Although the number of cases outside China remains relatively low, the past few weeks have shown a rapid increase in the spread of the coronavirus outside the country. For the first time since the beginning of the outbreak, the cases outside of China are now rising at a faster rate than in China itself. Coronavirus cases in Italy have surged to more than 800 in just the past couple of days and South Korea has officially declared the highest alert level while officials scramble to get the virus under control. Here is a brief summary of the current world situation including: updated travel bans, travel safety, cancellation and refund information, and travel advice.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has stated that the coronavirus is NOT currently spreading in the United States. They have issued the following traveling restrictions and advice:
- Suspended entry of foreign nationals who have been to China in the past 14 days. (Effective from February 2, 2020)
- Family members and citizens returning from the Hubei province and other parts of mainland China have been granted permission to enter, but are subject to monitoring and possible quarantine up to 14 days.
- CDC recommends avoiding any non-essential travel to China and practicing enhanced precautions when it comes to traveling to Japan, Italy, Iran and Hong Kong.
- CDC recommends avoiding all cruise ship travel into and within Asia.
- The US Embassy and Consulate in the Republic of Korea has stated that US citizens who visit the Republic of Korea might be subject to more screenings.
The Secretary of Human Health and Public Services, Alex Azar, has confirmed that more than 90 labs across the United States will be ready for testing
Please refer to the CDC page for further information.
The UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate as a preventive measure so that the government can plan for all eventualities. However, the risk to individuals remains low.
- The PHE (Public Health England) has stated that any travelers coming to the UK from Mainland China, Iran, lockdown areas of Northern Italy and special care zones in South Korea should stay indoors and avoid contact with other people for at least 14 days. Call NHS 111 and inform them of any recent travels.
- The PHE has now declared that all travelers from Japan, Thailand, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Macau, other parts of Northern Italy (anything north of Pisa, Florence and Rimini) Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, displaying symptoms (cough, high temperature or shortness of breath, even if mild) should self-quarantine for 14 days and call NHS 111 and inform them of their recent travels.
- Due to some students spending the half term holidays in Northern Italy or having transited through it, a number of schools across the UK have now either been closed or have sent students home for self quarantine.
Northern Ireland and Wales have now confirmed their first case of Coronavirus in the country bringing the total number of cases in the UK to 19.
For more information, please check COVI-19 UK Government guidance.
The Australian Government has now extended travel restrictions a week further to February 29, 2020.
Everyone coming from mainland China (including transits) within the previous 14 days will be denied entry excluding:
- Australian citizens
- Permanent residents
- New Zealand citizens residing in Australia
- Immediate family members
Please check the Australian Home Affairs page for more information.
The coronavirus in Italy has been spreading rapidly. More than 800 cases are now confirmed making it the largest affected country in Europe and the most registered cases outside Asia.
The Italian government has now issued the following:
- All flights from mainland China have been suspended. (Active from January 30, 2020)
- The Italian government has declared a state of emergency as of January 31, 2020.
- As of February 23, 2020 the Italian Government has implemented extra security measures for the boroughs and adjacent areas who have seen the majority of cases, including a lock down of the affected areas and the suspension of all public events, schools and sports activities.
For more information, please check the Italian Ministry of Health page (Italian only).
British Airways has now canceled some of their flights to Milan and allocated the passengers to other flights as they are experiencing low demand. They are also offering full refunds or date changes on those flights. Please check directly with British Airways to learn more if you have a flight booked to Milan in the next 2 weeks.
Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Greece, Norway and Croatia have now reported the first cases in their countries. Spain, has also reported the first case on the mainland, whilst a hotel in Tenerife has been placed under lockdown. Hotel guests have been asked to stay in their rooms after an Italian man staying at the hotel tested positive for the virus.
130 people staying at the Hotel in Tenerife have now been cleared to leave. They had arrived at the hotel after an Italian tourist who had the virus had left before displaying any symptoms. The tourists are of multiple nationalities.
Greece has now stated that they will reinforce border patrols and it has canceled all carnival parades.
Germany has now introduced new landing cards for people entering from countries which have been hit by the virus.
Iceland has now confirmed the first case of the virus in the country.
Republic of Korea
The country has now raised the alert to “highest level” as more and more cases have been confirmed in the past few days bringing the total to more than 1700. Please refer to Republic of Korea Immigration Services for the latest updates and travel information.
In the effort to stop the spread of the virus, both Turkey and Pakistan have now closed their borders to Iran including all flights and highways. Iran, as a preventive measure, has put in place the closure of schools, universities and other educational centers in 14 provinces.
Afghanistan has now suspended all travels to and from Iran due to concerns regarding the growing spread in Iran.
Iraq has now imposed travel bans to China, South Korea, Iran, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Kuwait and Bahrain. They have also shut down schools and universities and have also banned public gatherings in places like cinemas, club etc.
Iran has now implemented travel restrictions and suspended Friday’s prayers in the areas most hit by the virus.
Saudi Arabia has now banned pilgrims from visiting Islam’s holiest shrines in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus from affected countries.
First cases of the Coronavirus have now been confirmed by Nigeria. This is the third case of the virus in Africa, after Egypt and Algeria confirmed their first cases earlier this month.
Japan has now recorded more than 900 cases and prime minister Shinzo Abe has declared that all elementary, middle and high schools should be closed until late March.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has stated, at their latest press conference, that WHO has raised the risk of spread and risk of impact of Covid-19 to “very high at a global level”.
Dr Bruce Aylward, head of the joint WHO-Chinese mission, has stated at their press conference that countries should prepare for a possible outbreak and be ready to respond rapidly.
Coronavirus and Travel
The World Health Organization has released a Q&A video about traveling during the coronavirus outbreak. The interview includes answers to many questions about travel during the outbreak, canceling plans, traveling in other parts of Asia, and how to stay safe while flying.
Many travelers have been asking about refunds and cancellations for trips that have already been booked. Keep in mind that many travel restrictions to mainland China come from government officials. Most airlines and tour operators have already canceled or suspended all trips to the affected areas. Travelers will most likely be able to ask for cancellations or refunds from their trips. However, as each airline has their own policy we always recommend checking with them directly. For other parts of Asia where travel has not been discouraged by government officials, refunds and cancellations are at the discretion of the individual airlines or tour operators, so please check with them directly.
The World Health Organization has also released a series of articles and videos on how to keep safe and prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Please refer to the below links for more information:
As the position regarding the virus is developing and changing on a daily basis, please note that the above is only short-term advice, and further information may be available from additional medical sources. It is therefore particularly important for everyone to ensure that they keep themselves up to date with all the latest information from official websites.