The ongoing coronavirus outbreak is having significant impact on travel around the globe. Also known as COVID-19, the speed with which the outbreak is unfolding has created an atmosphere of uncertainty for travelers wondering if they should alter their plans.Traveling is a personal choice and travelers are encouraged to check for the most recent and relevant updates regarding this disruptor.
Read on for a wrap up of how the virus is affecting travel, ways you can protect yourself, and tools and resources for staying abreast of this fast-developing situation.
Is it still safe to travel?
The WHO is not proposing travel bans but the organizations recommends avoiding or delaying travel to affected areas if you have a fever or cough, in particular for elderly travelers and people with underlying health conditions. Many governments, however, are issuing travel alerts to citizens, advising against all travel to China and to reconsider non-essential travel to other affected areas.
Most commercial airlines have reduced or suspended routes to and from China and other affected areas. New travel restrictions are being introduced daily, so it is advisable to check directly with your carrier before flying. Travelers returning from affected areas are advised to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days and follow their country’s national protocols — which may include self-quarantine for the incubation period. If symptoms do occur, travelers are advised to seek medical care and inform healthcare providers of their symptoms and their travel history.
What countries have reported cases of COVID-19?
COVID-19 cases have now been reported on every continent except Antarctica. A majority of confirmed cases to date have occurred in China, the main epicenter of the outbreak, according to the WHO. Other smaller outbreaks have emerged in Morocco, Nigeria, Togo, South Africa, Tunisia and Cameroon. If you have not travelled from one of these countries or have not been in close contact with someone who has become infected, your chances of contracting the virus are currently low.
You can now track the disease globally in real-time here http://bit.ly/2VsIl8F .The Center for Systems Science and Engineering has launched this online dashboard that is tracking the spread of this deadly coronavirus as it makes its way across China and beyond.
How will it affect travel planning?
Standard travel insurance is unlikely to cover cancelations as a result of the coronavirus outbreak — concern over health and safety is not generally listed under standard coverage. In addition, because the spread of the COVID-19 virus is well known and is no longer considered an “unexpected event,” travelers are also unable to purchase “Trip Cancellation” benefits for the coronavirus, according to SquareMouth travel insurance comparison website http://bit.ly/2TwP6om.
Each insurance provider assigns a specific date to when they consider an event having a “foreseeable impact” on travel. In regards to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, this date ranges between January 21st and January 27th, according to SquareMouth. Travelers are instead being encouraged to purchase a “Cancel For Any Reason” upgrade, which will ensure coverage for the outbreak — but this typically increases the premium by about 40%.Standard travel insurance will likely cover you if you become sick while traveling, however, if trip interruption coverage is included in your policy. Travelers who are insured through their credit cards are advised to file a claim with their financial institution to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. But similar to policies purchased through insurance providers, coverage may not include concern over health and safety.
What are the symptoms and how do I protect myself?
Common signs of infection include shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, fever and cough. In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, organ failure and death. Anyone can fall ill but the groups most at risk of severe infection or death are elderly people or people with pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes. Very few children have been diagnosed or suffered serious cases.COVID-19 is mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected individual speaks, coughs or sneezes at close range, which the WHO defines as within 6 feet. There have been also warning that it may be possible for a person to become infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. Some reported cases of asymptomatic spread have been as well recorded; meaning a person showing no symptoms has passed the virus onto others. However, this is considered uncommon.
Currently there is no vaccine against COVID-19. To protect you against infection, the world health Organization (WHO) recommends:
·Washing your hands regularly with an alcohol-based sanitizer
·Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
·Seeking medical care immediately if you are showing symptoms
·Maintaining distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing