Coronavirus advice and warnings have been updated, with the rapid increase of cases around the world in the last week. There are now COVID-19 cases in 76 countries and territories. While the numbers in some countries are relatively small, they are increasing.
The virus has been impacting the travel industry globally. In the corporate travel world, much of Australia’s business travel market is domestic. Local business travel accounts for around 60-80% of all bookings. This has not shown any signs of deteriorating so far, however there has been a decline in international corporate travel, particularly to Asia.
While coronavirus has still not been declared a global pandemic, it’s becoming more probable that its status will be updated. The Australian Government has enacted its pandemic response plan.
Coronavirus advice & warnings
At present the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has several coronavirus related warnings in place:
“In most countries, we continue to advise Australians to ‘exercise normal safety precautions’. For the coronavirus, this means taking sensible measures to minimise your risk of exposure such as practising good hand hygiene. It does not mean reconsidering or cancelling your travel plans to these countries.
We have raised our advice level for five countries: China and Iran – to ‘do not travel’; South Korea, Japan and Mongolia – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. We have also raised our advice levels for regions in northern Italy – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’.”
Specifically, for travel to Italy, DFAT states:
“Due to a heightened risk of sustained local transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in parts of northern Italy, we now advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in the regions of Lombardia and Veneto. We continue to advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in the rest of Italy.”
Many countries have adopted advanced screening procedures including temperature checks, self-quarantine obligations and restrictions on those who have been in specific countries or regions including China, northern Italy and other parts of the world.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States has specific travel advice out for 6 countries as follows:
China — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 22
Hong Kong — Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions — issued February 19
Iran — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 28
Italy — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 28
Japan — Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions — updated February 22
South Korea — Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel — updated February 24
CDC also recommends that all travellers reconsider cruise ship voyages into or within Asia at this time.
The DFAT and CDC warnings are replicated in similar advice from other organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO). More information from WHO can be found in their FAQ section.
Advice to travellers
Business travellers are advised to avoid any area which is open to travel but where COVID-19 is spreading rapidly, including South Korea, Iran and northern Italy.
People should seek to mitigate their risk by undertaking advanced hygiene measures. In addition to frequent hand washing with soap, these could include wearing protective masks in crowded areas or on public transport. Using hand sanitising gels frequently and wearing gloves when out in public areas.
For travellers who are unwell, you should consider deferring your travel plans until your have fully recovered. If you have respiratory problems, including a history of pneumonia, it’s advisable to defer travel to any areas where there may be a risk of contracting the virus.
If you need to cancel your trip
In most cases, insurance companies are covering clients who cancel due to fears of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Unfortunately this needs to be accessed on a case-by-case basis, as there are inconsistencies with different airline policies and travel supplier conditions.
We are seeking to gather as much current information as possible in order to keep you informed. If you have any queries or concerns about your upcoming travel, please don’t hesitate to contact your CBT team.