It is vital to stay informed of the status of the current outbreak of COVID-19 in order to keep ourselves and our travelers safe while keeping their travel
Current Coronavirus Outbreak
What it is, what you can do to stay safe, and how it has affected travel
What Is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
As with SARS and MERS, it is assumed that this virus originated in animals (possibly bats) and changed or swapped genetics (termed “recombination”) somewhat to be able to infect humans.
It took 48 days for the first 1,000 people to be infected
Where It Started
In late December 2019 a group of residents, who seemed to have a connection with the Wuhan Seafood Market, were found to have developed a viral pneumonia. Studies have since shown that some of those with pneumonia first became sick in early December 2019. A hunt for the causative agent ruled out known pathogens and in early January 2020 the cause was found to be a new (novel) corona virus, now called COVID-2019.
Since the first COVID-19 case was reported in 2019 more than 73,000 cases have been reported globally. The majority of confirmed cases continue to be localized to China. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the SARS-CoV-2 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Several countries have implemented travel restrictions in response to the growing outbreak of the virus. Many airlines have suspended flights with routes serving China and other nearby countries.
How does COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 is likely to be spread when respiratory droplets containing the virus are created when a person coughs or sneezes. This is called “droplet spread.”
Human to Human Transmission
Transmission between close contacts: transmission from an infected (and usually) sick person and close contacts, usually household or family members or healthcare workers. Cases occurring between close contacts are often called “clusters.”
Community transmission: wider transmission of the virus with people in the general community, who are not household or family members, or healthcare workers looking after cases, becoming infected. Community transmission occurs during an epidemic.
49 out of every 50 people infected with the virus have recovered.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Studies have shown that older men and those with chronic respiratory conditions are at higher risk of developing a more serious case if they contract the virus. Though, young and healthy people have also presented with severe cases as well.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
Most importantly - DO NOT TRAVEL IF YOU ARE SICK
Confirmed Cases in Hubei
The chart below shows daily increase of laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hubei Province. The peak on 12 February represents the change of case definition in Hubei Province (only) to include clinically diagnosed cases. Several days more data will be required to see if the previous decline continues.
Transmission in Other Countries
WHO (World Health Organization) recognizes that there is a risk of community transmission occurring, especially in countries with less-developed public health systems:
- Low risk of community transmission: higher income countries
- High/higher risk of community transmission: in middle & low income countries
This is one of the reasons for WHO declaring a PHEIC and WHO is assisting vulnerable countries.
The reduction of airline services leaving China may lead to a reduction in the number of exported cases globally reducing risk.
WHO identified 13 priority countries in Africa: Algeria, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire,The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
Current Travel Restrictions
Many countries have taken precautions and have implemented various levels of restrictions to help mitigate the current crisis and to stop the spread of the virus. Limiting the spread of the virus is vital in gaining control and wiping out the virus sooner.
Click on the image below to view the comprehensive list of all countries with travel restrictions currently in place, compiled by WorldAware.
Are We Facing a Pandemic?
According to experts, there is a chance this could turn into a pandemic but we still have a chance to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus. Below are two opinions on the current state:
1. Anthony S. Fauci, Immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. From Washington Post 11 February 2020
Question: Are we past the point of containment for this coronavirus?
Answer: No, we’re not. The short answer is we’re not past the point of containment. But it really does have the potential to turn into a global pandemic. What we have now is a very serious epidemic in China. … [But outside of China,] there is very little — but some — transmission from person to person. Once you get multiple countries that have sustained transmission from person to person, then it’s beyond the situation where you can contain it. You can only mitigate it.
2. Michael T Osterholm, Regents professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. From Washington Post 15 February 2020
“It is no longer useful to debate how long and far this disease will spread. Public-health officials should stop trying to convince the public and political leaders we can contain this virus to China. One of the greatest hazards to the public in any crisis is misinformation from official sources.”
Travelers traveling to or from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan should check their flight status before departing from the airport. Travelers with flight connections in these locations should also confirm all flights on their journey prior to departure and should consider changing their itineraries to avoid connections in these locations. It’s also recommended that individuals practice proper personal hygiene, particularly if they have been exposed to the virus.
Travel Within China
Increased security measures are likely near transport hubs. Screening measures could cause check-in, security clearance, and immigration delays throughout China. Traffic disruptions are possible where authorities are conducting private vehicle checks. There have been flight delays as the result of health and security checks. Health officials may provide masks for most passengers with a fever, and authorities could quarantine passengers suspected of having the virus.
Some areas in China have been placed under strictly enforced curfews. It is possible that travel exit bans could be imposed that would prevent travelers from leaving certain areas within China and/or leaving the country via land, train or airplane.
Approved US Entry Points
Any U.S. citizen or lawful U.S. permanent resident returning to the United States who has traveled to mainland China within the previous 14 days must enter the United States through an approved airport.
Foreign nationals who have traveled to mainland China within the last 14 days will be denied permission to travel to the United States.
The following 11 airports are approved entry points for travelers entering the United States if the traveler has visited mainland China within the last 14 days.The Department of Homeland Security said flights will be rerouted to these airports if officials learn mid-flight that anyone on-board has been to China in the past 14 days. Any U.S. citizen who has will be rerouted to one of the 11 designated airports for enhanced health screening procedures.
- Atlanta: Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
- Dallas/Fort Worth: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Detroit: Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
- Newark, NJ: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
- Honolulu: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
- New York City: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- Los Angeles: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- Chicago: Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
- Seattle: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
- San Francisco: San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- Washington, D.C.: Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)
ATG is open around the clock and is monitoring this situation closely. We will continue to communicate with travelers who may be impacted by recent and ongoing situations.
Strategic response plan, live tracking, and more
Global Response Plan
The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have developed a global strategic preparedness and response plan, which outlines the public health measures that the international community can provide to support all countries to prepare for and respond to the Covid-19outbreak. The overall goal of the plan is to stop further transmission of Covid-19 within China and to other countries, and to mitigate the impact of the outbreak in all countries.
Click on above image to open WHO site to download this guide
Johns Hopkins University is tracking the Covid-19 spread in real-time.
You can launch the interactive map by clicking here.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Ctrip Health Management
ATG China (Ctrip) has developed an incredibly useful app for clients who have offices in China as well as anyone who is living in or visiting China. This feature is only available in the Chinese version of Ctrip Mobile App. On the front page there are two big icons of “ Health Status” and “Medical Record”
Health Status is for employees to report on their health condition if they never went to the hospital during the holiday. Medical Record is for employees who have been to the hospital during the holiday in order to report on their diagnosis from the hospital. The medical condition of each confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 patient was made public in China. It is mandatory, by law, that all confirmed patients report on their travel history along with a list of anyone they've come into contact with in the past 14 days so that medical officials can quickly find any potential virus carrier. Therefore, medical records during this time are not considered confidential information
On Health Status Page, travelers should report the following:
- If you have traveled by any city that has been locked down due to virus
- If you have fever (body temperature over 37 Celsius)
- If you have any symptoms of fever, coughing or lack of strength
- If you have any contact with any confirmed or potential coronavirus patient
- If you have any contact with anyone from WuHan in the past 14 days
Travel managers and company HR are able to pull the report from the reporting page in order to monitor the health status of all travelers.