The Truth About Travel Safety During The Coronavirus Outbreak.

woman with protective mask in a plane

The novel coronavirus (also known as COVID 19 or 2019 nCoV) that originated in Wuhan China is one of the biggest public health emergencies that has emerged in recent years, and has had a significant impact on the travel industry and traveller confidence in the early months of 2020. But what is the truth about the coronavirus outbreak? What are the facts and what is just media scaremongering? Are travellers really at risk from coronavirus or is it just media hysteria?

The novel coronavirus has had a profound economic impact on the travel industry that is likely to be felt for many months if not years after the outbreak has been contained. In just a month since a host of countries including the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth Office declared the whole of mainland China off limits to travel, the world has seen airlines cancelling routes to the country, cruise lines cancelling some routes and itineraries, entire cruise ships have been quarantined with passengers stranded on board, major tourist attractions have been closed and Chinese New Year celebrations and other major events cancelled, all of which are having a significant impact on the global economy. Everything from the tourism industry to the luxury product market and corporate world and everything in between is feeling the impact.

The Coronavirus outbreak is serious and does demand a serious response from the worlds governments, but media headlines and scaremongering about worst case scenarios does not help anyone.

But far more insidious than the economic impact, the coronavirus outbreak is also having a profoundly negative impact on the psyche of travellers themselves, with fear of travel running at extreme highs, trips being cancelled entirely and many travellers holding off on their plans until things have settled down. A report for the American Society of Travel Advisors suggests that up to 25% of travellers have changed their plans to travel or had cancelled plans altogether. That number rose to 71% of those who had future plans to travel to China.

Since this article was written many countries are closing off their borders to travellers for a set period, and airlines have all but cancelled most of their flights, essentially grounding a lot of travellers.

Any major outbreak or emergency will of course worry travellers, that is only natural, but how much of this is unnecessary hysteria? How much misinformation and scaremongering has been listened to as opposed to the genuine information from official professional sources? How much should travellers really be worried about being at risk of contracting the disease?

The truth about the risk Coronovirus poses to travellers.

COVID19 is the disease caused by SARS COV 2, a new strain of a variety of respiratory diseases including  influenza, more commonly known as the common variety flu, and the common cold. It is a serious new strain of a disease we are all very used to on a daily basis and should be taken seriously but is not something that most should be overly scared of.

On 11th March 2020 the World Health Organisation officially declared the COVID 19 outbreak as a Pandemic. A pandemic is classed as a worldwide spread of a new disease or strain of disease.

The general risk to most travellers is still relatively low to moderate and thorough infection control measures are recommended.

Most Western countries around the world including the NHS in the UK are very well equipped to deal with the virus and so far the people most at risk are those who are already vulnerable to virus’ like the flu such as the elderly or the immunocompromised.

Despite this the 24 hour constant news cycle often misrepresent the facts – or in many cases get them completely wrong – to present a headline that will sell or get them clicks.

Keeping things in perspective.

Just to keep things in perspective let’s look at the official numbers.

COVID 19 Statistics.

As of 14th March 2020, almost 4 months after the first case of COVID 19 in Wuhan China, there have been over 145,455 cases worldwide, with over 70,956 of those fully recovered and only 5418 deaths.

The majority of those cases are in mainland China, with over 80, 824 confirmed cases, 64,176 fully recovered and 3177 deaths.

Most of these deaths worldwide involve those already in at risk groups, such as the very elderly, and often involve other co morbidities – or other illnesses – running side by side.

Larger outbreaks in south Korea, Italy and Iran have the highest rates outside of mainland China.

As of 13th March 2020 there had been 32,771 people tested in the UK with only 798 found to have a positive Coronavirus strain of the virus. There have been 10 confirmed COVID 19 positive deaths in the UK.

Updates are published daily by Public Health England.

Compare that to another type of Coronavirus, Influenza, or ‘the flu’.

In comparison the CDC estimates that influenza, the common variety flu in layman’s terms, results in approximately 12,000 deaths a year in the USA alone, and according to Public Health England over 29,000 people a year in the UK die from respiratory diseases including influenza (the flu), pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma.

That is on average 290,000 to 650,000 deaths every year worldwide to influenza related respiratory illnesses.

And again most of those deaths will be those at risk, the elderly, the very young and the immunocompromised, and will likely have other comorbidities leading to death.

It is right to be aware of the risks of the coronavirus outbreak and take reasonable precautions, but not to be worried or scared. The numbers really do put it in perspective.

Debunking the myths of Coronavirus.

Honestly the biggest threat to public health has been the mass spread of misinformation, myth and downright conspiracy theories that have been spreading over the internet and social media faster than the outbreak itself. The truth is this:

  • The coronavirus is not a man made, end of the world supervirus.
  • Unfortunately – as cool as it would be – this is not the start of the zombie apocalypse. Put your modified baseball bat away. For now at least.
  • Eating meat will not give you Coronavirus, despite moronic propaganda from PETA.
  • Hand dryers, UV lamps or hairdryers do not kill ‘coronavirus germs’.
  • Washing your hands or face in saline, alcohol or bleach does not protect you from the coronavirus but may actually cause you harm. And yes, these are genuine questions people have asked. Put the bleach down!
  • Thermal scanners at airports do not and cannot detect the disease, they detect your body temperature which will be raised if you are symptomatic of a number of diseases.
  • You can’t get the disease from a package, so that cheap knock off branded bag you bought from the internet will be perfectly safe.
  • Vaccines for other diseases, such as influenza or the pneumococcal vaccine, do not protect against COVID 19 coronavirus, this is a different strain.
  • Cocaine nor any other controlled substance is not a cure nor a preventative medicine.
  • Antibiotics will not, and I repeat will not in any way, shape or form and will absolutely never protect you from coronavirus. Coronavirus is a virus, the clue is in the name, and antibiotics do not work against virus’.
  • Face masks will not protect you from the coronavirus.
  • And contrary to popular belief, ‘user37487’ on that random social media thread is not the sole expert and source of all knowledge on the coronavirus or any other medical issue for that matter. Get your knowledge from up to date professional and more importantly qualified sources.

There are a lot more weird and wonderful ones I have heard but they appear to be the main ones.

Is it safe to travel with the threat of Coronavirus?

Please note that as of March 2020 the UK FCO issued an exceptional travel warning which meant that essentially most travellers were in absolute lockdown. This was due primarily to the risk of any country or area instituting travel restrictions without warning. This is not a nationally imposed travel ban because of COVID19 itself, which is something the WHO deems futile. This advice is still relevant once those international travel bans have been lifted.

In very general terms and from a medical point of view, for the majority of travellers in the majority of destinations (with some obvious exceptions) yes it is. Risk assessment on a governmental level for worldwide COVID 19 transmission is conducted daily and is extremely robust.

The WHO has now declared COVID 19 a pandemic. This describes a virus that has quickly spread person to person across multiple countries, and this has been declared a pandemic now because of the amount of countries it has been found in, and allows governments to take specific actions to deal with it.

Taking into account advisories for individual countries the personal risk level for the average traveller in the absolute majority of places is still low to moderate.

On a personal level however every traveller obviously has different personal risk factors they have to take into account and only you can judge for yourself whether you personally consider travel too risky. If you have a compromised immune system or are at higher than average risk, or your travel plans place you directly in an at risk zone, then those are factors that you have to consider as part of your own personal risk assessment. I’m not telling you to cancel a trip or not one way or the other, all I am saying is be fully informed before you make that decision.
Personal risk factors to consider:

  • General health and immunisation status.
  • Age. The very young and old are at increased risk of most respiratory diseases due to a decreased immune system.
  • Pregnancy. Being pregnant can lower your body’s immune system and ability to fight off infection.
  • Any pre existing conditions that have compromised or lowered your immune system or ability to fight infections.
  • Lack of sleep, dehydration or a general lack of care for your body can lower your immune system.
  • Previous visits to areas that have a high risk of infection (such as China before the travel ban).
  • Close personal contact with any person who has likely visited an at risk area, especially if they are symptomatic.
  • Potential visits to areas where the risk of COVID 19 is higher than average.
  • Plans to visit any festival, event, conference or anywhere where there will be a large gathering of people. Any large crowds in small places always runs a slightly higher infection risk of any type of bug or virus.
  • Working, staying or even being in any facility where there is a large concentration of people in close contact, including hostels, hotels, airports, planes, ferries or cruise ships, hospitals, schools, office buildings among many others.

This list is not comprehensive and it is important to remember that on their own each risk factor should not generally be enough to put you off travelling, but should be considered a part of a holistic personal risk assessment. The more factors you have, the more risk you have, the more the risk goes over your own personal risk comfort threshold (because everyone is different), then the more you should perhaps consider changing plans. If the risk is minimal or manageable, then that is something you can take into account too.

The largest risk factor for many now is the risk of being a carrier to those who are in a much higher risk category than they are. If you can travel in relative isolation to a country that still does not have lockdowns in place, can maintain a high level of personal hygiene and do not have any other risk factors such as elderly parents at home who you will need to visit on return then you can take that as part of your personal risk assessment.

If you can’t afford to follow official guidelines on self isolation after travel, then you should reconsider too.

Which countries have advisories against travel?

Please note that as of March 2020 the UK FCO issued an exceptional travel warning against all but essential travel, and most countries have instituted travel bans, which meant that essentially most travellers were in absolute lockdown. This was due primarily to the risk of any country or area instituting travel restrictions without warning. This is not a nationally imposed travel ban because of COVID19 itself, which is something the WHO deems futile.

What travel delays can I expect?

Airlines are cancelling routes daily as countries close borders so travellers can expect to be severely impacted by this. Many travellers have had plans and bookings decimated for the next 6 months. If you are still travelling make sure that your flights are still going ahead and that you have taken into account the fact you may be stuck or quarantined in that country for weeks.

Some countries that are still allowing travellers are imposing various levels of quarantine for travellers arriving from specific countries. This ranges from two weeks of self isolation to full forced quarantine. Each country has different rules so please check before you travel.

Flight changes, cancellations and insurance.

The biggest disruption apart from border closures for travellers to the majority of destinations face at the moment is the risk of cancellations and flight changes. The only advice I can give on that unfortunately (because things can change daily) is if you are travelling to a country that is relatively at risk of such sudden changes, such as Italy or south Korea, is don’t change your plans automatically but keep an eye on the news and any changes, be aware of your rights with the airlines, have good travel insurance and remain flexible with a good back up plan.

As a general rule of thumb unless your government has issued an ‘all but essential travel’ (or its equivalent), then airlines will generally continue to fly and you will not be able to claim from the airline or insurance if you decide not to travel.

If you do change your mind without that specific government warning or grounding of flights, then this will be considered a disinclination to travel, not a disruption to your plans, and insurers are unlikely to pay out and you will most likely lose most, if not all of your money.

Unless that warning is in place and flights are cancelled, there should be no reason for you to want to do so anyway as the risk factor is generally low.

If flights have been cancelled without warning either just before you fly or while you are in destination, and the government advisory has not changed, then make sure you are aware of your passenger rights and have good, solid insurance.

If warnings change whilst you are travelling and in country, then it is a good idea to have a back up plan ready to get to an alternative destination.

If an outbreak occurs where you are whilst you are travelling then be aware that there may be a chance that you may be quarantined and held for up to two weeks or more. This has happened to some passengers on cruise ships and in a resort in Tenerife. The risk of this happening is very low, but a little flexibility in your timetable and your plans plus robust travel insurance is a must. If the possibility of this happening is intolerable to your plans, if you need to be somewhere on a specific date after your trip for example, then that is something you should consider as part of your risk assessment too.

Obviously stay up to date with the changing news (and remember to use qualified, authoritative sources) as the situation may change on a day to day basis.

Coronavirus COVID 19 is it really safe to travel

How do I protect myself from the coronavirus if I do travel?

It really isn’t as difficult as it may seem from the media. You don’t need to wear a mask all of the time or walk around in a full on Hazmat suit. The WHO and the NHS advise simple, easy, everyday guidelines.

The Coronavirus, like most respiratory diseases, are spread primarily through droplets of saliva or mucus, either through direct contact, someone coughing or sneezing on you, or from handling surfaces or foods were these droplets have settled.

  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly in warm soapy water.
  • In between proper hand washes use alcohol hand gel frequently.
  • Wipe down any public surfaces you may have prolonged contact with such as aeroplane trays with a disinfectant wipe.
  • Maintain at least 3 feet from other people on average and more if they are actively coughing or sneezing, so you can avoid inhaling the virus.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. This is how all those droplets from all the surfaces you touch get transferred to you!
  • Use respiratory hygiene. What that means is if you do cough or sneeze make sure you use a tissue, dispose of it properly and immediately and then wash your hands thoroughly. Remember that old saying, catch it, bin it, kill it! It’s an old saying for good reason!

And in case this didn’t get through, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is wash your hands! This is so important we actually had a practical exam on this technique during my nursing degree!

Do I need to wear a mask?

No. I know you’ve seen all the media reports of everyone wearing them, and heard of the ridiculous panic buying that is happening leading to worldwide mask shortages, but just forget all that and stop it.

Surgical masks are clinical PPE, designed for clinical staff during specific clinical tasks. They work very well in those specific circumstances when used correctly but are not recommended by medical professionals, the WHO, the CDC or Public Health England for mass public use. In fact because people don’t use them properly they may end up actually harbouring more germs and doing more harm than good.

The only people who should be wearing surgical masks are clinical staff, or civilians who are attending to those who are sick. In some cases those people displaying mild symptoms can wear them too to avoid spreading germs.

Do I need to self isolate?

There is a lot of misinformation about this at the moment, especially with so many countries shutting borders, and Public Health England probably has the simplest and most robust advice on this. The very simple and short answer is not everyone does, and forced isolation is not the correct or most responsible action outside of specific cases such as China and Italy.

Basically speaking those in certain risk groups only should self isolate for approximately two weeks. That includes:

  • Travellers who have come from a country or area where COVID 19 is present. Even if they have no symptoms.
  • People who have been ordered by health professionals to self isolate (such as travellers) and/or are awaiting a test result.
  • Anyone who is in a natural at risk group such as the elderly or pregnant women.
  • Anyone who has comorbidities or illnesses that leave them immunocompromised or at greater risk if they catch any infection.
  • Anyone who is or has been in contact with those who are tested positive for Coronavirus or who may potentially have it. These people should self isolate and inform the NHS 111 service to help with contact tracing.
  • Anyone who shows symptoms of a mild cold or flu, including coughing, difficulty breathing and a higher temperature than normal among others.

I would personally advise not being too paranoid about this. If you can isolate yourself and work from home, then great. If you can’t you should not be overly concerned but you should take extra precautions.

Hand washing, disinfecting surfaces, and maintaining a social distance from people reduces your personal risk exponentially. The fact that most people do not practice these measures on a daily basis anyway is the reason we have viruses spread so readily and have an influenza season every year, so make sure you use these methods religiously.

On top of that people need to be more socially aware too. Avoid visiting at risk places such as nursing homes or hospitals unless you are staff if you can (and if you do have to then at least follow infection control procedures religiously), avoid gathering in large groups if possible, if you have friends or family who are in an at risk group then maybe postpone visits or use other methods such as simply calling them. If you are caring for or live with individuals who are at risk (ie immunocompromised patients) and you can’t isolate from them then make sure your infection control procedures are perfect.

If you do this and aren’t in or around anyone in an at risk group then there is currently no need to self isolate completely and this will be true for the vast majority of people. You can still go to work, you can still go to the shops if you need to (if there is anything left after the idiots have panic bought everything), just take reasonable precautions and isolate when and where you can. There is currently a lot of misinformation on this and a lot of shaming and panic on social media which is completely unnecessary.

This crisis will end. Travel will be possible again. The best thing to do for now is to postpone travel plans, but still plan for later when this is all over. In most cases there is no need to cancel travel plans out of fear.

And that’s it, protecting yourself from COVID19 really nothing more than you would do to protect yourself from the flu or diarrhoea or any other basic, common illness. Yes the coronavirus outbreak is serious, and yes you should be aware of any potential risks to make an informed decision on travel, but you shouldn’t let that turn into fear or paranoia either.

For the vast majority of healthy travellers in most destinations, there is no reason to worry, The biggest problems are coming from the practicalities of airlines cancelling flights and governments being too heavy handed with travel warnings.

Calm head, rational mind, safe travels.

Coronavirus COVID 19 is it safe to travel

Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

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The Essential Travel Health Checklist Before You Go On Your Gap Year.

Michael Huxley is a published author, professional adventurer and founder of the travel website, Bemused Backpacker. He has spent the last twenty years travelling to over 100 countries on almost every continent, slowly building Bemused Backpacker into a successful business after leaving a former career in emergency nursing and travel medicine, and continues to travel the world on numerous adventures every year.

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126 comments on “The Truth About Travel Safety During The Coronavirus Outbreak.
  1. Hannah Read says:

    Thanks for the informed post – I’m a bit unsure about travel right now as I’m due to go to Italy in less than two weeks, but very close to the current area where they’re having lots of issues. Lots of people telling me not to go so not sure what to do! Will definitely keep an eye on it and make my decision as late as I can, as would hate to miss out on a press trip (but at the same time, if the threat increases there they may well implement a travel ban anyway).

    • Hi Hannah, I get the frustration and uncertainty, I do. The only thing anyone can do is go by the official advice. At the moment there is no travel advisory against Italy as a whole, so in that respect no reason to change plans. Italy’s decision has been relatively draconian and heavy handed, they are playing it safe in other words for what is a small part of the country, not all of it. So yes certain regions will have travel restrictions in the country itself, 10 small towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto have been isolated, so you won’t be able to go there, and the wider regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piemonte and Emilia Romagna have put public measures in place like closing schools, major events, etc, so you can still go there but it may be a little boring! Outside of those areas I wouldn’t personally change my plans, but I would be extra vigilant about hygiene and health like I said above (the risk to your health is still relatively low but still), and stay flexible with your plans. If airlines are suddenly grounded for example know where the train station heading out to Europe is and have good travel insurance! Good luck and try and enjoy your trip without worrying too much.

  2. Michelle says:

    Thanks for this, I am due to fly to Europe next week, Germany first then onwards, and was genuinely considering posponing my trip. Is that an overreaction do you think?

    • You are more than welcome Michelle. I can’t tell you one way or the other if it is an overreaction for you, only you can decide whether the risk to you personally is too much or not. All I can do is give you the facts and let you make a fully informed decision. Basically there are no travel advisories in Germany and not enough cases in the population to be overly concerned about yet. I am travelling myself in a couple of days and have no qualms about that, and personally if I wasn’t going somewhere different I would personally be more than happy to fly to Germany myself. I love Germany and it has been a while! ;D I hope that helps?

    • Azeb Aziti says:

      Wear masks, wash hands, face, mouth and nose regularly and refrain from greeting people physically.

      Don’t take it lightly but don’t be scared either.

  3. Andrew says:

    Brilliant article, thanks for the informed post. I’m travelling to seAsia again now and plan to be in Korea in a few months, but barring any specific travel plan like they did in China I’m not planning to change my plans at all. I will definitely be more aware of hand washing though, thanks for the great advice. There needs to be more articles like this in the mainstream media.

  4. Lynne. says:

    Hi, this may sound daft but what is the difference between Covid 19 and NCoV Coronoviruses? Are they different?

    • Hi Lynne, not daft at all. There is no difference, they are both names for the exact same strain of coronavirus. nCoV 19 was the first designation the World Health Organisation gave it, and then COVID 19 became the de facto official designation. It’s confusing I know but they are both the same thing.

  5. Chin Sawwah says:

    Singapore Airlines have just cancelled one of my flights, amd now they are saying they are cancelling loads more across the network. What aren’t they telling us about Asia? Why are they just cancelled without explanation?

    • I’m sure that’s an economic decision Chin, they said it was due to low demand which I am not surprised about since China would have been a huge source of traffic for them both ingoing and outgoing, so they are just managing slow routes temporarily

  6. Chris says:

    There is a simple solution to this that everyone is ignoring. There should be a complete lockdown on international travel until there is a coronavirus vaccine. I was planning to go to Italy for a conference but there is no way I am coming now. Travel to Italy with the lockdown is bad enough but being close to thousands of people from all over the world? No thanks.

    • Well that’s fair enough, a conference with tons of people is a risk factor and if you think that is too high a risk for you I understand. But cancelling all flights is hardly practical is it? When would you stop? A month? Three months? Six months? A vaccine is possible, even likely, but no one can guarantee when or if one will come.

  7. Mike says:

    Respectfully, I hope you allow this comment to be published;

    I think you’re greatly underestimating this one and much of what you said is incorrect.

    UVC lights are used in water purification because they kill 99% of pathogens, including viruses.

    A package in the mail is a surface, why wouldn’t it be possible it get covered in a contagion? Humans deliver it, right?

    Masks do work, if they’re the right kind (N95) and leave no gaps –as long as you also cover the eyes and ear holes. A full face mask is even better.

    The R0 is over 5. If your sources aren’t showing this yet, they will soon. Now that it’s no longer all CCP data we’re getting a clearer, more grizzly picture. As a former nurse you know this number is unheard of in our lifetime.

    I counter your conclusion and suggest everyone stay home. Getting stuck or sick away from home, or having less time to prepare your home isn’t good for anyone. I predict this article won’t be around longer than a month or two. It’s a real fixer upper.

    Sorry for coming on strong, I’m just shocked at what I’ve read here. Beyond that, your blog has always been an inspiration. Stay safe out there, Michael.

    • Hi, respectfully I have to disagree.
      Not underestimating anything at all, I’m just not jumping straight to panic mode. Measured caution is needed, not fear.
      The studies are not conclusive on that and certainly not for the types of UV lights many people would use, nor for the way many would use them. There is a reason they are not standard equipment in hospitals.
      Because an active virus can’t survive long enough on a packages surface.
      Masks are for short term use for specific clinical tasks and are worn and disposed of properly. They are not recommended for mass public use because they are rarely worn properly, worn for far too long and more likely to harbour germs, and often lead to more face touching and germ spreading.
      Data is changing all the time, at the time of my writing it is the highest it has been so far and still no reason to panic.
      Everyone staying home is neither necessary nor practical. And the article is actually doing very well. ;D
      Sorry guy, but my sources are a decade long clinical background, Public Health England, the NHS, the CDC and the WHO.

      • Lindsay says:

        Yeah I’d take the advice of someone who is qualified over some random who believes the mass media! 😀 And imagine the arrogance of calling this a fixer upper!

  8. Lisa says:

    You don’t mention face masks? I’m due to travel in a few days from the UK and I don’t know where to get one from? Are they essential? Everyone seems to have one.

    • I’ve mentioned them in previous posts and social media. Face masks aren’t recommended for mass public use and have limited use in those circumstances. They are clinical equipment known as PPI, used by clinical staff for clinical tasks in a specific way. They are used correctly and then disposed of.

      • Colleen says:

        We were just to the pediatrician today and they actually told us the masks won’t really protect you from getting a virus… but that people who have a cough/cold/sneezing/flu/etc should wear them to protect others.

  9. Alex says:

    I heard that colloidal Silver is a cure for Coronavirus, take it for 3 – 4 weeks and then cured!

  10. Dave says:

    So the zombie one is definitely a myth?

    God damn it!

  11. Kay says:

    Really good advice but I do worry about an upcoming trip to Italy. You can’t contain all those people and there are more reports of people testing positive. I’m definitely cancelling an upcoming conference there (that many people from all over in an enclosed space? No way, too risky), but I was still thinking of enjoying Italy up until now. I mean shouldn’t airlines be giving refunds now?

    • Hi Kay, Italy is an ongoing issue but outside of the areas they have shut down is still relatively low risk health wise. A conference is a higher risk factor to consider though. As for the planes, no. Airlines generally won’t cancel flights until the ‘all but essential travel’ warning drops from the government and that is a long way off yet. Unfortunately that also means if you do decide not to go that is on you, not them, and you wouldn’t be able to claim money back unless you had specific insurance.

  12. Anne says:

    Thanks so much for writing this, it is such a scary situation and the media is not helping. I am in real need of some honest, expert opinion as I am due to travel to Italy soon and I have preexisting health conditions that mean my immunity is low at the best of times and I really don’t know what to do. Can you help?

    • Hi Anne, I’ll certainly try. I’m sorry to hear about your condition but speaking in very general terms as I don’t know specifics, Italy does have closed off areas in the North but outside of those areas the health risk is still relatively low at the moment, this may change if more cases occur in the coming days. Italy have cancelled many events and shut a lot of public buildings down which makes it slightly less risky but also a little more boring. However, if you have a supressed immune system that does raise your personal risk significantly. How much depends on specifics but it may well be that it raises your personal risk level above the threshold you are personally comfortable with. I can’t tell you to go or cancel either way but I hope that helps you come to a decision, and if you want to discuss your condition in private so we can be more specific about your risk levels shoot me an email (contact form is at the top). My Travel Clinic isn’t on today but I’ll fit you in and give you a free appointment. 😊

  13. Ryan says:

    Agreed. I get the need for certain measures to be taken but there has imo been a huge overreaction compared to the normal everyda flu, something that kills god knows how many every year.

  14. Shelley says:

    Thanks for this, really useful. Heading to Singapore and Malaysia next week and was reading a lot of the news and getting worried.

    • You are more than welcome Shelley. Enjoy Singapore and Malaysia they are two of my favourite places in the world and are are amazing destinations. And you should see all the measures Singapore has put into place to help stop stop the spread of germs!

  15. Hayley says:

    So what happens with insurance if we decide not to travel now? I’m genuinely concerned about all the reports coming out and am inclined to just cancel any travel to Europe but don’t want to lose out either.

    • Hi Hayley, very basically until the government official warning changes to do not travel on there any circumstance or whatever equivalen your country has, then in general insurance won’t pay out at all as it will be considered ‘disinclination to travel’. This is unless your policy was bought before Jan 19th or has a cancel under any circumstance clause. There are also certain medical insurers who have specific clauses that may pay out for at risk travellers but thise aren’t average policies.

  16. bcre8v2 says:

    Thank you so much for this common-sense post! Having just scoured the NYTimes articles on this topic, I was beginning to stress. I have to remind myself that one job of the mass media is to keep us scared. Your qualified reassurances are much needed and appreciated. Having once worked in a health care setting, I have become that annoying person who stresses frequent hand washing for a sufficient amount of time, with soap, and with some friction. I don’t usually touch my face or eyes, and have gotten very good about opening doors in public areas without using my bare hands. Common sense approaches and maintaining a generally healthy lifestyle go a long way in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Thanks again.

    • Thanks so much, I really appreciate that! Yeah one of my first practical exams in my nursing degree was hand washing! Seriously! Unfortunately no one seems to like my suggestion of just kicking doors down soldier style, but hey. I’m so glad you found the article useful though. 😊

  17. Caroline says:

    Thanks Mike, that’s really useful. I can’t believe insurance companies are being so standoffish about it though, I mean what if I want to cancel my plans in case I get it and then unknowingly spread it? What’s the insurance say about that?

  18. Maria says:

    Thanks so much for putting all of this into perspective. It’s a genuine worry but I think after reading this I’ll carry on with my plans but just be more aware. Thanks again.

  19. Paul says:

    Great post! Cheers! It’s nice to get some common sense, qualified calm about this issue as opposed to all the scaremongering and panicing sheep!

  20. Real Travel Adventures says:

    You mention additional airport check ups for arrivals from Italy. What’s the procedure, please?
    When I return from my travel to Italy (where I’m heading next week) I’ll be changing planes in Philadelphia to San Francisco. Will they delay me for additional check up so I’m risking missing my connecting flight? Is it about lab tests, overnight delays??
    If the procedure already in place what information about it is available?
    Thank you

    • From Italy to the US, yes you can expect delays, probably significant delays, going through security. This is especially true at the moment where they have a level 3 warning. If you come straight from Italy without a 2 week self isolation or 2 weeks in another country not at high a risk such as the UK you will be subject to questioning, going through a heat scanner and possible sectioning for further observations and possible quarantining if you are found to be symptomatic. I don’t know about your connection details but I would plan for extra time for all of these.

  21. Will says:

    Great advice, thank you

  22. Jo says:

    I get why places like China are quarantined but why have some countries like in Italy at the moment closed down museums and festivals and events? And that resort in Spain too? But they are still letting people fly in and out?

    • Well those are two different things Jo, basically threat levels go up in exactly that, levels. So whilst China reached a point where the risk was so great the authorities advised all but essential travel and airlines grounded flights to and from that area, other countries such as Italy and Tenerife where that resort was have not reached anywhere near that threat level yet. Italy has quarantined off a very small area of Northern Italy due to cases being found there and have contained the issue, so the rest of Italy is not as high a risk and travellers are free to come and go with relatively low risk. They have however introduced precautionary measures like checks at airports. On top of that any large gathering of people such as festivals, museums, etc is a potential risk factor because of the sheer amount of people, so they have also taken the extraordinary measure of temporarily closing them too. It is a bit heavy handed because one risk factor in and of itself is not always reason to not do something or go anywhere, if you have multiple risk factors piling up then fine, but this is the choice they have made. Tenerife again is a similar thing, the country as a whole is relatively low risk which is why people are free to fly in and out (again with precautionary checks), one patient was found positive for Coronavirus in that specific resort so that resort has been quarantined until it can be determined that no one else has caught or will spread the disease. The rest of the country remains unaffected. I hope that explains it a little?

  23. Namit Pandey says:

    China has closed its borders to everyone and is not allowing people to either enter or leave the country. Many other countries are also doing health screenings at airports. This has caused some unnecessary panic to many people and this simple to understand the post is definetly what was needed. Great content! a lot of people will be at ease after reading this!

  24. Sarah says:

    Thanks so much for this. So useful.

  25. Amanda says:

    It’s easy to say stay calm when all you see are news headlines saying there is now an outbreak surge in Europe starting in Italy! Apparently quite a lot of cases are fatal too. Definitely not going there anytime soon.

  26. Mark says:

    Italy’s COVID 19 cases are now over 400 with 12 fatalities you can’t contain that surely?

  27. Vicky says:

    Panic! Panic! We’re all going to die! It’s the end of the world! Oh wait, no, it’s just the Sun newspaper again!

  28. Georgia says:

    Great common sense response to all the panic. Thanks for this.

  29. Jean says:

    But if this situation is so serious in Italy, and China is off limits, why are Europes borders not closing to travellers? Cases are increasing across Europe because of travelling Italians, that is how the resort in Spain was closed down right??

  30. Lilly Grace says:

    Agreed! Taking precautions is fair enough but there is no need to panic!

  31. Greg says:

    Don’t worry everyone, we’ll all be absolutely fine. Trump says it’s just like the flu ‘but a little bit different’

  32. Heather says:

    Hand hygiene is simple, but most people don’t do it. WASH YOUR HANDS PEOPLE!

  33. Chloe Gunner says:

    Another brilliant, rational post! I love your site for this, genuinely one of the best out there!

  34. Tim says:

    The problem on making a decision is that things change so quickly. You make plans one week and the next week the situation has changed entirely you decide to actually go to a destination that seems fine and then there is an outbreak and you end up stuck and quarantined.

  35. John says:

    I’m due to leave tomorrow for a trade show in Germany but don’t know what to do, I’m hearing rumours that it is cancelled, but then it isn’t, and everyone is pulling out … this whole thing is a mess. Considering that is the point of my whole trip I’m screwed if it does.

  36. Julie says:

    We are due to travel to seAsia for two months and also Korea and Japan for 6 weeks after that, exactly where the problems are biggest outside of China! But we aren’t due to go for another 3 months, I’m hoping it will all be okay by then, what do you think?

    • I wish I could tell you Julie but the truth is no one really knows. I can tell you at the moment without any specific do not travel warning I would personally have no problems visiting seAsia, Japan or Korea, obviously avoiding the specific quarantined towns there. Just keep up to date with the news and I’m sure it will all work out in the end,

  37. Shammy says:

    No way is the coronavirus stopping my travel plans.

  38. Craig Simpson says:

    Thanks for writing this, I have seen so many blogs and social media posts about this and it has mostly been people giving their uneducated opinion and just scaring people even more. Good to see some qualified advice!

  39. Vicky says:

    If they just halted all travel to all countries for the next 3 months they could actually stop the spread of this coronavirus.

  40. Terry says:

    Italy have imposed quarantone on 16 million people but flights to and from that region to the UK are still permitted without any checking.

    • Because flights are based on the government stance for the entire country, not specific internal policies. There has been no widespread ban on travel to Italy yet like in China because as of yet the situation has obviously not required it.

  41. Rob says:

    The situation in Europe just keeps getting worse and worse. No way will I be flying there anytime soon.

  42. Dan says:

    Every country is underreporting or reclassifying cases or ignoring the issue to keep official numbers down which is even more worrying.

  43. Jay Roberts says:

    Its all over the news that thousands will get it in the UK before long. That is straight from the Deputy CMO. How is tgat not something to worry about?

  44. Samwise says:

    Years of watching the Walking Dead and playing the Last of Us has prepared us for this! Geeks will inherit the earth!

  45. Joanne says:

    All major events and public gatherings have been or are getting cancelled and places are shutting down. It wont be worth travelling anytime soon.

  46. John says:

    China quarantines millions, Korea quarantines entire towns and Italy goes into shutdown. And you just say wash your hands?

  47. Steve says:

    The government knew what exactly was coming and as yet still has not done that much to prevent the spread of the virus. It is now so widespread nothing is going to stop it.

  48. Helen says:

    The country has been at high risk since January and nothing has been done about it, Torys covering up everything again. my friends daughter works for the NHS and she knows what is going on

  49. Julie says:

    This panic is getting really old. 100k worldwide, 3900 deaths, it is sad yes but nothing compared to tbe billions of people. Chances of getting it are very low, and chance of dying from it even lower if you are young and healthy.

  50. Lesley says:

    Sneezing into a tissue and washing our hands is basic hygiene anyway. If more people did that maybe it wouldn’t have spread so far in the first place.

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