The Coronavirus or the COVID-19, as its officially known, as crippled life across the world with tourist places, school, hospitals and in some cases the entire cities being cordoned off, airline routes being suspended and strict travel restrictions being put in place worldwide. While this is certainly a piece of demoralizing news for travel enthusiasts like you who might have planned many destinations but are now wary of the virus outbreak. Today, the impact of COVID-19 can be felt in every corner of the world.
It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. It can infect both people and animals and can cause a variety of respiratory illnesses, from the common cold to lung lesions and pneumonia. The pathogen can travel through the air in the form of respiratory droplets- like when coughing, sneezing etc., making it easily transmissible from one person to another. COVID-19 has a fatality rate of 3.4%, which is significantly lower than two other recent coronavirus epidemics – SARS and MERS, which had a fatality rate of 10% and 35% respectively.
Its symptom includes fever, cough and breathing difficulty and can take anywhere between two to 14 days to appear. Milder cases may resemble the bad cold or even flu, but a person may be able to pass on the virus even before they develop symptoms.
Till date, COVID-19 has taken about 4000 lives, while infecting more than 1 lakh people, the majority of these being in China. Middle-aged and senior citizens are more prone to this disease, so they should exercise a high degree of caution.
How it may affect your travel plans
WHO has declared COVID-19 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, meaning all of us should take this issue seriously. The virus outbreak said to have originated from the Huanan Seafood Market, in Wuhan, Hubei, has now made its way to countries across the globe, in six continents. While some blame that China reported this deadly disease to World Health Organization (WHO) little late on 31st December 2019, but what is even more concerning is that to date there is no vaccine or treatment for this virus. It will take approximate one-year time to develop a vaccine for this.
Countries had stopped to-and-fro flights from China in January end however now flights have been taken off from roster for other countries too, like South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Italy. This will largely have a ripple effect has travellers have to look for elsewhere for connecting flights even if the above countries were not their intended destinations. Kuwait and Qatar have banned temporarily banned the entry of Indian passengers due to this. Japan, too has become the latest victim to this outbreak, at a time when Cherry Bloom tourist season was going on. Now the fate of the Tokyo Olympics hangs in uncertainty.
Situation in India
The first three confirmed COVID-19 cases of India were in Kerala on 30th January 2020. All of them have recovered from infection and discharged as of now. As of 11th March, a total of 62 confirmed cases have been reported in India, out of which 4 have recovered. As per the latest info on 11th March, Kerala Government has declared Health Emergency in four districts- after fresh cases of COVID-19 were reported.
- The Government of India had directed officials to start thermal screening of all passengers arriving from China, as soon the first case was reported in late January.
- After that, the screening was extended to passengers coming in from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia also.
- Mizoram, a north-east state in India closed the International land border with Bangladesh and Myanmar to check the spread of disease.
- On 3rd March, the Indian Government cancelled all previously issued visas of nationals for Iran, France, Germany, Spain Italy, South Korea and Japan.
- As the cases continued to rise, on 4th March, India announced compulsory screening for COVID-19 for all passengers entering into India.
- India has suspended all existing visa except diplomatic, official, UN/International till 15th April 2020.
Image Source: https://io.uthm.edu.my/
Even though we do not recommend, with some careful planning and keeping in mind some travel precautions, you can actually go ahead and travel safely during this time of the year also. Here’s how:
WHO’s Q&A session on travelling during the coronavirus (COVID-2019) outbreak
- If you have a fever, cough or difficulty in breathing try to avoid travelling. Reach out for health care services and share with them your recent travel history.
- Maintain social distancing is a good way to keep pathogens at bay. Stay a meter or more away from others, especially those who are sneezing or coughing, or have a fever. It’s best to avoid spending time in crowded areas or large crowds. The larger the crowd, the greater the risk of exposure to the virus.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and running water. Use hand-sanitizer to spray your hands as much as possible especially before meals and when in public areas.
- Use masks whenever in public areas including office spaces. It’s a myth that only infected persons need to wear masks. To ensure your personal safety and to make sure you do not breathe in any virus-infected pathogens, you should also wear a mask. Do not worry about what others shall think or say, your health is of utmost priority. Make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth, and do not touch the inside area of the mask. Keep changing masks at regular intervals.
- If you do not have a mask, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of dirty tissues immediately and wash your hands after coughing or sneezing. In case you don’t have a tissue handy, you can also use your arms.
- COVID-19 is said to have an animal to human transmission. So avoid contact with live animals. Always remember to wash your hands with soap and water if you touch live animals or animal products anywhere.
- COVID-19 can transmit through uncooked raw meat. Make sure to eat only well-cooked food and prepared in a hygienic environment.
- Travel restrictions keep on updating, so make sure to check the latest travel and health advisory when travelling to a new state or country. WHO also maintains and updates a list of countries experiencing local transmissions. In Asia, it currently includes China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. European countries on the list are Italy, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Greece and Romania. Three countries in the Middle East are listed – Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.
- Exercise extreme precautions at Railway stations, busses, metro and airport areas.
Image Source: https://www.willistonherald.com/
With a lot of time expected for developing a vaccine for COVID-19, there is uncertainty as to when things shall return to normal. However, if you follow all the above-listed precautions, you can still plan and execute a good travel trip.