I have gotten quite a few e-mails in the past few days about the Coronavirus and wanted to pass on to you what I know and what we can’t know. I think what is worrying everyone the most right now is the unpredictability of an epidemic like this. As a travel consultant, it’s my first epidemic, so please bear with me as I do not have all the answers!
For any situation like this, I cannot ethically offer my *decision* on whether you should travel because there is no way I can possibly know what will happen and where. But I can provide you with the facts and resources I am aware of.
General Thoughts – UPDATE: Some of this information is out of date, but keeping it for later reference. As of 3/18, global travel is at a Level 4 Global Health Advisory, meaning do not travel.
I see no cause for panic outside of China and Korea, and recommend following news closely for affected areas of Italy, Japan, and Iran. A good practice is to pay close attention to the C.D.C. risk level analysis (linked in next section). Weigh this information with when you plan to travel. Some of you may not necessarily need to decide anytime soon.
From everything I have read, the overall understanding is that the spread of the virus is best prevented by washing your hands. The majority of fatalities, as I’ve read, are people that had weakened immune systems (as could be the case with common influenza).
Face masks are said to be generally unhelpful in preventing the spread of the virus. They can be helpful if you’ve got a cold and don’t want to spread germs from you to others. There is a mask you may read about called the N95 mask that supposedly can filter out virus particles, but many doctors are urging people *not* to purchase these so they can keep supplies in tact for medical professionals in contact with the virus. Read articles where doctors are interviewed on the subject and I think you’ll feel way better about a lot of general travel “risks.”
Resources to Track Warnings
IF YOU’RE HEADING SOMEWHERE EXPERIENCING AN OUTBREAK IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS…
Know Your Hotel Cancellation Policies
Know what your cut-off date is for cancelling your hotels without penalty, so you can give yourself a deadline of when to decide whether you take the trip.
Many Airlines are Waiving Change Fees for March Travel
So far, most major airlines in the U.S. are waiving change fees for any international travel during March, and allowing you to reschedule anytime within a year. They may extend these dates if the outbreak spreads or gets worse, but for now it is just for travelers this month.
Assess Your Tolerance for Risk / Slightly-Stressful Situations
I read somewhere that this is a good time to check in with yourself to weigh your tolerance for risk and encountering slightly stressful situations (i.e. if one of the main sites you want to see is closed, or if train lines shut down some routes, etc). I totally agree with this! Ask yourself what level of disruption you would be okay with, and weigh your travel thoughts from there.
Though it is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY for this to happen to you, it’s better to know the facts! If you are thought to have been in contact with someone with the virus, or if you exhibit any symptoms (usually at the airport), you could be assigned to quarantine for up to 14 days. Symptoms usually develop within 2-14 days, that is why. You would be put up in a hotel room (as assigned by the CDC) with full access to wifi and contact with home.
I hope this is somewhat informative and helpful!! I think it’s important for us all to realize the context of where each case is, and what is happening to stop the spread of it! Let me know if I missed anything or if you have further questions that I might be equipped to answer.