You’d have to be under one serious rock to be unaware of Coronavirus. The spread of the disease has reached over 50 countries and the number of people who have perished number in the thousands. What started as a trickle of questions from readers and listeners about traveling during this public health emergency has turned into a steady flow. I’ve spent the past few days thinking about travel and Coronavirus quite a bit and have consolidated some thoughts and questions. This isn’t an up-to-date listing of current events revolving around the disease. That picture changes so quickly I’m not sure I could keep this accurately updated.
Coronavirus is a Serious Threat
Let’s start with the obvious. The disease is no laughing matter. Healthy adults might suffer only minor symptoms. However, younger and older people as well as people with weak immune systems could be at much greater risk. Many of the fatal cases have occurred in China, where it’s unclear how much of the full picture is available to the public. And, there have been fatalities as recently as today (in the United States) that don’t have an obvious connection to someone who traveled to an infected area.
Large companies such as Amazon and Google have restricted work travel for many employees. Airlines across the globe have cancelled flights to China. There continue to be daily (sometimes more frequent) travel updates/warnings/restrictions. All of these data points add up to one certainty, you should be concerned about Coronavirus/COVID-19.
Avoiding Travel to Certain Regions is Probably Smart
China does not appear to be a safe place for recreational travel right now. What about the rest of the world? Iran has a pretty serious outbreak, but most of us aren’t headed there. Italy, specifically the region around Milan, is heavily affected. Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and many other areas in Asia are troublesome. I have a trip planned in the near future to New Zealand to help a friend. As I’ve watched award inventory my plans have shifted numerous times. When I first started piecing together this trip 10 days ago, places like South Korea and Japan gave me caution. I’ve switched flights I had booked through Tokyo to a nonstop flight from the US because I’m just not willing to take that risk, however small.
This is the first time I can ever recall in 20 years on the road where worldwide health conditions have caused me to change my travel patterns. I wasn’t traveling much during the SARS time period and to nowhere high risk during H1N1. Zika virus would have played a role in my thinking if we hadn’t already had trips booked to other regions during the time the fears were strongest around Zika.
The Biggest Problem is What’s Next With Coronavirus
There’s so much uncertainty right now with Coronavirus. Each new development brings new questions. I consider myself an experienced traveler who doesn’t get spooked easily. When some of the largest conferences worldwide are getting cancelled and large companies like Amazon and Google are curtailing travel, it’s time to pay attention. It’s certainly not my place to tell you whether it’s safe to travel. Rather, I feel like it’s time to ask what criteria are important to you in making the decision whether to travel right now?
Are you traveling right now?
What factors are part of your decision-making on whether to travel?
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Featured image courtesy of Ira Budanova/Bigstockphoto