Many travellers, agents and members of the tourism sector are concerned about the effect coronavirus may have on their industry, and are understandably confused about how and where to find the facts. Below, we have put together some of the most frequently asked questions about coronavirus, and collated the latest data and recommendations from the most reliable sources. Links are provided, and sources are cited where relevant. All information is accurate at the time of writing, though readers should be aware that this is a developing story, so certain figures are likely to change from day to day.
What is coronavirus?
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that are common in animals. In certain rare cases they are what scientists call zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted from animals to humans. This latest strain, named the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), is one such case. It is believed to have originated in a seafood market in the town of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province.
What are the symptoms?
Coronavirus symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly a headache and fever, which can last for a couple of days. For those with a weakened immune system, such as the elderly and those with a pre-existing condition, there’s a chance the virus can cause more serious respiratory tract illnesses like pneumonia or bronchitis.
How many people have been infected?
According to the latest figures, released on Monday, 10th February by the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 40,235 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in China.
What areas are affected?
Although the majority of coronavirus cases are in China, 319 cases have also been confirmed in 27 countries and territories worldwide, including 70 new cases on a Japanese cruise ship currently under quarantine at sea. Each case of the virus can be traced to someone who recently travelled from China.
In Southeast Asia, there have been several cases reported in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Seven infected people in Thailand have already made a full recovery and returned home. There have been no reported cases thus far in Indonesia.
▸ Thailand – 32 confirmed cases, zero deaths
▸ Malaysia – 18 confirmed cases, zero deaths
▸ Vietnam – 14 confirmed cases, zero deaths
▸ Indonesia – no confirmed cases
Is it serious?
At the time of writing, China’s National Health Commission has confirmed a total of 909 deaths attributed to the virus. The mortality rate is therefore less than 3% (when compared to the previous SARS (10%) and MERS (16%) epidemics, novel coronavirus appears much less virulent). Earlier this month (1/2), the first casualty of coronavirus outside of China was reported, as a 44-year-old Chinese man passed away in the Philippines. This followed a WHO declaration that the virus is an international public health emergency.
Public Health Emergency – what does it mean?
On 30th January, the WHO Emergency Committee agreed that a coordinated global effort is needed to combat the novel coronavirus. For this reason, the WHO Director General decided that the outbreak now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The raised status has been viewed by many as a positive step; the new classification makes wider assistance from the international community more easily available. The WHO can now expand its pool of resources and offer more help to those working on the ground to combat and contain the coronavirus.
What are officials doing to stop the spread of the virus?
The WHO is providing all necessary technical and operational support to respond to this outbreak, working with its extensive network of partners and collaborating institutions to implement a comprehensive risk communication strategy, and to allow for the advancement of research and scientific developments in response to the virus. The WHO recommendations will be updated periodically, as the situation develops and new information becomes available.
Will there be an impact on tourism?
In spite of the seriousness of the situation, the WHO does not believe the current situation should impact travel, tourism and freedom of movement for the vast majority of the world’s travellers. According to a statement released by WHO after the convention in Geneva:
How have international markets responded?
Some countries – most notably the USA, Singapore, Vietnam and New Zealand – have disregarded the WHO advice and imposed a temporary ban on Chinese nationals crossing their borders. On 31st January, the US announced plans to restrict Chinese arrivals and access for anyone who has visited China in the past 14 days. Other Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and Thailand, have since followed the American example and imposed their own restrictions.
All foreign nationals from countries besides China will be able to enter each of our destinations as normal (but are advised to expect screening measures in airports).
Is it still safe to travel?
Yes. Cases of the virus occurring outside of China remain very rare, and all the usual flight, travel and tourism networks in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam remain open for business as usual for the majority of travellers. Despite this, tourists are offered the following advice:
– Stay calm, don’t panic
– Be alert to potential dangers
– Take the necessary precautions
What precautions can travellers take?
Although the chances of contracting coronavirus are very low, it is a good idea to follow certain steps to ensure you stay safe and healthy during your trip. Here’s a few handy tips from Panorama Destination to help travellers avoid catching bugs of any kind while they’re away from home:
• Use a face mask in public places to avoid catching germs
• Steer clear of meat and seafood markets, or crowded places where disease can spread easily
• Be careful to avoid any unnecessary close contact with animals or sick people
• Use hand sanitizer regularly to kill bacteria on hands
• Cover mouth and nose with a tissue, sleeve or elbow when coughing and sneezing
• Throw tissues into a closed bin after use, clean hands after coughing or sneezing
(From WHO): “In case of symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness either during or after travel, travellers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their healthcare provider.”
Staying up to date
Panorama Destination will keep monitoring the situation to ensure the safety of all clients in our destinations, and to empower our agents with the latest and most reliable information. In addition, travel agents and tour operators are advised to consult the travel advisory websites updated by their respective foreign offices.
We suggest all agents check the WHO website for the latest updates on the virus, along with tips for staying safe and being aware. They issue a daily Situation Report that provides the most reliable and authoritative information available.
You can also follow the latest developments with us on each of our social media channels:
Or feel free to get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(note: this article was updated on 6th and 11th February to reflect the latest infection figures)