How the New Coronavirus Outbreak Affects Travels to China
On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the new coronavirus in China as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). The need for more coordination from international communities has been called as a response to the outbreak.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said after a meeting with the agency’s emergency committee, “This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.” He added that the decision to consider the outbreak a PHEIC is not to criticize China’s response to the global emergency but to help less developed countries be more prepared in preventing the virus from spreading even further. “We don’t know what sort of damage this virus could do if it spread in a country with a weaker health system,” Tedros added.
In the midst of the panic in many parts of the world, WHO officials are calling countries not to restrict travel or trade to China. However, some countries have already shut down borders and limited visa entries to many parts of China. Other nations, like the United States, have increased their travel warning for this East Asian country, warning people about going there. Alex Azar, US Secretary of Health and Human Services said on January 31 that foreign nationals who have traveled to China will be denied entry to the US. Starting February 2, US citizens who have been to Hubei, the province, the virus was first recorded, will be quarantined for 14 days.
As cases of the nCov have reached more than 20,000 worldwide, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged nations and organizations, especially those responsible for the movement of people and goods, to cooperate in addressing this international health concern.
IATA’s Medical Advisor Dr. David Powell said, “International coordination is key in dealing with any virus outbreak. The coronavirus situation is evolving daily and there are still many unanswered questions about the virus.” Dr. Powell also advised that one of the things airlines and other countries can do to prevent the spread of the virus is “to limit the risk of export or import of the virus, without unnecessary restrictions on international traffic.” He is also not advising any restrictions to the country.
It is to be noted that the airlines have good record with pandemics, including the SARS outbreak. In fact, the traffic has returned to normal in terms of months.
IATA said that there is a notable disruption in air travel to and from China at the busiest time of the year as the region celebrates the Chinese New Year. It has been recorded that the country has enjoyed more than 400 million new passengers in the last decade.
What to know about the 2019 novel coronavirus
The 2019-novel coronavirus is called such because it is a virus that has only been identified recently by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The coronaviruses are from the family called coronaviridae. Under a microscope, they look like spiked rings that form a halo or crown.
Being a virus, the 2019-nCov can’t reproduce outside a living cell. The spikes of the virus help them bind to living cells, and when inside, it turns the cells into a virus factory. Although these viruses are originally found in animals, like livestock, pets, and wildlife, it can infect humans, too. Some of the first signs of this new virus include fever, inflammation in the lungs, and respiratory illness. When it infects individuals with compromised immune systems, it can cause pneumonia and even death.
Although it was first recorded in Wuhan, China, the exact source of the virus has yet to be identified. Officials say that this type of virus initially comes from animals. But when a person eats an infected animal, it can spread the virus to another human being by coughing or sneezing in close proximity. Even if asymptomatic, an infected individual can still be contagious.
Since WHO declared the virus as a global health emergency, the death toll has reached over 400. The first recorded death was a 44-year old resident of Wuhan, who died on February 1.
Traveling to, in, and out of China
The Chinese government has shut down the entire Wuhan province to minimize the spread of the virus. They have extended the cancelation of transportation to four other cities, including Ezhou, Chibi, Huanggang, and Zhejiang, affecting more than 35 million citizens.
The British Airways has suspended all flights to and from mainland China on January 29. Qantas, Australia’s national airline, has also suspended flights from Sydney to Beijing and Shanghai starting February 9. New Zealand’s Air New Zealand is also halting flights to Shanghai starting February 1.
Advisories regarding travel to and from China have been circulating online and in traditional media. It’s important to heed these warnings to protect yourself. While the risk of contracting the disease outside of China is low, you should still make it a point to keep yourself and your loved ones safe at all times. Watch out for travel bans to and from countries where you plan to travel to.