The WHO has classified Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a global pandemic.

Find out what this means for travelers.

Should you cancel your travel plans in light of the coronavirus outbreak?

Image courtesy: ©B.Zhou / Shutterstock.com

The coronavirus outbreak has left people around the world wondering whether they should cancel or postpone pending travel plans. If you’re one of the many people feeling anxious about an upcoming trip, remember that while your decision to stay or go should always prioritize safety, you should remain up to date on the latest developments of COVID-19.

Here’s what travellers need to know in light of the current outbreak.

What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. Around 80% of people recover without requiring special treatment. The virus, which first appeared in Wuhan, China, has since spread to 53 countries. Of the roughly 90,000 reported cases, China accounts for over 80,000. Older people and those with pre-existing conditions – including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes – are the most likely to develop a severe illness as a result of COVID-19.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been over 3200 coronavirus-related deaths as of March 6th, and Johns Hopkins University reports over 45,000 recoveries worldwide. The fatality rate in Wuhan is between 2% and 4%, and 1% elsewhere. While these statistics are significantly lower than two other recent coronavirus epidemics – SARS, identified in 2003, has a fatality rate or 10%; MERS, identified in 2012, has a fatality rate of 35% – the transmission rate of COVID-19 is significantly higher, meaning more people are likely to get sick.

Where should I avoid traveling?

Cases of COVID-19 have spread across six continents. Those with the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 are people in China or those who have recently travelled there. Health care workers and close contacts of the sick have the highest risk of infection. People who’ve returned from China more than 14 days ago and are asymptomatic are not infected and cannot spread the virus.

To avoid infection, the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has advised to refrain from travel to China, Iran, Italy, Republic of Korea and advised to avoid non-essential travel to other COVID-19 affected countries.

Who should avoid traveling?

Elderly travellers or those with compromised immune systems should reconsider travel at this time. According to a study of 72,000 COVID-19 patients in China, the elderly and sick people were most susceptible to contracting severe cases of the coronavirus.

Where can I find up-to-date travel information concerning COVID-19?

Regardless of location, it’s always wise for travellers to consult the websites of their intended destination for advisories and cancellations. The WHO is a treasure trove of information that offers regular updates on the status of COVID-19 cases around the world and answers questions for people concerned to travel during the outbreak.

Should I cancel my travel plans?

The trajectory of the outbreak is ever-changing, and for many, that may make the uncertainty of future travel difficult to plan. For those who’ve already booked trips to an affected area, check the cancellation policies for upcoming reservations. If there are cancellation windows to avoid payment penalties, mark them in your calendar and reassess the situation once it’s time.

Many airlines around the world are discontinuing flights to China. Be sure to check your airline’s policy concerning travel waivers and rebooking flights.

If you’re yet to book travel for 2020, arm yourself with travel insurance. A “Cancel For Any Reason” (CFAR) travel insurance policy ensures travellers receive 50-75% of a trip’s prepaid costs in the event a cancellation isn’t covered under standard protections.

At the moment, any travel includes some risk of contracting COVID-19. While many countries have not yet reported COVID-19, that could change quickly, and high-traffic areas such as airports and train stations pose higher risks. Remember to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water. But that’s just business as usual.

This article was first published on www.lonelyplanet.com.