What is coronavirus?
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a “new virus that causes respiratory illness in people and can spread from person to person,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, and has been detected in some countries outside China, including the U.S. and Canada.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The CDC says the virus has "been known to cause severe illness in people. The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully understood. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including illness resulting in death."
How many cases are confirmed?
As of March 18, the coronavirus is impacting people in more than 108 countries and territories around the world. According to Worldometer, there have been 204,044 cases with almost 82,866 recoveries and 8,250 deaths.
- China: 81,171
- Italy: 63,927
- Iran: 24,811
- Spain: 39,673
- Germany: 30,150
- South Korea: 8,961
- France: 19,856
- United States: 46,168
- Switzerland: 9,117
- United Kingdom: 6,650
- Netherlands: 4,749
- Norway: 2,647
- Belgium: 4,269
- Austria: 4,829
- Sweden: 2,059
- Denmark: 1,577
- Japan: 1,140
- Malaysia: 1,624
- Portugal: 2,060
- Canada: 2,091
- Australia: 2,144
What is the best way to protect against coronavirus?
According to the CDC, “the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.” Other steps can help, including staying home when you are sick, washing your hands with soap and water frequently, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
When should I worry?
According to the CDC, the public should "Call your healthcare professional if you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19."
Does the CDC and State Department recommend canceling travel?
The CDC is reccomends travelers avoid "all nonessential travel to" China and South Korea and is telling "older adults and those with chronic medical conditions" to consider postponing to Iran, Italy, and Japan.
On Feb. 29, the U.S. State Department announced an upgrade in its Italy Travel Advisory due to the ongoing spread of coronavirus. The State Department’s advisory for the country is now at Level 3: Reconsider Travel for the whole of Italy and Level 4: Do Not Travel for the Lombardy and Veneto regions “due to the level of community transmission of the virus and imposition of local quarantine procedures.”
On March 15, the U.S. State Department has issued a Global Level 3 Health Advisory, asking citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19.
“Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice,” said the State Department’s announcement.
How are airlines reacting?
As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise globally, the U.S. has been ramping up its international travel restrictions, suspending all travel from Europe to the United States, to address the outbreak. The major U.S. airlines have had to respond quickly and drastically to preserve business amid growing travel restrictions and significant decline in demand, while meeting the needs of their customers.
American Airlines announced that it will implement a phased suspension of nearly all long-haul international flights through May, while reducing international capacity by 75%. Delta will be implementing several cost-saving measures including reducing overall capacity by 40%, parking up to 300 aircrafts to reduce the size of the fleet, as well as temporarily suspending certain routes. And United announced it will cut capacity by about 50% for April and May, and expects deep cuts to extend into the summer.
Additionally, airlines across the industry have also implemented flexible rebooking and cancellation policies to appease existing and future customers.
How are cruise lines reacting?
The continued threat of the coronavirus is forcing cruise lines to cancel and modify sailings into March and April, impacting the $45 billion cruise line industry.
Cruise lines have implemented rigorous cleaning and disinfection protocols onboard ships, in addition to standard sanitization processes. Many have also denied boarding to people who have traveled from, visited or transited via airports in China, including Hong Kong and Macau, Italy, and other areas within 14 days of embarkation.
Despite headlines about a State Department Advisory that all U.S. citizens should avoid cruising, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told reporters recently that cruising remains a safe and viable vacation for healthy people.
How are hotels reacting?
Major hotel chains are waiving cancellation fees for guests with plans to stay in China (including Hong Kong and Macau) or Chinese guests planning to travel internationally, through the end of the month.
What about travel advisors?
Travel executives speaking to Travel Market Report said that it’s important for advisors to be well-informed during these situations, when the public can get easily overwhelmed and confused by the news. This is key for advisors in providing the best value to their clients.
While advisors should give important information to their clients, executives also said that it’s vital to leave the decision about whether or not to travel up to the client.