If you haven’t heard of the Coronavirus by now, or COVID-19 as it has been coined by the WHO, then you are probably living under a rock. But for those that have, there are many things to consider for how it will impact the world over the coming months.
As the Coronavirus continues to spread around the world, the reality we have to face is that travel already has been and will continue to be affected. It is hard for us to predict what exactly will happen in the future, but there are definitely some precautions and things to think about as you consider your travel plans and what to do about them. Here is everything you need to know about Coronavirus and how it is affecting travel across the world.
What is Coronavirus?
It is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can be passed from person to person through touch and close proximity. While everyone can contract the virus, those above the age of 65 and/or those who already have an underlying health condition tend to exhibit more severe symptoms.
After exposure, the typical incubation period is around 14 days. Once signs begin to show, there is a wide range of symptoms similar to that of the common cold or flu. Some people have no symptoms, while a majority of people tend to have fever, cough, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, patients develop pneumonia, organ failure and have even died.
As of March 7, 2020, the Coronavirus has spread across six continents. Coronavirus was first recognized in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has since spread rapidly to other countries around the world. The countries experiencing the highest rates of reported cases are China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy. The situation is also escalating in Japan and Hong Kong and is likely to do the same elsewhere.
The Coronavirus is believed to be present in 89 countries, with over 100,000 cases currently reported. The following countries have also reported deaths due to the virus: the United States, France, Spain, Australia, Iraq, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK, San Marino, Thailand, and Taiwan.
Current Impact on Travel
The travel industry is seeing a major interruption due to the Coronavirus. It is currently recommended for all travelers to forgo non-essential travel to China and avoid Wuhan at all costs, the epicenter of the outbreak. This suggestion is also in place for South Korea, Iran, and Italy. A number of airlines have begun to limit available international flights, as well as banning certain destinations altogether.
Cruise lines are also being heavily affected. Following the incident with the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in Japan for two weeks, many cruise lines are canceling trips, changing their itineraries and putting extra precautions in place. These include requiring passengers to receive health checks before boarding and increasing cleaning efforts on board.
Should You Travel?
Government agencies all over the world are keeping a close eye on the changing trends of the virus, and updating the public constantly. Consult your government’s recommendations for travel before making any decisions on current or future plans. These are some of the things to consider regarding your travels over the next few months.
- Health Advisories – Look up the health advisories for your destination. You will want to pay attention to any countries that you may be transiting through as well. What health advisories are in place from the World Health Organization for that area?
- Travel Advisories – Check with your government services, as well as your airline, to see if there are currently any travel advisories in place. There are multiple airlines and companies that have started to cancel current reservations. Is your airline suggesting you postpone/cancel? Are there any travel precautions that exist?
- Number of Confirmed Cases – Check on the number of reported cases for the destination that you are considering. Does that number seem high?
- Personal Health – COVID-19 has been documented as having both zero to mild symptoms, while also having severe symptoms in some cases. Typically, those that react to the virus more harshly are those who already have underlying health conditions or are over the age of 65. Do either of these apply to you or who you are traveling with?
- Quarantine Possibility – While this has not become a widespread practice yet, it is something to consider both coming and going from your destination. There is a possibility that you could be subjected to 14 days in quarantine. Is this something that you are able to do, or even willing to do if the need were to arise?
It is hard to know what will happen in the future, and this makes planning travel difficult. Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to travel is up to you if your flight is still a go. Make sure to prioritize your safety and the safety of those you will be in contact with both during and after your travels. Continue to stay up to date with the changing trends.
Purchasing Travel Insurance
While the amount of people purchasing travel insurance for their trips has spiked since the outbreak began, it is very likely that it is too late. Travel insurance is designed to protect travelers from “unforeseen” events. Since the Coronavirus is already known to be a global problem, it is too late to purchase travel insurance in hopes of receiving money back for a canceled trip.
Travel insurance that was purchased previously will help those traveling to countries with warnings. It will not help when canceling a trip that does not have advisories in place. Travel insurance does not cover cancellations if a passenger is just afraid to travel to a place that is not advised against.
For those that are still interested in getting travel insurance, consider getting some that include a “cancel for any reason” clause, as this will then cover any trip cancellation. However, it is significantly more expensive and still may not cover all of the expenses for the trip.
Canceling a Trip
One of the hardest decisions travelers will have to make is when to cancel a trip. While there are many things to consider, it may come to a point where this is seen as necessary. If you decide to cancel a trip that you have already booked, consult your airlines and hotels to see what options they have available to you.
Many airlines, hotels, and cruise companies are currently offering waived change or cancellation fees if you are traveling to areas that are highly affected by the virus. Each company has different policies in place to handle this sort of thing, so talk with your specific company.
Protect Yourself When Traveling
If you do decide to go ahead with your travels, keep some of the following precautions in mind.
Book refundable rates. If you choose to book travel for the near future, make bookings where you will be able to get your money back if you are unable to go. Not all airlines and hotels will offer refunds because of the Coronavirus.
You should wash your hands regularly. This is common sense and your best form of defense against COVID-19. This will help to remove any bacteria that you may touch from your hands so that you are not continually exposed or exposing others. Buy travel hand sanitizers to keep with you as a backup so you can prevent coming in contact with Coronavirus in between washings.
Wipe down your seat and tray table on the plane. It is impossible to tell who sat in the seat before you got there, so take the extra precaution to wipe down the seat you will use with Clorox wipes and the tray table that goes along with it.
Avoid touching your face. As most bacteria are on our hands, you will not want to touch your face where the particles could enter into your body and cause infection.
Avoid crowded areas if possible. Since COVID-19 can be transferred by close proximity, try not to place yourself in situations that would cause you to be around a lot of other people. If possible, choose other activities or routes.
Know the Facts
The Coronavirus can seem scary at times, but the best thing that you can do for yourself and your travels is to stay well informed, know the facts, and know what to look for. Every day there are new developments as we move towards understanding this virus more. Choose reputable sources to get your information from so that you have facts instead of inaccurate data that could cause panic.
Here is a list of major government organizations that will continue to provide updated information regarding the virus and travel updates.
Featured image: Young Asian man wearing a black surgical face mask waiting for the train during new type Coronavirus Covid-19 pneumonia outbreak © twinsterphoto / 123RF.com