Since reports of the coronavirus surfaced in late December, we all have questions and concerns about traveling outside of the country as more than 100,000 people have been infected and over 3,000 have died around the world.
Here is everything you need to know about traveling right now.
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The first symptoms of coronavirus feel a lot like the flu. “You’ll get a fever, cough — it’s primarily a lower respiratory virus — general malaise, there may be some gastrointestinal distress,” Dr. Rebecca Katz, a professor and the director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University, recently said “When complications of the virus occur, patients could develop pneumonia or kidney-related issues, which could lead to death”
Coronavirus in the Dominican Republic
Health authorities in the Dominican Republic said on Sunday, March 1st that they had confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the country, a tourist visiting from Italy.
The patient, a 62-year-old man, was transferred on Sunday to an isolation room in a military hospital near the capital and is in stable condition, Health Minister Rafael Sanchez said at a press conference. Another tourist, a 56-year-old man from France, is under observation in the hospital and awaiting test results for the virus.
As coronavirus spreads rapidly around the globe, Dominican authorities on Friday ordered the cancellation of all flights from Milan for 30 days. The measure will affect some 4,000 passengers who had reservations to fly with a low-cost airline from Milan to La Romana, a coastal tourist area, according to statistics from the Ministry of Tourism.
The Dominican government also said on Friday that it will subject all travelers coming from Italy, regardless of nationality, to epidemiological reviews at airports in the Caribbean nation.
Canceling or Postponing Travel
Should I cancel my trip?
The Centers for Decease Control Prevention (CDC) provides recommendations on postponing or canceling travel to specific locations. They have also categorized these areas in 3 levels of Risk Assessment for COVID-19
Warning Level 3: CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential travel to destinations with level 3 travel notices because of the risk of getting COVID-19.
Alert Level 2: Because COVID-19 can be more serious in older adults and those with chronic medical conditions, people in these groups should talk to a healthcare provider and consider postponing travel to destinations with level 2 travel notices.
Watch Level 1: CDC does not recommend canceling or postponing travel to destinations with level 1 travel notices because the risk of COVID-19 is thought to below. If you travel, take the following routine precautions:
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
- It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
A list of destinations with travel notices is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html.
Air or Cruise Travel
Is it safe to go on a cruise?
Cruises put large numbers of people, often from countries around the world, in frequent and close contact with each other. This can promote the spread of respiratory viruses, such as the virus that causes COVID-19. You may get sick from close contact with an infected person or by touching contaminated surfaces.
CDC recommends travelers, particularly those with underlying health issues, defer all cruise ship travel at this time. To reduce the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.
What is the risk of getting COVID-19 on an airplane?
Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on airplanes. Although the risk of infection on an airplane is low, travelers should try to avoid contact with sick passengers and wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol.
How are airlines responding to coronavirus?
Airlines around the world have halted service to mainland China amid warnings from the World Health Organization.
Most recently, American Airlines announced that it will waive fees for passengers changing their flights due to the outbreak. Specifically, the airline will waive change fees for up to 14 days prior to travel for customers who purchase flights between March 1 and March 16.
JetBlue announced that they are suspending change and cancel fees for all new flight bookings made between Feb. 27, 2020, and March 11, 2020, for travel through June 1, 2020.
Meanwhile, Delta announced on March 4 that is decreasing service to Japan in addition to its prior announcement that they have also reduced the number of weekly flights between the U.S. and South Korea.
Returning from Travel
If you were in a country with a COVID-19 outbreak and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, within 14 days after you left, you should
- Seek medical advice – Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room. Tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Avoid contact with others.
- Not travel on public transportation while sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others.
- Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
- If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.