Coronavirus has seemingly turned the world upside down! So before you buy into the hysteria, read this.
If you’ve been consuming mainstream news on the coronavirus you would most likely be scared, in a state of panic and cancelling any confirmed travel, or squashing any idea of upcoming plans to travel.
But, we all know how media giants paint a picture. A headline that results in clicks for them and benefits their pockets. That is why it is important to dig deeper and do your research.
As a travel manager of eleven years and a full-time traveller, I, along with my industry peers have been inundated with this question. Should you let coronavirus impact your travel?
During my time in the travel industry, I’ve experienced multiple pandemics, natural disasters, acts of terrorism and countless online sites and wholesalers going into liquidation. Consequently, what I have gained in the face of these uncertain situations is knowing where to look for reliable information, and how to move forward in an effective way.
What I am going to show you are the different angles and statistics so you can make an educated decision. Paired with some qualifying questions to ask yourself and any travel companions.
Above all, the choice is yours, and you need to be informed from direct sources.
Coronavirus: Let’s dive into the stats!
On 6 March 2020, there were 98,192 confirmed coronavirus cases. The world’s population is 7.8 billion. As it stands, 0.00107% of the global population has been infected.
Out of those 98,192 cases, 80,711 of those are within China. Outside of China, there are 17,481 cases. In contrast, 57,389 of the total cases have recovered.
Globally, there have been 3491 deaths, of which 335 were outside of China.
If we look outside of China, 88 countries now have reported one or more cases of coronavirus (COVID-19). The countries at the top of that list after China are South Korea, Iran & Italy.
You can view the current report as of 6 March here.
You should check the advice provided by your government.
Advice levels differ per country and are broken down into four layers which are rigorously reviewed based on current world events. The number of levels and wording do vary slightly between governments.
4 – Do not travel
3 – Reconsider your need to travel
2 – Exercise a high degree of caution
1 – Exercise normal safety precautions
Governments have advised ‘do not travel’ to China, Iran & South Korea. Other destinations that are hot on people’s lips are Japan and Italy. While Italy has been listed as level 3 ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ with ‘do not travel’ to particular regions, the Italian government has now put the country into lockdown as of March 9th.
These levels can change daily and you should keep an eye on them as they can impact your travel insurance if they hit that ‘do not travel’ status.
Australian’s can find their government advice at Smart Traveller. American citizens can look to the CDC. UK residents can find advice at Gov.UK. If you are a citizen of another country look for your government’s advice by searching google for ‘country (eg. Mexico) citizen travel warnings’.
Tired of ‘fake news’? Why don’t you head straight to the source?
Besides checking government advice, there are plenty of other sites that provide reliable resources for you to consume.
Your go-to site for current and correct information should be the World Health Organization (WHO) who releases a situation report daily.
Gis and data have an interactive map with up to date statistics.
IATA Travel Centre breaks down entry and departure rules per country as changes are made.
Worldometer provides percentages surrounding age, sex and medical conditions. Whilst not updated daily, the overview is interesting to see.
Now you’re aware of the statistics and where to find reliable information, you’re probably wondering ‘what now’?
I recommend starting by asking yourself the following questions.
Where are you planning to travel? Only a handful of countries are placed under the ‘do not travel’ banner, with most still being no to low risk.
Have you checked your government advice? If the country you were planning to travel to is under a ban or you don’t feel comfortable visiting right now due to coronavirus, there are plenty of other places you could visit that are not. Consider putting those plans on ice and changing your travel to somewhere else. South America, Africa, the Pacific and Antarctica are looking great.
When are you due to travel? If it is not within the next 2 months, Do nothing! The situation can and will change quickly. Furthermore, stay calm, save your time and avoid having to pay any unnecessary cancellation or change fees.
Are you over 65 and/or have a pre-existing medical condition? The risk of infection is greater, but if your travel is not immediate you also have time on your side and the option to look at changing where you travel.
Where do you stand with your travel insurance? Ask your travel agent if you purchased your policy through them. Similarly, contact the company you purchased from or with your credit card provider if you were relying on your ‘free insurance’.
In most cases, you’ll decide there is no urgency in making a concrete decision right now.
What if you have decided to cancel or change your plans?
First of all, get in touch with your travel agent so they can work out your options for you. This is where it pays to have an agent on your side! They do the hard work and you can get on with your life.
If you have booked your travel yourself you will need to check any reservations you have made directly through the sites you purchased them from. Ask to see the cancellation and change fees so you can weigh up costs and work forward from there.
Side note: If your travel is not immediate, I want to reiterate that your best course of action is to wait until closer to departure to assess, before spending valuable time on something that may not impact you.
What if you have decided to keep your travel plans in place?
Besides enjoying your travels, these are my top tips to make you feel more comfortable.
Stop consuming any mainstream media reports on the coronavirus. However, you should stay informed by direct sources like WHO and your local government authority in case of any changes.
If you haven’t checked your travel insurance or purchased it yet, do this now. There are a lot of companies that do not provide cover in these instances. Above all, speak to your travel agent who can show you options that will allow you to cancel for any reason and discuss what will work best for you. This is especially important if you are about to book a trip or have been holding off due to uncertainty, it gives you that extra reassurance.
Protect yourself by using basic hygiene practices. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitiser so germs are killed. Hands come in contact with a myriad of surfaces that could be contaminated. Abstain from touching your face to avoid spreading bacteria. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and dispose of that tissue immediately.
If you feel unwell, stay home and seek medical attention. Call ahead first, in case of infection because they will need to prepare for your visit or direct you to somewhere that can best manage your case to limit interaction with others.
Do you still have questions or something you feel should be added?
Please, write your thoughts in the comments so we can have a discussion or send me a message.