Update: March 12, 2020 at 8:40 a.m. ET by Travel Pulse
The U.S. State Department issued a Level 3: Reconsider Travel Global Health Advisory on Wednesday after President Trump issued a 30-day suspension of travel from 26 European countries amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
“The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions,” the U.S. government stated. “Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.”
It’s important to remember that the elevated travel advisory is not a ban on travel nor is it recommending that Americans avoid travel. While travelers are wise to avoid hard-hit destinations such as China, South Korea and Italy, there are plenty of safe destinations to visit, with a majority of the world’s countries still listed as a Level 1 (exercise normal precautions) or Level 2 (exercise increased caution) on the State Department’s travel advisory scale.
For one, the World Health Organization (WHO)—the world’s authority on public health—continues to advise against any travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
Today’s 24/7 news cycle may make it seem like you’re taking a risk simply by leaving your house, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. For now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is discouraging nonessential travel to only a few countries: China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. The U.S. State Department has also issued Level 4 (do not travel) travel advisories for China and Iran and Level 3 (reconsider travel) advisories for South Korea and Italy for the time being.
Keep in mind that 95 percent of all coronavirus cases are in China, with a majority limited to Wuhan in the Hubei Province where the outbreak originated.
As has been the case since the outbreak began late last year, travelers are still more likely to be impacted by the common flu, which has affected approximately one billion people worldwide compared to fewer than 100,000 cases of coronavirus.
If the thought of flying amid the outbreak has you spooked, remember that the virus isn’t airborne and is only transmitted by droplets that live on surfaces for short periods. The WHO doesn’t consider airplane cabins any more conducive to spreading the coronavirus. Plus, airlines and cruise lines have already put procedures in place to prevent the spread of illness on flights and sailings.
At home or away, travelers can always protect themselves by implementing some common-sense practices such as washing hands regularly for at least 20 seconds and avoiding contact with their eyes, nose and mouth.
Even if you were to come down with the coronavirus in your travels, you should know that there is only a 2 percent fatality rate and that 2 percent almost always has a pre-existing condition, according to research compiled by award-winning airline consolidator Centrav. For perspective, previous outbreaks of SARS and MERS had mortality rates of 10 percent and 34 percent, respectively.
If knowing all of this and traveling amid the latest outbreak still scares you, consider working with a travel advisor who can save you time, money and stress while keeping you informed and up to date on the latest travel advisories and or restrictions.
Read more from Travel Pulse here.