Travel Alert - Coronavirus Outbreak January 2020



More than 2,000 people globally have been infected with the coronavirus, the vast majority of them in China, where 80 people are reported to have died from the disease and confirmed cases nationwide have risen sharply to 2,744, according to figures released on Monday.


The epicentre of the outbreak is the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei Province, while the virus has spread to the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai. Chinese authorities have placed additional cities in quarantine in order to restrict movement in and out of 12 cities in Hubei province -- including Chibi, Ezhou, Huanggang, Huangshi, Jingmen, Qianjian, Wuhan, Xiantao, Xianning and Zhijang. Additionally, authorities have suspended transportation services in Jingzhou, located in southern Hubei province. The total Chinese population under flight, rail and bus transportation restriction is now approximately 35 million people. Chinese authorities have not provided details on the expected duration of these restrictions.

Meanwhile confirmed cases have been reported in Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam. The United Kingdom has a number of possible cases under observation.

Many popular public entertainment, cultural and tourism venues within China have been temporarily closed and large public events have also been cancelled for health and safety reasons.

Airports around the world have stepped up screening of passengers from China. In South Africa, the Department of Health has released a statement advising that preventive measures have been put in place with port health officials routinely conducting temperature screening for all international travellers, but that due to the high risk of novel coronavirus coming in from Wuhan, "port health authorities have enhanced surveillance of all travellers from Asia, especially China". Provincially, government has also activated outbreak response teams and are on high alert to detect and manage inadvertent cases that may arrive in the country. There are currently no restrictions on travel from South Africa to China.

The World Health Organisation last week stopped short of calling the outbreak a global health emergency and are scheduled to meet again in early February to reassess the situation.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, coughing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, a sore throat and runny nose. Travellers are encouraged to practice good hand hygiene with regular hand washing, avoid coughing and sneezing openly while direct hand shaking is being discouraged. Some cities in China have imposed the mandatory wearing of a face mask.