What is coronavirus and how can it affect travellers?

On 31th December of 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) observed that cases of pneumonia of unknown cause were detected in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

One week later, the Chinese government confirmed that they had detected a new virus associated with the pneumonia cases. The new virus is called Coronavirus. Currently, this new disease has quickly spread to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, and some cases are already being studied in Mexico.

Figure 1: OMS (who.int)

What is coronavirus and how can it affect travellers?

At Fit2Trip we have contacted the Ministry of Health to share information and offer tips to help and prevent further spread of the virus.

According to the Ministry of Health of the Government of Spain, the new Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) produces clinical conditions ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases such as pneumonia, and in some cases can be fatal.

What are the most common symptoms?

After being infected, the incubation time is roughly 5 to 7 days. The first symptoms include cough, sore throat, fever and feeling short of breath. In the most severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, shortness of breath, kidney failure, and even death. The most serious cases usually occur in elderly people or those who are suffering from some other illness, such as heart disease, respiratory or immune conditions.

How is it transmitted?

The information obtained so far has not confirmed a transmission mechanism, however, for the infection to occur, a direct contact of the respiratory secretions of an infected animal or a sick person, with the mucous membranes of another person (nose, mouth, eyes). Airborne transmission at distances of one or two metres seems unlikely.

If I travel to China, am I at risk?

As the World Health Organization has assessed, there is no restriction on travel or trade with China. However, travellers with itineraries to regions where the largest number of cases (provinces of China) are registered, it is advisable to follow the following measures imposed by the Government of Spain:

Sanitary recommendations “DURING THE TRIP”

– Hygiene measures:

a. Hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene:

  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with tissues.
  • Wash your hands after contact with respiratory secretions and,
  • Avoid contact of hands with eyes, nose, and mouth if possible,
  • Wear masks especially in places with many people,
  • Avoid direct contact (keep at least a distance of 1 metre) with people who seem sick and do not share their personal belongings.

b. Respect good food safety practices,

  • Avoid meat or undercooked or raw foods prepared in unsanitary conditions,
  • Wash fruits and vegetables properly before eating them,
  • Products of animal origin properly processed through cooking or pasteurization are safe for consumption,
  • Avoid cross-contamination with raw foods,
  • Perform hand hygiene before eating,
  • Avoid drinking unpasteurized milk.

In addition, you should avoid visiting farms, markets, and barns. Furthermore, you should limit contact with animals and avoid contact with the sick.

Those travelers with pre-existing diseases or pathologies (for example, chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure, chronic lung disease, immunodeficiency) are more likely to develop a serious illness if they become infected with 2019-nCoV.

Sanitary recommendations “AFTER THE TRIP”

Once your trip is over, in the case of developing an acute respiratory illness with fever and cough during the two weeks after your return, you should; seek medical attention informing treating medical professionals of your recent trip and minimize the risk with other partners.

Advice for those who travel to China

Since January 22nd, the Chinese authorities activated a public health emergency response in Wuhan City that includes measures such as the recommendation of home self-isolation for people with symptoms, the provision of masks for the population and the total closure to public traffic and flights from January 23 in Wuhan.

Additionally, public places such as cinemas, cybercafés, cultural and tourist centres have been closed, and all school activities have been suspended.

Fuente Gov UK

The United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all trips to the province of Hubei due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

If you are in Hubei province and you can leave, you must do so. The FCO advises against all trips, except essential ones, to the rest of China. As of January 31, part of the workforce of the British Embassy and consulates are being withdrawn from China. In addition, the Chinese government continues to impose new restrictions on China’s movements in response to the coronavirus outbreak. For example, some airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have announced the suspension of flights to and from mainland China.

What does this situation imply in my travel insurance?

If you plan to travel abroad temporarily for tourism or any other reason, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation recommends that you register your information in the Travelers Registry, where they will facilitate your attention in the event of emergencies.

According to the public health deficit, that is suffering from mainland China and its surroundings at this time. If you are considering a trip to East Asia, in the near future you should take into consideration all the information provided and consult your travel insurance agent, as to which destinations in East Asia will be covered and which would not. Since it is considered that those travelers who intentionally expose themselves to danger, will be considered that the trip is made at the expense and risk of the traveler and that all the expenses derived from any hospitalisation, transfer of injured or repatriation will be borne by the individual and not their insurer.

Fit2Trip offers travel insurance for families, couples, individual travellers and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, and others. You can choose between single health insurance policies or multi-risk policies, in addition to the basic, standard or premium coverage level. You can also choose between single or multi-trip travel insurance, and add summer activities.


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