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There’s a lot we still don’t know about the novel coronavirus (aka covid-19), including how it spreads, how to limit its growth, how to avoid becoming infected, and — perhaps most pressing for travelers — how governments will react to the virus as they plan for disease control.
(The one thing that I HAVE learned so far is that buying those surgical masks you see people walking around with does nothing.) 🙂
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!
They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!
— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
Catching coronavirus while traveling (AKA I don’t wanna die!)
I should preface this paragraph by saying that IANAD (I am not a doctor). I guess really that disclaimer should go for this whole post — if you’re reading travel blogs looking for sound medical advice, well, I don’t know what to tell you :-). All I can do is share what I’ve seen and read, and talk through my own thought process for how I am approaching upcoming trips to see if that helps you as you make your own travel decisions.
I know that many of you as readers are also frequent travelers, so I’m also interested to hear what your plans are and if you’ve changed any trips (either already booked or planned for the future).
Again, I am not a doctor nor am I am epidemiologist. The closest I can get to that is that I have played Pandemic the board game and I have an EPIDERMIS if that helps?
But when I look at the maps of where the coronavirus has spread, I can’t see any way that the outbreak is going to be able to be contained. There are already so many cases in so many different places all around the world that I am having trouble seeing how it can possibly be contained.
So I am less worried about catching the coronavirus while traveling because I feel like it’s fairly inevitable that it’s eventually going to come to my city as well. In totally anecdotal and not scientific at all evidence, when we were at our doctor (for unrelated issues), she basically said the same thing — it’s coming, so prepare for it like you would prepare for any other flu / cold / illness.
I don’t want to be presumptuous, but you can also just wash your hands even if there’s *not* some pandemic currently capturing your attention. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion.
— Anil Dash (@anildash) February 29, 2020
Other coronavirus impacts: Travel restrictions or travel bans, etc.
So I’m not as worried about the actual disease, but what I am mildly concerned about is the reaction from governments trying to contain the outbreak. One way that could affect travel is if the government where I’m traveling shuts things down and/or imposes a quarantine where I am.
For example, what could have happened if you had been traveling through Wuhan Province in mainland China a few months ago? China could have restricted your movements, and then you’d have been stuck somewhere for who knows how long.
Another possible impact could be the U.S. government putting quarantine or other restrictions on travelers returning to the U.S. An example of that would be the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where U.S. passengers were kept on the ship for weeks and then quarantined before they were allowed to return home in hopes it would protect the public health.
Coronavirus travel: Should you cancel your international trips?
Again, I am not a doctor but since you’re here … I think I’d say “it depends.” If you have impending travel to places where there have been a high amount of coronavirus cases (China, Iran, South Korea, northern Italy), then I might reconsider. The Centers for Disease Control has a page sharing the risks in different places. The The U.S. State Department currently says Lombardy and Veneto (northern Italian provinces containing Milan and Venice) are a no-go, putting them on the highest Level 4 travel advisory. Italy itself is at Level 3, which is “reconsider travel,” and Japan is at Level 2, “exercise increased caution.” Keep an eye out as the U.S. government adds to or edits its advisories.
Coronavirus travel: What about trips in the U.S.?
For travel within the U.S. and to other places that have no or minimal outbreaks, I personally would not cancel trips. For travel that’s a few months out, I would not cancel flights and lodging prematurely but would definitely keep an eye on the situation.
How I’m thinking about my own travel plans
Okay now, what am I doing? I have a few upcoming trips throughout the next year.
Most of my trips are within the U.S. and I am not planning any changes. That includes a trip to Hawaii, which I am more concerned about but not concerned enough to cancel the trip.
My son and I are heading to Argentina and Chile later this year. Originally he was talking about visiting Japan but changed destinations (before anything was known about coronavirus). Argentina and Chile each have 0 cases so far, so no changes to that trip.
The one trip that is most in the air is a trip my sister, dad, and I are planning on taking this summer to Europe. We’ve nailed down dates but have not yet booked anything. One of the locations we had in mind was northern Italy, and that is definitely being reconsidered. As it stands now, I think we’re likely to still go to Europe, but we may adjust the destinations there.
Now it’s your turn. How has the coronavirus impacted your travel plans? Leave your thoughts in the comments
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