The coronavirus is making headlines around the world. Measures are being taken to control the spread of the virus but it continues to have a global impact, leading governments to establish travel restrictions and advisories and airlines and cruises to change and cancel routes.
If you are planning a business trip or a family vacation, you will need to be armed with the latest information to help you make decisions about if, when, where, and how to travel safely. Here are some important things to know before you finalize your plans.
What is a Coronavirus?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronaviruses cause a fever and upper respiratory issues like a sore throat, coughing, and runny nose. Sometimes coronaviruses can cause more severe symptoms, including difficulty breathing, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
In late January, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new virus, officially named COVID-19, a global health emergency. While most cases of COVID-19 are in China, the disease has spread to 77 countries throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States. Although all of this sounds very scary, it is important to note that over 50,000 people have recovered from the Coronavirus.
How Has the Coronavirus Affected Travel?
The coronavirus has had a tremendous impact on the travel industry. Travelers have been advised to avoid areas that have been heavily impacted by the virus, and many countries have put travel restrictions and bans in place. In the U.S., citizens and residents who have visited China in the previous 14 days are subject to health screenings and, potentially, restrictions on their movements for two weeks. Foreign nationals who have been in China within 14 days are not allowed to enter the country.
Airlines across the globe are adjusting flight schedules in response to government restrictions and reduced customer demand. British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and Emirates and others have curtailed or suspended service to China and other destinations in Europe and Asia. Some U.S. carriers, including United, JetBlue and Delta, have recently begun waiving change fees for certain travel periods, which means increased flexibility to postpone travel.
Cruise ship travel has been significantly disrupted. Many cruises to and from mainland China and other Asian destinations have been canceled or modified, as cruise lines change their itineraries to avoid hot spots or because of port closures. Some cruise lines have added additional pre-boarding health screenings and are restricting who can board.
Should You Change Your Travel Plans?
If you have upcoming travel plans, the best advice is to stay informed. Check with your airline, cruise line or travel agent for updates and alerts related to your destination. Businesses should clarify the rules on refundable and non-refundable travel when making decisions to postpone or cancel employee trips.
If you’re booking travel now, make sure you are aware of the latest restrictions. Leisure travelers would be wise to do their research before finalizing plans. For instance, many countries have closed tourist attractions and canceled large-scale events. While travel insurance is an excellent idea, be sure to check policies carefully as they may or may not reimburse you for coronavirus-related cancellations.
No matter where you are headed, take standard health precautions. Wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Avoid touching your eyes or nose and practice respiratory hygiene. Healthy travelers who follow the advice of health experts remain at low risk of getting sick. However, think twice if traveling could put loved ones who are elderly or have pre-existing illnesses at risk.