Coronavirus is the topic dominating the world of travel at present. There is much good information, but there is also a mountain of misinformation. This post is a longer read than normal, but worth reading.
We are following accurate mainstream media and govt. information. In addition, we are talking to our partners in Europe. Along with these sources we have also heard directly from people we know in the medical science area in Australia.
Thankfully some of the media is now stating correctly that this is a strain of flu, vaccine unavailable as yet. This is not Ebola – for which there is now a vaccine. The usual people are more susceptible – elderly with existing medical conditions. Aside from the ‘no vaccine yet’ situation it is the fast way this has spread which is a major aspect of difference.
DFAT ADVICE & WARNINGS
At present the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a number of coronavirus related warnings in place. They are:
“In most countries, we continue to advise Australians to ‘exercise normal safety precautions’. For the coronavirus, this means taking sensible measures to minimise your risk of exposure such as practising good hand hygiene (see Health). It does not mean reconsidering or cancelling your travel plans to these countries.
We have raised our advice level for five countries: China and Iran – to ‘do not travel’; South Korea, Japan and Mongolia – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. We have also raised our advice levels for regions in northern Italy – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’.”
Specifically, in relation to Italy, DFAT states:
“Due to a heightened risk of sustained local transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in parts of northern Italy, we now advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the regions of Lombardia and Veneto. We continue to advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in the rest of Italy”
As we know, many countries have adopted advanced screening procedures including temperature checks, self-quarantine obligations and restrictions on those who have been in specific countries or regions including China, northern Italy and other parts of the world.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States has specific travel advice out for 6 countries as follows:
“China — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 22;
Hong Kong — Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions — issued February 19;
Iran — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 28;
Italy — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 28;
Japan — Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions — updated February 22;
South Korea — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 24.
CDC also recommends that all travelers reconsider cruise ship voyages into or within Asia at this time.”
The DFAT and CDC warnings are replicated in similar advice from other organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The link below takes you to an FAQ section re coronavirus and asks and answers (to the extent that answers are known at the present point in time) many questions about the virus.
Attached to this document as Annexure A is the latest WHO recommendations for international traffic as updated on Saturday 29th February.
And the link below will take you to the latest WHO Situation Report, SR40, which was issued on Saturday 29th February.
Our more specific advice is the obvious;
• people should avoid any area which is open to travel but where COVID-19 is spreading rapidly including South Korea, Iran and northern Italy;
• people should seek to mitigate their risk by undertaking advanced hygiene measures, including wearing protective masks on aircraft (including Australia if there is an outbreak here) and other means of public transport, carrying hand sanitising gels at all times (and using them) and wearing gloves when out in public areas;
• people who are unwell for whatever reason should defer their travel plans until they have fully recovered;
• people who have respiratory problems including a history of pneumonia should defer their travel to any areas where there may be a risk of contracting the virus.
So, on our part, would we go to Japan right now? Yes.
Would we go to Italy? Yes, except to the affected villages.
Would we go to Singapore? Definitely.
Would we plan a Trans Siberian for the summer months – yes
We are now in uncharted territory.
The situation today has moved on since yesterday, which was different to the day before. Tomorrow will be different again. As the world races to control this outbreak, pharmaceutical companies and research facilities around the world are working day and night to come up with a vaccine. In the meantime governments are planning for a possible pandemic and, outside of China, for the most part, people are getting on with their lives as best they can.