The Coronavirus: What It Means For Travellers
What is The Coronavirus?
The new Coronavirus (COVID 19) is a new form of coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan, China. It belongs to the same family of viruses as SARS, MERS and the common cold and typically presents with flu-like symptoms, including a fever, a cough, or difficulty breathing. While most cases are mild, there have now been over 1,000 deaths from the virus, mostly in China.
How does this affect my travel plans?
At present, the FCO advises against all travel to Hubei Province in China and all but essential travel to the rest of the country. While the FCO has not yet advised against travel to any other regions due to Coronavirus, the disease is present outside of China and you should continue to check the FCO’s travel advice pages for more updates.
What if I’m travelling in China?
Travellers in China should take extra precautions. Several airlines, including British Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, have changed their flight schedule and some travel routes within China may be disrupted, including rail routes, highways and internal flights. The most serious restrictions are in place in the Chongqing, Zhejiang, Anhui and Heilongjiang provinces.
Travellers should be aware of any potential changes which they might need to make to their travel plans and organisations with employees travelling in the region should take steps to understand the risks and ensure their employees are safe.
You may also face restrictions when travelling onward to other countries from China and should be aware of these.
How Can I Protect Myself From Coronavirus?
There is no vaccine or treatment for the Coronavirus and the best defence against the virus is good hygiene. While travelling, you should:
Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or a disinfectant, especially after coughing and sneezing, before handling and consuming food. Only use hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available. It should not be used instead of soap and water.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Use disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing and dispose of used tissues carefully and promptly.
Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and avoid sharing personal items.
Avoid visiting live bird and animal markets, backyard or commercial poultry farms. Do not touch wild or domestic birds (alive or dead).
Avoid any contact with animals, birds or surfaces that may be contaminated with animal or bird droppings.
Do not eat or handle undercooked or raw meat including poultry, egg or duck dishes.
Public Health England recommends against using masks outside clinical settings. Should you decide to use a mask, you should ensure you continue to use all the recommended precautions mentioned above.
On returning to the UK from Hubei province, you should call NHS 111 immediately. You may be required to self-quarantine for 14 days. You should also call NHS 111 if you return from any other part of China (including Macau and Hong Kong), Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea or Malaysia and develop a cough, fever or shortness of breath.
Organisations should be aware of the risks of self-quarantine should their employees return from the UK after travel to these areas.
Those in self-quarantine should take common-sense steps to avoid contact with others, including avoidance of public transport and public places. You can read more here.
Where to Find Updates
As this is a new virus, the situation is likely to evolve over time, as will our understanding of the virus. You can find more information and updates on the World Health Organisation and Public Health England’s websites.