As more than 31,500 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed around the world, flights and cruises have cancelled their routes and cities are under quarantine. Starting in Wuhan, China the virus has rampantly spread to other parts of Asia, Europe and the U.S leading to more than 600 deaths.
Here is everything you need to know about traveling while coronavirus spreads.
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a specific strain of coronavirus called 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV. It was first discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats,” according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). And 2019-nCoV is the most recent “novel” version found.
Both Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are caused by a coronavirus, but not the strain that’s currently circulating.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The first symptoms of Coronavirus feel a lot like the flu. “You'll get a fever, cough — it’s primarily a lower respiratory virus — general malaise, there may be some gastrointestinal distress,” Dr. Rebecca Katz, a professor and the director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University, recently told Travel + Leisure. When complications of the virus occur, patients could develop pneumonia or kidney-related issues, which could lead to death.
What should you do to prevent coronavirus?
You can protect yourself from catching coronavirus the same way you’d protect yourself from catching any other virus. Wash your hands regularly, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and be sure to thoroughly cook all meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with people you may see coughing or sneezing.
Which countries are impacted by coronavirus?
As the virus has affected the world, Professors from Johns Hopkins University have developed a real-time map to track confirmed cases of coronavirus as it spreads.
China: The overwhelming majority of coronavirus cases are within mainland China.
Conditions in Wuhan, where the virus was first detected were likened to a wartime scenario this week. The city has been completely quarantined from the rest of China, with transportation links cut. Streets and shelves are empty as residents are urged to go outside only for essential supplies. There have also been two makeshift hospitals put in place to accommodate all patients.
While museums are closed until further notice, China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration has put much of its collection online for visitors to peruse.
Macau has completely shut down for two weeks and none of its famous casinos will be open.
A scientist from Hong Kong believes the city already has a community outbreak of coronavirus, according to the South China Morning Post. Several of the city’s 21 infected patients had not visited mainland China within the 14 days prior to their diagnosis. Effective Saturday, those from mainland China entering Hong Kong will be subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The doctor who first discovered this straint of coronavirus and alerted authorities, Li Wenliang, has died at age 34 of the disease. China has launched an investigation into his death and as to why according to a statement released by the official Xinhua news agency.
"We express our deep condolences and sadness, pay our tribute to him for fighting on the front line against the epidemic, and show our sincere sympathy to his family," the local government said in the statement.
Taiwan: Announced Thursday it would no longer process online or landing visas for citizens of Hong Kong or Macau. The suspension will continue indefinitely. Those who have an urgent need to travel to Taiwan must appear at a consulate in their city and prove that they have not been to mainland China within the past 14 days. Those who have visited and were already granted visas are instructed to self-impose a quarantine, punishable by an almost $5,000 fine. Taiwan has also banned all cruise ships from docking at its ports.
Japan: A total of 25 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Japan. It is the most affected country outside of China, however no deaths have been reported. Japan’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been laxer than other countries. Tokyo has only imposed an entry ban for travelers who have been to the Hubei Province within the last 14 days or those who have a passport issued from Hubei. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was adamant that the outbreak will not affect the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics this summer.
The other most affected Asian countries are, in order, Singapore, Thailand and South Korea.
Australia closed its borders to foreign arrivals who have been in China within the past 14 days. Australians who are arriving home from China are being met with additional health screenings. There have been 15 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia.
Australia flew out 243 citizens who wished to leave Wuhan and transferred them to quarantine on Christmas Island in an immigration detention center, according to the New York Times.
U.S.: The U.S. has confirmed a total of 12 coronavirus cases since the outbreak.
The borders have been closed to anyone who has been in China within the last 14 days. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now requires airlines to ask passengers on inbound flights if they have visited mainland China in the past 14 days, If they have, they are rerouted to screening centers at one of several airports around the country, including New York JFK and Los Angeles International. If passengers show no symptoms during their enhanced screening, they are rebooked to their final destination — although they are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
On Thursday, two U.S. planes brought about 300 passengers out of Wuhan. It is expected to be one of the last government-chartered flights to evacuate Americans and their families from the center of the epidemic.
How are airlines responding?
Airlines around the world have halted service to mainland China amid warnings from the World Health Organization.
In a statement, Lufthansa Group (including Austrian Airlines and SWISS) said they will not accept new bookings to China through the end of February, however the airlines will continue to operate flights to Hong Kong. British Airways announced an “immediate” suspension of flights to mainland China. Reuters reported that there are no flights available to China with the airline through the end of February. Air Canada has also temporarily suspended flights to Beijing and Shanghai.
United, American and Delta have all suspended their service to China, citing low demand. The longest of these cancellations is with Delta, who have suspended mainland China service until April 30.
All airlines will continue to monitor the situation and could change their schedules should there be any change in the situation in China. Many airlines are still operating flights to Hong Kong. Travelers should contact their airline directly for more information.
Airlines are also looking out for their employees as flight attendants on Cathay Pacific were first told to wear masks while working and have now been asked to take three weeks of unpaid leave between March 1 and the end of June, due to a “significant” drop in demand for flights.
Thai Airways is practicing extreme precautions as they are spraying down cabins with a disinfectant after each flight.
How are cruises responding?
While cruise lines have released their own safety in how their handling the outbreak, isolated incidents have occured on various ships.
At least 61 passengers on a Japanese cruise ship have been diagnosed with coronavirus. The ship was initially quarantined when an 80-year-old passenger boarded in the Japanese port of Yokohama after having been diagnosed. Sickened passengers have been transported to a hospital on the mainland for treatment.
A ship in Italy couldn’t offload passengers last week for fear that two of them had contracted the virus.
Cruise Lines International Association, whose members include many international cruise lines, said in a statement last week that its members “have suspended crew movements from mainland China and will deny boarding to any individual, whether guest or crew, who has traveled from or through mainland China within the previous 14 days.”
On Friday, a Royal Caribbean cruise docked in Bayonne, N.J. — 20 miles away New York City — with passengers that will be assessed for coronavirus as they deboard.
"There are folks on the ship that have a history of travel to China and so CDC and local health officials are going to board the ship when it docks to do an assessment in port for coronavirus," a CDC source told CNN.
Four passengers have been sent to the hospital, according to NorthJersey.com.
For future cruise plans to China, the managing editor of Cruise Critic recently told T+L, "It’s best to contact your cruise line or travel advisor directly with any questions or concerns,” adding, “All cruise lines that have canceled cruises are offering affected guests the option to receive a full refund.”
Should I cancel my trip because of the coronavirus outbreak?
Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 — its highest level — warning, notifying Americans not to travel to China. The CDC also issued a warning against all nonessential travel to China. However, this does not include Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan.
The State Department hasn’t issued any health-related travel advisories against any other Asian countries.
To ensure any upcoming travel plans, calling your hotel and airline directly as well as monitoring updates and alerts will give you the current information.
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