Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): General Advice for Travellers

The outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19, as the disease has been newly named) continues to evolve and travellers may have questions regarding their travel plans and the best way to prepare and protect themselves from exposure to the new virus.

Specific recommendations are already in place for those travelling to and from mainland China, and for those travelling from other selected countries and areas including Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, see our news item for details [1]. However, travellers planning to visit other countries may also have concerns.

All travellers (including those planning travel to other destinations not listed above), should follow sensible guidance to prepare for their trip and reduce risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus while this outbreak is on-going [2]:

  • Be aware of the latest official advice offered by the country you are departing from about travelling during this COVID-19 outbreak. If you are travelling from the UK, check the up to date guidance from gov.uk website and for information on any travel restrictions, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) foreign travel advice; (see the summary, health and entry requirements sections). You can also find general travel health advice for each destination on our Country Information pages.
  • Check the impact this outbreak may have on your travel insurance coverage, including medical repatriation costs in case of ill health or any new restrictions on travel.
  • If you are elderly or have pre-existing health issues, you should be aware that if you do develop symptoms, you could be at increased risk of severe infection.
  • Contact travel agents or airlines (and the FCO link above) to get the latest advice on any local travel restrictions or local authority guidance for preventive measures.
  • Keep up to date with local or departing country advice throughout the trip; advice may change rapidly.
  • Be aware that there may be enhanced screening/monitoring at entry and exit ports.
  • Check the advice of the country you are travelling to. You may be required to self-isolate for a set period even if you do not have symptoms. It is important also to check where to get help if you feel unwell within a set period of travel (often 14 days). Guidance if you are travelling back to the UK is available from the gov.uk website.

In addition to the points above, consider the general advice for preventing the spread of respiratory viruses [3]:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. This is particularly important after taking public transport.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you feel unwell, stay at home, do not attend work or school.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash hands with soap and water.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home and work environment.

For persons who are not ill, there is no evidence on the usefulness of facemasks as a general prevention measure [4, 5]. Public Health England recommends against using masks outside clinical settings [5]. Should you decide to use a mask, you should ensure you continue to use all the recommended precautions above in order to minimise the risk of transmission.

Source: Travel Health Pro

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