ATJ’s Statement on the Novel Coronavirus
ATJ is monitoring the fluid Novel Coronavirus situation in China and throughout Asia on behalf of our travelers.
To stem the spread of the virus, Chinese authorities have established measures including strict travel prohibition and closure of airports and train stations throughout China including Wuhan itself. This is an unprecedented action that shows Beijing’s interest in addressing the situation. Most tourist attractions in Beijing and Hong Kong are temporarily closed and Chinese New Year celebrations were called off in order to help slow and control the spread of the illness. Throughout Asia, thermo-imaging cameras and temperature checks are in place at airports throughout the region to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. These are measures that have been in place previously during outbreaks of SARS and MERS, and most recently H5N1.
The Novel Coronavirus in context
China is a huge country with a population of over 1.3 billion people. The region of East and Southeast Asia have well over 2 billion people. To put the number of infected into perspective, as well as the number of current fatalities, China averages around 20,000 deaths per day (more than 7 million annually) with about ¼ of these from complications of air pollution and around 700 deaths per day due to road and vehicle accidents. The annual mortality numbers for China from ‘normal’ flu and pneumonia averages around 330,000 people each year (904 per day) while the United States averages around 80,000 deaths per year (219 per day) due to the ‘flu’. While no one likes to think about these statistics while traveling, the reality is that transportation-related accidents are a significantly greater risk to international travelers as compared to infectious diseases including the Novel Coronavirus.
While normal precautions should be taken to avoid exposure to illness on a daily basis, the coronavirus, like other seasonal viruses, affects everyone differently with some experiencing minor symptoms such as sore throat, body aches and low grade fever while others develop much more severe symptoms. All currently confirmed cases involve patients who had recently visited Wuhan, China or who were in direct contact with people who visited Wuhan. The risk of transmission is currently considered very low outside the immediate Wuhan area. The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring the situation closely and has not issued an emergency or travel ban, outside of very specific areas on the Chinese mainland, and recommends strict hygiene measures like frequent handwashing and wearing a face mask for those in closely confined and enclosed areas. In fact, this has always been practice throughout Asia for many years and seeing locals wear surgical-styled face masks is pretty common place.
Precautions that can be taken
For those traveling or getting ready to depart, we are currently avoiding markets with animals and meat on display. Our guides have been briefed on how to explain the situation to guests and will assist in the purchase of masks if required for protection against possible droplet infection. Furthermore, guides have been instructed to avoid crowded areas and to encourage guests to wash their hands frequently.
ATJ’s Novel Coronavirus Policy
- February 7, 2020
If you are scheduled to visit China in the next 60 days, please contact your travel specialist to discuss options for postponing or adjusting your itinerary. While we cannot guarantee there will be no cancellation or change penalties, we will do our best to mitigate these on your behalf. This will have to be addressed on a case by case basis depending on when you are traveling and whether your travels take you to areas that are specifically under travel closures. For those traveling more than 60 days out, we need to take a wait-and-see approach. If necessary, we will continue to extend this policy into the immediate future. Unfortunately, hotels and airlines in Hong Kong are not as flexible as other Mainland China destinations with rescheduling or cancellations.
The Rest of Asia
There are currently no recommendations by the US State Department, CDC or WHO to cancel existing travel plans to countries outside of China. With the aforementioned safety measures taken into consideration, guests can still travel safely, especially those who routinely practice the guidelines established by the WHO (see link above). ATJ’s normal cancellation policies are still in place for the immediate future, unless the US State Department advises against non-essential travel and issues a level 4 travel warning for specific countries and destinations.
We recommend that all of our travelers register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the most up to date information and announcements on this situation as well as other notable situations around the world.
We will continue to update this page as new announcements are received. If you have any specific questions, please contact your travel specialist directly.