the imminent days afterwards.
If you have been in Asia or travelled through Mainland China in recent weeks, be extremely cautious if you develop any symptoms and register your worries with health professionals for your sake, and the sake of others.
Better safe than sorry.
What Countries Are Doing About Coronavirus
The United States, India, Japan, Australia, United kingdom and countries around the world have added additional healthy scrutiny to passenger screening on arrival, in hopes of curbing as much spread as possible, while also limiting flights to and from China.
The United States has raised China to Level 4 out of 4 on its US Travel Advisory list, telling potential travellers to not to travel to China travel until further notice. To put that warning into perspective, Pakistan and the Sudan are now more advised than China. Only Afghanistan, Syria and a few other countries share 4/4 travel advisory status.
The United Kingdom has also raised its travel advise, stating that all non essential travel should be avoided. Following that advice, Both British Airlines indefinitely suspended all China services.
Cruise lines Crystal and Royal Caribbean have gone as far as to ban all Chinese, Hong Kong and Macau passport holders, which seems like a line too far.
Up to 500 people have been infected while stranded on a cruise ship off of Japan.
In short, there’s no way to prevent spread entirely, but efforts are already in place all over the world to limit the spread. There’s no way to guarantee safety, but travellers in other regions, even as close as Southeast Asia have not been encouraged to reconsider plans.
China and Hong Kong have suspended classes for many schools and amusement parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong have been temporarily closed. China has also suspended hundreds of train lines throughout the country, after it emerged that a fatality had reached Beijing. Additional cuts have been made to public transportation.
With up to a 10 day incubation period, it’s not easy to detect the virus in the short term, which makes the challenge more difficult.
Passengers have been quarantined in airports around the world as they’ve arrived off of Chinese originating flights, with strong symptoms. Anywhere which receives direct flights from Wuhan is on high alert, and connections from China on the whole are as well.
One of the few downsides to travel, is that you’re often in closer contact, in more enclosed spaces than usual with others. If you have planned travel within China, or are in an area which receives large numbers of flights from Wuhan, extra care should be given to personal hygiene, avoiding skin to skin contact and potentially using a mask or clothing accessory to cover your respiratory tracts.
If you’re flying, wearing a scarf or hooded sweatshirt and using it to cover your nose and mouth whenever someone sneezes has been proven to significantly reduce the chance of airborne spread illness.
Most major airlines hve suspended all flights to mainland China and other airlines are expected to follow, with countries now strongly advising against non essential travel.
If, however, you have pre-existing health conditions, you may want to take more care than usual.
Most deaths related to Coronavirus thus far have been in China, but France and other countries have confirmed fatalities.