The U.S. State Department is warning Americans not to travel to China.
Updated: February 18, 2020
The Coronavirus — a virus that causes a fever and symptoms of the upper respiratory system, like a sore throat, coughing, and a runny nose — has spread to at least 28 countries, leaving over 1,800 people in China dead.
On January 30th, 2020, the World Health Organization declared this Coronavirus strain (2019-nCoV) a global health emergency. Shortly after, the U.S. Department of State changed their travel advisory from “reconsider travel to China” to “do not travel.”
While those warnings seem scary, for most people in the US, there’s really no reason to worry.
According to Issac Bogogh, infectious diseases doctor and professor at the University of Toronto who studies how air travel influences the dynamics outbreaks, for those traveling outside of China, the risk of infection is “close to zero percent.” (Vox)
Now that we’re all breathing a small sigh of relief, let’s answer the most pressing question: do I need to cancel my upcoming trip? The answer is…yes and no.
Here’s everything you need to know about Coronavirus, China, immediate travel bans (and more), updated February 18th, 2020:
Coronavirus 2020: Is there a travel ban? Should I change my plans?
On January 30, 2020, the U.S. Department of State changed their travel advisory from “reconsider travel to China” to “do not travel to China.”
Americans with plans to travel to China:
The advisory for China now stands at “Level 4: Do Not Travel”.
Major airlines like American, Delta and United have suspended all flights to China until April, and cruise ships with China stops are cancelling or rerouting itineraries.
Additional changes may come, so check directly with your airline or travel agent for the latest.
TLDR: If you haven’t already, postpone/cancel those booked China travel plans.
Americans currently in China:
Americans who are already in China “should consider departing using commercial means,” the State Department said Thursday night.
According to the Washington Post, beginning Sunday, the United States will funnel all flights from China to the United States through seven airports. Americans returning to the United States from China’s Hubei province within will face a mandatory quarantine. Americans returning to the United States from other parts of China will face a self-quarantine up to 14 days.
TLDR: While there’s no need to panic, book a flight back to your home base as soon as possible. Unfortunately, you can also expect two weeks of quarantine.
Is it safe to fly?
According Bogogh, the risk factor for flying outside of China is extremely low.
“We can still count the number of people who have acquired this infection without having been to China on one or two hands. So the risk of travel is extraordinarily low outside of the areas where this epidemic is ongoing. That includes areas where there have been exported cases — Thailand, Japan, France, Cambodia,” he told Vox in an interview.
TLDR: Visit Grandma in Florida, go hang with your pals in Montréal — as long as you’re not flying into China, there’s no need to stay grounded.
What should I do to avoid contamination in airports?
Basic hygiene and self care will keep prevent most colds and flus — including Coronavirus. If you’re traveling: wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and cough into your elbow instead of your hands.
TLDR: Stay vigilant and clean, but right now, running out to buy a face mask would be totally OTT.