If you have seen the news or skimmed social media this week, chances are you have heard about the coronavirus outbreak in China, now with confirmed cases in Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States. As a business traveler, you might not have the luxury of canceling or postponing your upcoming travel plans, so we put together the five most important facts to keep you informed and safe from this concerning outbreak.
1. What is the coronavirus and how is it spread?
The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a respiratory infection in the same family as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). During early cases of the novel coronavirus, it was thought to have spread from animal-to-person, however new cases of the virus have been identified in patients that confirmed they had no exposure to animal markets. Person-to-person transmission of 2019-nCoV has been confirmed but the exact way in which the transmission occurs remains unknown.
2. What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Symptoms of the coronavirus look and feel much like the flu, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you believe you might have come into contact with an infected person, seek medical attention immediately.
3. How can I protect myself from the Coronavirus while traveling?
The Center for Disease Control states the first way to protect yourself is to wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Do not touch your face with unwashed hands. Avoid coming into contact with people who are sick. Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Use alcohol-based sanitizers throughout the day.
4. What should I do if I have travel planned to an affected area?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet recommended any travel restrictions. Business travelers should closely monitor the news, the CDC, and the US State Department for breaking\/changing information. Utilize your company’s travel risk management tools to ensure you have the most up-to-date information on the outbreak and possible travel restrictions. Give yourself extra time at the airport for potential health screenings, delays, and long lines. Employ the highest level of health and sanitation protocols.
5. How can my Travel Management Company (TMC) help?
Contact your dedicated business travel agent if you want to delay or cancel any of your upcoming business travel plans. Some airlines and hotels are offering free cancelations for people with travel plans to or through the affected areas and your TMC will be most knowledgeable on eligibility. Your TMC may also be able to assist you in avoiding high-risk areas without canceling your trip plans.