Coronavirus Outbreak: Important Travel Bans and Advisories

Britain, South Korea and others now issue travel advisories for Singapore. Plus: Tourism alerts and airline changes to track as the Chinese health emergency deepens.  
Coronavirus Outbreak: Important Travel Bans and Advisories 1
In wake of the rapid spread of the coronavirus, several airlines have suspended flights to and fro from China. Photo By: SOPA Images/Contributor/Getty images

The world of travel is in a flux, sparked by rising concerns about the rapid spread of coronavirus-related cases in China. While countries have issued carefully worded advisories to tourists travelling to and from China, many airlines have revoked flights to the country. In addition to which, fresh outbreaks are being identified in Southeast Asia. For travellers who are monitoring the headlines nervously, here’s a quick roundup of all the advisories and airline bans.

 

Status of Outbreak

As of February 12, the number of deaths due to the virus is slated around 1,018 globally, with 43,103 infected cases, according to the World Health Organisation‘s latest figures.

With Singapore raising its health alert status to orange and the Ministry of Health in Singapore reporting 50 cases of infections on February 12, several countries—including Britain, Israel, South Korea, Malaysia, Qatar, and Kuwait—have now updated their travel advisories against Singapore as well. Qatar and Kuwait have reportedly issued advisories urging its citizens to defer non-essential travel to Singapore, while Israel and South Korea have advised its citizens to defer travel to the island-nation. The same report also claims that Indonesia and Taiwan too have cautioned its citizens from visiting Singapore. Meanwhile, India has been thermal screening all travellers arriving from Singapore, China, Hong Kong, and Thailand.

Outside China and Singapore, the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world have been reported in Japan (163, which includes 135 from a cruise ship docked on its shores); Thailand (33); South Korea (28); Malaysia (18) and Taiwan(18), according to The Associated Press.

As of January 29, the National Health Forum of People’s Republic of China had reported that the virus caused about 125 deaths and infected almost 6,000 people in the country. As of February 10, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 13 cases in the U.S. Fifteen people in Australia have been infected and eight in the U.K. The lone outbreak in the U.A.E. had also set alarm bells ringing.

The rest of China had cut off access to Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly virus outbreak, and 16 other cities in Hubei.

 

Travel Advisories

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India has issued a travel advisory, asking its citizens to refrain from travelling to China. Those returning from China will be quarantined for a certain period of time. Others to issue advisories include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States of America, France’s Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry. Kazakhstan, meanwhile, has suspended all passenger travel to and from China, and has also suspended issuance of visas to Chinese citizens while Canada is asking citizens to avoid travelling to Hubei—which includes Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou.

 

Airline Cancellations/Refunds

In India, Indigo had announced a suspension of its flights on its Bengaluru to Hong Kong route from February 1, and Delhi to Chengdu route from February 1 to 20. Air India too, suspended flights from Delhi to Shanghai until February 14, and Delhi-Hong Kong flights from February 8. Indigo’s Kolkata to Guangzhou flight, however, is still operational.

British Airways has suspended all flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until March 31. United Airlines has announced a temporary suspension of 24 flights from major U.S. cities like Newark, Chicago, Washington and San Francisco to Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai until February 20. The airline had issued travel waivers to customers travelling to Wuhan and other parts of China.

Hong-Kong based Cathay Pacific announced that it will be reducing the capacity of its flights to and from mainland China by 50 percent or more, until March 31. It is allowing its passengers to reroute or rebook flights without charge, if their travel date to China falls within May 31.

American Airlines will allow its passengers to delay their trip to Hong Kong up to a year from when they bought the original ticket, however with certain conditions. Carriers like Air Canada and Lufthansa are also offering their passengers the chance to rebook their flights to China and change their itineraries. Emirates passengers who are travelling to or from Wuhan, Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou can also avail waivers on rebooking flights and refund charges, as long as their original tickets were issued on or before January 24.

 

Evacuations

As the disease snowballs into a pandemic, countries like U.S.A. and Japan are already in the process of evacuating their citizens out of Wuhan, while Australia, New Zealand, France, U.K. and India are making plans to bring their citizens home safely. In almost all these countries, talks of asking the evacuated passengers, upon arrival, to be quarantined for fourteen days, is currently underway.

 

(This article was updated on 12 February, 2020 to reflect updates in the coronavirus outbreak). 

 

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  • Sanjana Ray is that unwarranted tour guide people groan about on trips. When she isn't geeking out on travel and history, she can be found walking around the streets, crying for Bengali food. She is Digital Writer at National Geographic Traveller India.

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