Last updated: February 5, 2020
Travel warnings have been heightened with a number of flights cancelled as the deadly coronavirus continues to rapidly spread beyond where it originated in Wuhan, China.
The World Health Organization (WHO) have deemed the outbreak a global health emergency after over 20,000 cases of the pneumonia-like virus have been confirmed in at least 25 countries. The vast majority of these cases have been recorded in Hubei province where the death toll has climbed to 490 since the outbreak started.
Health Minister Greg Hunt declared the outbreak has “pandemic potential” as the number of cases in Australia is expected to rise beyond the 13 already confirmed.
Travel restrictions and precautions:
Chinese authorities imposed a strict domestic travel ban on Wuhan and surrounding cities in Hubei Province restricting planes, trains, subways and buses from going in and out. As well as this, health screenings have been set up in a number of cities for travellers either leaving or arriving from China.
Authorities in other countries including Australia and the United States have now raised the travel advisory warning for China to level four: ‘do not travel’. Those currently in China are advised to depart at the earliest opportunity.
The Australian government have declared that all travellers arriving from any part of mainland China, regardless of nationality, will be subject to enhanced border control measures to ensure the health, safety and well-being of the Australian community. As of 1 February 2020, foreign nationals (excluding permanent residents of Australia) will not be allowed to enter Australia until 14 days after they have left or transited through mainland China.
- if you have travelled to Hubei Province within the past 14 days, you must isolate yourself until 14 days after you left Hubei Province
- if you have left or transited through mainland China on or after 1 February 2020 you must isolate yourself until 14 days after leaving China
- if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of novel coronavirus, you must isolate yourself for 14 days after last contact with the confirmed case
Precautions while travelling
Those travelling to countries where the virus has been confirmed are advised to take precautions and review their insurance coverage. Dr William Spangler, global medical director from AIG Travel has recommended the following:
- Travel with antibacterial wipes, and wipe down any surfaces you’ll be touching in public places (the tray table on your plane is a key one)
- Be careful if you see somebody coughing, or showing other clear, outward signs of illness, and avoid such persons as much as possible
- Wash your hands, no matter what, or at least carry your little bottle of alcohol-based sanitizer… whichever of these you prefer, just do it religiously
- Keep your hands away from your face and mouth
WHO also suggested discussing travel plans with your healthcare provider and avoiding high-risk areas such as farms or markets selling animal produce.
Australian travellers can find the latest information on necessary travel precautions by visiting the Smartraveller website.
Symptoms travellers should be aware of
“The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is presenting in a manner very similar to other common human coronaviruses, including the common cold,” said Dr Spangler. It’s reported the virus can be spread from person-to-person however the extent of how easily this can happen remains unknown. Elderly and infants, as well as those with underlying chronic conditions and weak immune systems, are believed to be at higher risk.
Symptoms may include runny nose, cough, fever, sore throat, headache and may progress to pneumonia or bronchitis with shortness of breath and easy fatigability. Symptoms are said to take between two and 14 days to arise and are being treated on an individual basis as there is no overarching cure.
All travellers who have returned from Hubei Province after December 1, 2019, should seek treatment immediately if they: 1) have any respiratory symptoms or fever since their return; or 2) were in contact with any infected or unwell person during their travel.