NOTE: This article was first published on 17 March, and has since been updated

By now you’ve probably heard all about the coronavirus outbreak — unless of course, you’re Rip Van Winkle. We know that there is so much information out there already, but here is a concise coronavirus travel advisory and a basic guide of what to be aware of, why you should not panic, and what to keep in mind when it comes to travel in the next few months. 

Amidst the hysteria surrounding the outbreak and the sharp downfall of travel in general, we bring you a concise coronavirus travel advisory to help you work through the situation.

Here, we’ll explore all the coronavirus latest updates, what to be aware of, why you should not panic, how to stay safe, what to keep in mind when it comes to travel, and finally, we’ll tell you how to protect yourself against the outbreak.

What’s In This Article?

What Do We Know About The Current Coronavirus Outbreak?

So, what really is the coronavirus, and how did it all start?

Coronaviruses are actually a group of viruses that cause disease in animals and humans and have been around for a while. The one everyone’s talking about this time is COVID-19 (which is related to other respiratory infections like the common cold and more severe diseases like SARS and MERS). Now COVID-19 is considered a new virus as it was unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

It’s also known as the Novel Coronavirus (or SARS-CoV-2), and after it was identified in China, in the following days, cases were reported in Thailand, Japan, United States, Nepal, France, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan in quick succession. With the world more connected than ever before, and a rising death toll, the World Health Organization quickly declared a global health emergency. Eventually, on 11 March, with over 100 countries reporting cases, the WHO officially designated it a pandemic. 

But, you may be asking yourself, what makes it so very serious?

The common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These can be accompanied by a runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. These may present themselves anywhere between 2-14 days after exposure and can range from mild to severe. While many people (around 80% according to the WHO) recover, there is a fatality rate of between 2-4%. This may not seem like a lot, but, as many people have pointed out, even the seasonal flu has a fatality rate below 1% and causes about 400,000 deaths globally each year.

Unfortunately, older people and those with underlying medical problems (high blood pressure, heart problems, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) are most likely to develop serious problems. These may include pneumonia in both lungs, multi-organ failure, and death.

As of 13 May 2020, the latest coronavirus updates say that the death toll had reached more than 257,000 deaths, and over 3.66 million people had been infected in more than 230 countries. However, as of now, the virus is still too new and experts aren’t sure just how dangerous or even how contagious it could be. 

Read More: Popular Coronavirus Myths Debunked

So how does it spread, and how worried should we be?

While COVID-19 likely originated in animals, it is now spreading from person to person, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. 

These droplets may be directly inhaled, or spread through surface contact – that means by touching the objects or surfaces that these droplets fall on and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. By the way, studies show that we touch our face an average of 23 times PER HOUR. 

What Are The Latest Coronavirus Updates From Around The World?

While the coronavirus outbreak may have started in Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China, it has since spread across the world. Cases started popping up in places where people had recently travelled to Wuhan, such as Thailand, followed by USA, Nepal, France, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan. However, by the end of February, the number of new cases dropped in China, but suddenly increased in Italy, Iran, and South Korea.

The largest centres so far (outside China) are in Italy, Spain, Germany, and the United States. There have also been large numbers of cases reported in France, Iran, Turkey, and the UK. South Korea initially reported very large numbers of cases, though these appear to be slowing down. 

Over the past few months, China placed the Hubei Province under effective quarantine, while the entire country of Italy has been put under lockdown by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (even non-essential services, such as restaurants, bars, and most stores have been temporarily closed). 

Spain and France soon followed suit and introduced emergency restrictions, closing public spaces and effectively restricting people to their homes, while Germany closed its borders. The European Union also plans to shut down all nonessential travel into the bloc. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that people should avoid unnecessary travel and contact with others, should work at home, and should stop going to places like bars, restaurants, and theatres; though he stopped short of imposing more severe restrictions.

The United States announced travel restrictions for foreign nationals who have been to certain European countries in the last 14 days prior to their arrival, followed by a more comprehensive lockdown. Other countries then started closing their borders to all non-citizens or non-residents in rapid succession, including India, Slovakia, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Russia.

Also Read: Which Countries Are On Lockdown Due To The Coronavirus Outbreak?

Many other countries around the world are also taking steps to contain the fast-moving virus.

The Coronavirus In India, And What’s Being Done

The first reported case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, in India was in Kerala on 30 January 2020, in a student who had returned from Wuhan University. Since then, 49,391 more cases have been confirmed, many in people who had recently travelled to China, Italy, or the Middle East, or in people they had contact with. The figure includes the 1,694 deaths reported so far.

As of May, 2020, cases have been reported in the following areas: Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Ladakh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttrakhand.

What is the country doing to help?

The Government of India started implementing protective measures in January, initially issuing coronavirus related travel advisories to Wuhan and performing thermal screening at seven major international airports on passengers arriving from China. 

In March, new visas and visas already issued for nationals of Italy, Iran, South Korea, and Japan were suspended, and airports increased their screening to all passengers arriving in India from abroad. The country also prohibited the entry of passengers from the EU, Turkey and the UK starting March 18. 

Since then, a cluster-containment strategy has also been adopted. Amidst a surge in fresh cases, all schools, colleges, malls, cinemas, clubs, and even some offices in certain states were shut in an effort to stall the outbreak. Various awards ceremonies, sporting competitions and other public events have also either been cancelled or postponed. 

After a “Janta Curfew” of 14 hours on 22 March, where citizens were asked to stay home and public services were halted, leaving only essential goods and services open, the Government announced that the entire country was being placed under lockdown for 21 days (from 24 March onwards). This has since been extended for another two weeks until 30 April, and then again until 17 May. All transport services – road, air and rail were suspended, with exceptions for transportation of essential goods, fire, police and emergency services. Other essentials like food shops, banks, ATMs and petrol pumps were also exempted

Tourism in India has seen ramifications, with popular tourist events such as the Wagah border ceremony now being conducted without any spectators, or being cancelled outright. Airline and restaurants have also seen a sharp decrease in customers, with many flights cancelling flights both to and from India, especially after the announcement of the lockdown.

What Do The Coronavirus Travel Advisories Say We Should Do?

After seeing just how global the reach of the virus is, we understand if you’re a little concerned about travel safety. The coronavirus outbreak has already greatly impacted the travel industry, with popular tourists hotspots almost deserted, and flight and cruise ship trips being cancelled.

So what does this all mean for travellers? Well, according to the latest coronavirus update, here are some things to keep in mind:

Is it safe to travel, or should I cancel my trip? A coronavirus travel advisory

That depends on where you’re going, but while the WHO specifically stated that the risk of being infected was low, that may not be the case anymore. It’s still safe to travel to most places if you really have to go. But, for all non-essential travel, you should consider rescheduling or postponing your travel plans until the outbreaks are under control. Additionally, you must keep yourself informed of the various travel restrictions, constantly changing bans and restrictions, and the WHO travel advisory for coronavirus. 

With lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders being put in place across the globe to slow the spread of the virus, some officials say travellers are taxing their already tight resources and bringing COVID-19 along with them, so they’re urging people to stay at home – at least for now. Many countries have also closed their borders, and temporarily suspended travel both domestic and international. You can find a full list here.

 

What should you keep in mind if you have existing travel plans?

Travel warnings are increasing as coronavirus spreads across the globe. So what does that mean for you, as a traveller? Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • Remember to check travel advisories before deciding whether to cancel, postpone, or continue with your travel plans.
  • Keep in mind that the CDC and other governments are recommending that you avoid all nonessential travel.
  • Some countries have restrictions on visitors entering from areas with large numbers of cases.
  • If you HAVE travelled to a high-risk country, you may be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days to monitor your health, in case you display symptoms.
  • Take routine precautions (such as personal hygiene, cough etiquette, maintaining a distance from persons showing symptoms) to stay healthy.
  • If you do go ahead and make travel bookings, opt for transport and hotels with flexible cancellation policies.
  • Be prepared for big public events to be cancelled or tourist attractions to be closed.
What about quarantines and airline restrictions?

Airlines have also put in place various restrictions which can affect travel plans. The virus is transmitted from person to person (though it can live on surfaces for short periods) and the risk of infection mainly comes from exposure to a sick traveller. But, because of how air circulates and is filtered on aeroplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily. 

Nonetheless, the airline industry has taken a hit with ticket sales dropping drastically due to fear over the virus, even in places far from the hotspots of the epidemic.

More than airlines, it’s cruise ships that gather large numbers of people from various countries and place them in close proximity, which can promote the spread of respiratory viruses, like COVID-19. Some countries are issuing coronavirus quarantines on those returning from abroad based on risk assessment, or are placing them under watch to see if symptoms develop. Others, like India, have denied entry to cruise ships amidst virus fears. 

There are also screening practices at airports and train stations. But, these thermal scanners can only detect those that already have developed a fever but cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with a fever. 

You can read more about travel and health costs as well as reimbursements and refunds here.

What Are Some Precautions For Coronavirus To Protect Yourself?

One of the main ways to protect yourself and stop the disease from spreading is to stay aware of the latest (verified) information on the COVID-19 outbreak. You can also take some basic precautions, such as:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if that isn’t possible) to kill any viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are coughing and sneezing, so that you don’t breathe in any infected droplets. 
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth, as these surfaces easily pick up the virus if your hands are contaminated. 
  • Ensure that you (and the people around you) cover their mouth and nose with an elbow or a tissue (NOT hands) when coughing or sneezing—and then immediately dispose of the used tissue.
  • If you have a fever or a cough, stay home from work or school to stop it spreading and call your doctor to see what you should do. By calling ahead, they can let you know where to go, and you’ll avoid spreading the virus to people at your doctor’s office. 
  • When visiting live animal markets or handling raw meats, milk, or eggs, proceed with extra care to avoid contamination through uncooked foods. 
  • Finally, stay aware of the COVID-19 hotspots—areas where lots of cases are being reported—and, if possible, avoid travel there. 

We recommend following the guidelines and advice given by trusted sources. Your local health officials, the World Health Organization, and others are actively monitoring the situation and providing guidance. 

Some credible resources to keep updated about the situation are as follows:

Be careful of the sources you get information from, especially outside these sources. And, as always, don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

If you believe you may have symptoms of the Novel Coronavirus or feel you may have been exposed to the virus, speak to a doctor and/or contact your local health officials for further guidance.

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