Corona virus is the topic dominating the world of travel at present. What we are hearing.

There is much good information, but there is also a mountain of misinformation. This post is a longer than normal, but worth reading.

We are following accurate mainstream media and govt. information. In addition, we are talking to our partners in Europe. Along with these sources we have also heard directly from people we know in the medical science area in Australia. Thankfully some of the media is now stating correctly that this is a strain of flu, vaccine unavailable as yet. This is not Ebola – for which there is now a vaccine. The usual people are more susceptible – elderly with existing medical conditions. Aside from the ‘no vaccine yet’ situation it is the fast way this has spread which is a major aspect of difference.

Some of the feedback we have had;

From Thursday last week – family travelling from Australia to Italy with one of our school groups.

The all situation is just crazy! I saw a facebook live yesterday in Venice, a girl was filming the national tv channel (RAI) as they set up cameras and had paying actors stating that Venice was empty and no one was attending the annual carnival event because of this virus. All people were pushed on the sides of St Marco plaza to show no one was around!!! This is the information Italians are receiving from the Italian Media! Venice was packed, considering it was a working day!

Unfortunately the majority still believes that all the news are like gospel. If it’s in on tv or radio, must be true! Our parents are saying that a bottle of bleach or sanitizer now can cost up to 70Euro and a box of 10 mono use masks is now 15Euro (use to be 1Euro) 

We are still planning to travel, at this stage our only concern is if on the way back we will need to be isolated, but if it will happen, we will deal with it. 

From an Italian tourism service provider;

Dear Giuseppe,
We would like to reach out to you to let you know that the media is perpetuating fear in people and companies are now following suit by threatening to quarantine any employees if they come to Italy. I know someone who works in the infectious disease unit in Milan and the virus is not as bad as what they are saying. It is like the common flu, which is really only threatening the elderly or people with weakened immune systems due to a chronic disease or illness, per normal with any virus or flu. This leaves out most of the general population…which are the people cancelling their plans. Many study abroad programs are also being cancelled. It is doing a disservice to everyone, causing missed opportunities and financially destroying a beautiful country that relies greatly on tourism to stay afloat. Yes, on occasion you will see someone wearing a mask but it is only because of the media’s scare tactics and not because people are dropping like flies on the street. Italy has an amazing and very inexpensive healthcare system (public healthcare is free) unlike in the US and other parts of the world… so in my opinion, Italy has most, if not all of the cases documented because people can actually afford to go to the hospital and/or doctor without costly deductibles. They have an amazing treatment in place which is implemented for those infected.

Below we have set out the latest status of warnings from the DFAT Smart Traveller site (www.dfat.gov.au) and the Centre for Disease Control in the United States (www.cdc.gov) sites.

DFAT ADVICE & WARNINGS
At present the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a number of coronavirus related warnings in place. They are:

“In most countries, we continue to advise Australians to ‘exercise normal safety precautions’.  For the coronavirus, this means taking sensible measures to minimise your risk of exposure such as practising good hand hygiene (see Health).  It does not mean reconsidering or cancelling your travel plans to these countries.

We have raised our advice level for five countries: China and Iran – to ‘do not travel’; South Korea, Japan and Mongolia – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. We have also raised our advice levels for regions in northern Italy – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’.”

Specifically, in relation to Italy, DFAT states:

 “Due to a heightened risk of sustained local transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in parts of northern Italy, we now advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the regions of Lombardia and Veneto. We continue to advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in the rest of Italy”

As we know, many countries have adopted advanced screening procedures including temperature checks, self-quarantine obligations and restrictions on those who have been in specific countries or regions including China, northern Italy and other parts of the world.

CDC ADVICE
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States has specific travel advice out for 6 countries as follows:
China — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 22;
Hong Kong — Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions — issued February 19;
Iran — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 28;
Italy — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 28;
Japan — Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions — updated February 22;
South Korea — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 24.
CDC also recommends that all travelers reconsider cruise ship voyages into or within Asia at this time.”

The DFAT and CDC warnings are replicated in similar advice from other organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The link below takes you to an FAQ section re coronavirus and asks and answers (to the extent that answers are known at the present point in time) many questions about the virus.
https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses

Attached to this document as Annexure A is the latest WHO recommendations for international traffic as updated on Saturday 29th February.

And the link below will take you to the latest WHO Situation Report, SR40, which was issued on Saturday 29th February.
https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200229-sitrep-40-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=7203e653_2

Our more specific advice is the obvious;

  • people should avoid any area which is open to travel but where COVID-19 is spreading rapidly including South Korea, Iran and northern Italy;
  • people should seek to mitigate their risk by undertaking advanced hygiene measures, including wearing protective masks on aircraft (including Australia if there is an outbreak here) and other means of public transport, carrying hand sanitising gels at all times (and using them) and wearing gloves when out in public areas;
  • people who are unwell for whatever reason should defer their travel plans until they have fully recovered;
  • people who have respiratory problems including a history of pneumonia should defer their travel to any areas where there may be a risk of contracting the virus.

So, for our part, would we go to Japan right now? Yes.
Would we go to Italy? Yes, except to the affected villages.
Would we go to Singapore? Definitely.
Would we take a domestic or Trans-Tasman cruise anytime soon. Yes.
Would we book a Mediterranean or Antarctic cruise for summer 2021. Yes.
Would we book a cruise for any time this year in Asia? Not unless the crisis was over, a vaccine available and you could get 100% of the deposit back in the event I chose to cancel for any reason.

CONCLUSION
We are now in uncharted territory.

The situation today has moved on since yesterday, which was different to the day before. Tomorrow will be different again. As the world races to control this outbreak, pharmaceutical companies and research facilities around the world are working day and night to come up with a vaccine. In the meantime governments are planning for a possible pandemic and, outside of China, for the most part, people are getting on with their lives as best they can.

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