What Travelers Should Know about the Coronavirus

Since the outbreak of a coronavirus in Wuhan, China, last month many are concerned about traveling to the region and China in general. CNN reported that there have been 6,000 reported cases across the country and 132 deaths so far. Cities in the Hubei province have gone into lockdown, airlines are canceling flights to China and tourist attractions are closing in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus. Authorities are encouraging travelers to limit or cancel trips to China, and to avoid the Hubei region completely. Fears have recently increased as a cruise ship has been quarantined in Rome after a couple from Macau fell ill with flu-like symptoms.

If you are canceling a trip or planning on continuing a trip to a country affected by the coronavirus, here's what you should know.

Is it safe to travel to China?

The Chinese government has locked down a number of cities in the Hubei province in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. Countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have released statements encouraging travelers to avoid "nonessential" travel to China. The U.S. and Japan have also started the extraction process of government personnel and their families from the affected area.

Face Masks Arrival to Asia
Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they arrive on a flight from Asia at the Los Angeles International Airport, on January 29. Getty/Mark Ralston/AFP

What should you do about your flight to China?

Due to low demand and health concerns, many airlines are limiting or suspending flights to mainland China.

United Airlines announced that it is canceling 24 flights during the first week of February, but will continue to offer some flights to allow travelers access to China if they so choose. For those who want to cancel flights or have had their flights canceled, United Airlines is offering waivers for flights to Wuhan that were scheduled through March or flights to the rest of China that were scheduled through February. American Airlines has taken a similar approach, reducing flights through March 27.

Hong Kong–based Cathay Pacific is reducing flights by 50 percent through the end of March, and has also implemented other measures to reduce the spread of the virus to the island. Boats, trains and flights between mainland China and Hong Kong have been greatly reduced and screening procedures have been intensified. Those looking to enter Hong Kong from mainland China should be prepared to share their entire itinerary for the last 14 days.

Other airlines have announced the entire suspension of flights for the near future. Lufthansa, including its subsidiaries, Swiss and Austrian Air, are canceling all flights to China through February 9, while British Airways is planning on suspending flights until January 31, when the airline will assess the situation.

Almost all these airlines have measures in place to allow travelers to change or cancel flights through waivers.

Face Mask coronavirus Heathrow
Passengers are taking to wearing face masks to avoid catching or possibly spreading the virus. Getty/Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

What should you know about visiting China?

Though the U.S. State Department is recommending that people not visit China, those interested can still go there if they choose, but they should take added precautions.

First and foremost, travelers should not enter the Hubei province at all. If a flight is planned to that area, contact your airline to travel through another province or city.

It is possible that the Chinese government will shut down other areas and airports as the situation progresses, possibly with little warning. If this happens, travelers will be responsible for getting themselves out. Make sure to have alternatives and back up plans in place in case the situation changes on the ground.

Due to health concerns, some popular tourist destinations are now closed. Popular sections of the Great Wall of China are currently closed to visitors. Walt Disney & Co. has also announced the temporary closure of Shanghai Disneyland Park until the situation is deemed safe. Make sure to check that the attractions you are visiting are still open, and either adjust your itinerary or postpone the trip.

While in all areas of China, it's important to take additional precautions. The coronavirus is spread from animals to humans, and this outbreak has been traced to a seafood market in Wuhan. To reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus, avoid meat markets and animals of any kind (dead or alive) while visiting. Like any other virus, avoid those who are coughing or sneezing, thoroughly and frequently wash your hands, and wear a mask if you are sick to avoid spreading to others.

Coronavirus Jan 30
Confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of January 30. Statista

What should you do if are visiting other affected countries?

Cases have been reported outside of China, including the five in the U.S. Most of the cases have been in Southeast Asia, causing some to wonder if they should avoid the entire region. Though there have been no cases of person to person transfer in the U.S., there have been such cases in Southeast Asia, even from people who were not yet showing symptoms themselves before spreading the virus. Though this is concerning, it is uncommon in the larger scheme of things. If traveling to a country that has had reported cases, take necessary precautions to avoid getting sick as well as staying up to date on the county's recommendations.