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So you have plans to travel across countries for work, or fun. Should you be worried? Many people are on the go, travelling around their cities, countries, and abroad. It's a developing situation and experts say that they don't know enough yet. So far, reports say that over 630 people have lost their lives in China due to the novel coronavirus outbreak and the total number of confirmed cases have crossed 31,000. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is inviting scientists from across the globe for an international research forum next week to share research and ideas on how to combat the virus.
Meanwhile, many businesses are shutting their factories and outlets in China, including Nike, and Tesla which has temporarily closed China stores. In fact, the Hyundai car factory in South Korea, the biggest one in the world has also shut shop.
What Do We Know About The Virus?
According to the WHO, coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
The name is derived from the Latin ‘corona’ - crown or halo – because under an electron microscope, the virus looks like a solar corona. A novel coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities on January 7 and named 2019-nCoV, is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans. Experts are still trying to figure out transmission routes, how 2019-nCoV spreads.
How Bad Is It?
Right now, health experts say that the potential public health threat posed by the virus is high. They say that the fact that this virus has caused illness (some resulting in death), and sustained person-to-person spread in China is worrying.
So Should We Cancel Travel Plans?
Well, perhaps not yet. But it is best to be in preventive mode. Be very careful when travelling through crowded airports. Wear the n95 mask, and some experts are saying that you should keep your eyes covered as well. The travel industry is taking this quite seriously. Airlines all over the globe are cancelling flights to China. Many airlines are waiving change fees or the option of credit for a future flight. If you have any upcoming travel plans, check with your airlines and look at the carriers' websites.
CDC has recommended that travelers avoid all non-essential travel to China. The US has suspended entry of foreign nationals who have been in China within the past two weeks or so.
India too has taken steps to prevent the spread. On February 2, India temporarily suspended e-visa facility for Chinese travellers and foreigners residing in China in view of the coronavirus outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
A number of cruise lines, including Azamara, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Silversea, have canceled scheduled sailings to China.
Many cruise lines have also modified schedules to skip some ports of call and boosted screening procedures for passengers.
What’s Happening In India
India has reported three cases so far, but there are probably more.
The government has said that anyone with a travel history in China since January 15, 2020 could be quarantined. The rule would apply to current and future travel to China. E-visa facilities for Chinese travellers and foreigners coming from China has been suspended.
Meanwhile, airlines in the country have also started taking steps. IndiGo has decided to suspend its daily Kolkata-Guangzhou flight from February 6. Air India has suspended its Delhi-Shanghai flights and those on the Delhi-Hong Kong route.
Control rooms in Alapazzhu in Kerala and Delhi have been set up to address queries about the status of the situation in India.
Several government hospitals have set up an isolation ward for the patients of coronavirus.
What Precautions Can I Take?
CDC says that most often, spread from person-to-person happens among close contacts (about 6 feet). Their website states that person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread.
“Close contact with an affected person can cause you to contract the virus, especially at a distance of 1 meter. At airports, railings, and taps at washrooms can also be contaminated since (the virus) can also spread by touch. You can use alcohol-based rubs to decontaminate the area”, said Anita Kumari L, the Divisional Medical Officer at the control room in Alappuzha.
“A person with a fever should go to the hospital immediately so that a doctor can diagnose what kind it is. Urine samples and sputum will help detect if it is coronavirus”, she added.
The PIB website has the following advice for Indian travellers from China: Stay in home isolation for 14 days after returning to India, sleeping in a separate room, limiting contact with other family members and avoiding visitors; if you develop fever, cough or breathing difficulties with 28 days of returning from China, you must: Call the helpline +91-11-2397 8046 or mail [email protected] for more information. The Press Bureau of India has attempted to answer frequently asked questions about the virus and provide advice.
You can follow the health ministry on Twitter at @MoHFW_INDIA and track its Disease Alerts page.
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