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Assist Alert: Coronavirus Update #4

Spread of COVID-19 is Shaking the World and Impacting the Global Travel Industry

March 4, 2020


Over the last couple of weeks, the rate of new COVID-19 cases in China has considerably slowed down, with more recoveries now being reported than new infections. However, the worry is now on the virus’ global spread as community outbreaks have been reported in more than 70 countries. Travelers around the world are asking what it means for their upcoming travel plans and worry about their health and safety.

What are the areas at risks?

Although the outbreak in China seems to be under control, the country is still categorized as a Do Not Travel destination by most countries. Most flights are still suspended until at least the end of March.


In the span of a couple of weeks, South Korea has gone from dealing with a few cases of COVID-19 to more than 5,600 and now finds itself in the throes of an outbreak that has become the largest outside China. As of March 4th, at least 28 people have died. The worst of it is in Daegu, a southeastern city where roughly 70 percent of confirmed cases are concentrated.


Italy is currently struggling to contain an outbreak and has reported more than 2,500 cases and 79 deaths. Northern Italy is the source of most of the cases in the country and travel warnings strictly indicate avoiding the Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto regions due to the high level of community transmission of the virus. Several airlines, including Delta, American Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Turkish Airlines, EasyJet, Ryanair, British Airways and WizzAir, have suspended flights to Northern Italy due to a drop in demand and to contain the spread of this virus. 


Iran is also a high-risk country with more than 2,900 cases and 92 deaths. Some countries in the Middle East region have reported cases with links to the Iranian city of Qom, where several holy sites are regularly visited by large crowds.


Many countries have released travel advisories for South Korea, Italy (especially the Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna regions) and Iran and are recommending their residents to avoid all non-necessary travel to these countries at this time. People who are traveling or have traveled to these regions within the last two weeks are also asked to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return home.


What about other destinations?

The U.S. State Department recently issued a Level 2 Travel Advisory for Japan recommending travelers to apply increased caution if traveling to this country.


Besides China, South Korea, Iran, Italy and Japan, there is at this time no other high-level travel warnings and a low risk of being contaminated. Still, travelers should apply extreme caution and follow strict hygiene measures when traveling either domestically or internationally.


What can travelers expect?

The World Health Organization has requested governments to implement strict measures to limit the spread of the virus in their countries. Some of the most common measures include strict health checks at airports and other public places such as shopping malls, museums and train stations. Travelers should not be alarmed by airlines and other employees wearing protective coveralls, masks and checking temperatures. Several countries have also applied a ban on large gatherings such as concerts, conferences, events, and have decided to close popular public spaces such as museums and theme parks.


All Disney’s theme parks in Asia, including Shanghai Disney, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are closed until further notice. Disneyland Paris in France is also closed. In South Korea, the country’s National Museum and the National Museum of Modern Art have also been closed.


Many professional and sporting events are also being canceled and/or postponed. These include Geneva’s Auto Show, San Francisco’s Game Developers Conference, the world’s largest luxury jewelry and watch event, Baselworld, Houston’s Energy Conference and fashion weeks across the world. Some high-profile companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook are also canceling their company’s conferences and gatherings. Finally, many employers around the world are postponing all business travels to protect their employees against the risk of contamination.


In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending schools and universities to cancel or postpone their foreign exchange programs and upcoming Spring Break trips. Current participants in such programs, notably in China and Italy, are asked to return to their home countries.


It is recommended not to travel to China at this time and to avoid all non-essential travel to South Korea, Iran and Northern Italy. Other travelers should follow strict preventative and hygiene measures similar to those issued during the flu season. For more details on how to avoid being contaminated, read our complete COVID-19 report here


Members of Assist America have 24/7 access to our Operations Center if in need of assistance or travel information. Connect with our coordinators via the Assist America Mobile App or by phone at the number indicated on your membership card.