Everything You Need to Know About Travel in the Age of the Coronavirus

One of Chengdu's famous pandas

By Anna Breuer on 24 January 2020
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Just as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a second case of the coronavirus in the United States and raised its travel advisory for Wuhan, China, to the highest level, travelers were left wondering if it’s safe to travel at all and, if so, to where.

The CDC’s Level 3 warning is the agency’s highest.  It is urging travelers to avoid any “non-essential” travel to Wuhan.  It also said that it is “likely” that there will be more cases reported in the United States in the coming days and weeks.

The new virus, which first emerged at the end of December, has killed at least 26 people and sickened more than 900, including in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the United States. Health officials are concerned about a repeat of the SARS epidemic, which broke out in 2003 and killed over 800 people worldwide.

On Wednesday, the Sichuan Province confirmed its first case of the coronavirus, the province’s health commission said.  The patient developed symptoms in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, after returning from Wuhan, where he is employed.

Wuhanand neighboring Huanggang – cities of populations of 11 million people and 7 million people, respectively – are in total lockdown.  Officials have closed all public transit systems in and out of the two cities, including buses, subways, trains, and the city’s airport.

Located on the Yangtze River, Wuhan is 500 miles (800 kilometers) west of Shanghai, a four-hour trip by high-speed railway.  Wuhan Tianhe International Airport is the only airport in the region to have non-stop flights to five different continents.

In the United States, anyone arriving from Wuhan is being channeled to one of five airports – Chicago O’Hare International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Los Angeles International, San Francisco International, and New York’s John F. Kennedy International – where health officials are screening passengers for any sign of the coronavirus.

On Friday, Shanghai Disneyland announced it would close temporarily due to the spread of the coronavirus, and gave no date to reopen.

“In response to the prevention and control of the disease outbreak and in order to ensure the health and safety of our guests and Cast, Shanghai Disney Resort is temporarily closing Shanghai Disneyland, Disneytown including Walt Disney Grand Theatre and Wishing Star Park, starting January 25, 2020,” the park said in a statement.

Chinese authorities temporarily closed two major tourist attractions in the country, part of the Great Wall of China as well as the Forbidden City in Beijing.  It’s unclear when either of the two historic sites might reopen.

Regardless where one is traveling to, it will not be surprising to find special screening measures at ports of entry.  The timing of the virus’ outbreak is particularly bad as it comes right before the start of the lunar new year when millions travel to visit family members: Zeng Guang, a senior Chinese health official, is concerned that the vast amount of travel during the holiday would make it more difficult to contain the outbreak.

“Even as we work harder, it will increase,” said Zeng.

During the SARS outbreak 17 years ago, anyone in China displaying symptoms of the disease was immediately hospitalized and Singapore confined those suspected of having contracted SARS to their homes and used webcams and electronic bracelets to monitor their movements.

Within the United States, the CDC considers the immediate risk of infection to be low. Regardless, the agency recommends everyone take “everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs,” and take flu antivirals.  It also recommends that people traveling to China avoid contact with anyone who is sick and continue to practice good hand hygiene..

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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