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The World Health Organization Declares Coronavirus a Global Health Emergency

January 31, 2020

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SITUATION BRIEF

On Thursday, January 30, the World Health Organization declared the novel 2019-nCoV coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency. The announcement was made after the first case of person-to-person transmission outside of China was confirmed. Such decision is a call on countries to coordinate their efforts to control the outbreak, communicate the risks, implement preventive measures, identify treatments, and minimize social and economic impacts.


As of Friday, January 31st at 10:00 EST, the number of confirmed cases has increased to 9,776 including 9,670 cases in Mainland China and Hong Kong and 106 cases spread out internationally. The death toll has now exceeded 200.

TRAVEL IMPACT

The impact of this new outbreak on travel is colossal and the list of countries that have urged their citizens against travel to China continues to grow overnight. The U.S. State Department raised the level of their warning to “Do Not Travel”, urging Americans not to travel to China. Singapore decided to close its border to people coming from China and foreigners that have visited China in the past 14 days. It announced the country will not issue visas to Chinese nationals. Mongolia stated that it too would bar visitors from China and shut its border. Russia and Kazakhstan are also among those countries that declared they would close their borders, stopping all rail and bus services with China.


As the number of cases is now exceeding 10,000 patients and over 200 deaths, airlines around the world have canceled or reduced flight service to China. Reasons for the decisions involve fear of the virus spreading and reduced demand for travel to China. Some airlines have canceled flights until the end of March and April. Besides canceling flights, most carriers have also suspended their reservations. Beijing and Shanghai are by far the most affected cities, although Hong Kong has also seen cutbacks. The airline carriers that have canceled flights to China include: 

  • Air Astana (Kazakhstan) 
  • Air Canada
  • Air France
  • Air India
  • Air KBZ (Myanmar)
  • Air Seoul (South Korea)
  • Air Tanzania
  • American Airlines
  • Asiana Airlines (South Korea)
  • Austrian Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)
  • China Airlines
  • Delta (USA)
  • El Al Israel Airlines
  • Eva Air (Taiwan)
  • Finnair (Finland)

  • Hong Kong Airlines
  • Iberia (Spain)
  • IndiGo (India)
  • Jetstar Asia (China domestic)
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 
  • Lion Air (Indonesia)
  • Lufthansa (Germany)
  • Myanmar Airways International
  • Myanmar National Airlines
  • Scandinavian Airlines (Denmark)
  • SCAT Airlines (Kazakhstan)
  • SkyUp Airlines (Ukraine)
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Swiss International Airlines
  • Ukraine International Airlines
  • United Airlines (USA)
  • Ural Airlines (Russia)

Regional rail service is also impacted. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced that the high-speed rail line between Hong Kong and Mainland China would be closed beginning January 30th. The outbreak’s epicenter, Hubei Province, is still on lock down as of January 31st with domestic rail service to and from Wuhan area still discontinued until the outbreak is under control. 


While all this sounds incredibly alarming, most people infected with the virus will make a full recovery just like they would from the normal flu. According to Chinese media, China’s National Health Commission said that those most at risk are the elderly or people with pre-existing health conditions.

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TRAVEL ADVICE

  • All non-essential trips to China should be postponed or canceled for the time being. Contact your airlines as most carriers offer the option to change or cancel flight reservations to and from China for free.
  • Do not travel if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms. 
  • If you are currently in China, stay home or in your hotel. Avoid public spaces and crowds. Wear a mask and follow preventive measures to avoid contracting the virus.
  • Check with your country's embassy in China if there are evacuation plans in place. Some countries have announced they will arrange for the repatriation of their citizens. Japan, United Kingdom, France and USA among others have already repatriated hundreds of their citizens home from the outbreak's epicenter. 
  • Members of Assist America requiring assistance to find a medical facility near their location, for foreign hospital admission, or to fill a prescription, should contact our Operations Center via the Mobile App. See download details below. 

   

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Our free Apps for iPhone and Android give you instant access to a wide range of assistance including one-touch call to our 24/7 Emergency Operations Center, travel alerts, pre-trip information, and more.

   

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For pre-trip information: Assist America members can view pre-trip information on the Assist America website, www.assistamerica.com. Log in using your Assist America reference number. Interested in learning more about Assist America? Please visit us at www.assistamerica.com. Tell a fellow traveler about the newsletter and show them how to subscribe online! Interested in having your organization become a member of Assist America? Please e-mail us at sales@assistamerica.com. The content of this edition of AssistAlert is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace further investigation or personal observations. If you are planning travel, or are traveling in or proximate to the locations identified in this newsletter, you are encouraged to contact SecurAssist for additional information.

 
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