Coronavirus: Is it safe to travel for expats at the moment?

DESPITE CORONA-VIRUS, ASIA TRAVEL STILL STATISTICALLY SAFE…


Some Foreign Office warns against 'all but essential travel' to China


The FCO had already warned against all travel to Hubei Province, saying anyone there who could leave should do so.


Its new advice warns against "all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao)".


It warns the Chinese government is imposing further restrictions on movement, adding: "It may become harder over the coming weeks for those who wish to leave China to do so."


The FCO is arranging to evacuate Britons from Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, urging those who want to leave to contact the British consulate before 11:00 local time on Wednesday.


Up to 300 British people are thought to be in the area, which is now under strict travel restrictions. Officials estimate as many as 200 of them will want to return to the UK.

One teacher in Wuhan, the capital city of the province, told the Press Association UK citizens were being given details of forthcoming flights - with some understood to be scheduled to fly back on Thursday morning.


Did you know that at least 16,000 people died from the common flu this year alone in the United States, with over 250,000+ hospitalized cases. That’s 11,000 more than current Coronavirus death totals and almost 3x case totals. Is anyone sounding the alarm? No.


With a population of greater than 126,000,000 people and under 200 Coronavirus cases confirmed in the country, a visitor to Japan stands just under a one in a million chance of contracting Coronavirus, let alone dying from it – and Japan is one of the most effected countries.


If anyone offered you betting odds on the chance to place a bet that stood less than a one in a million chance of winning – would you ever place that bet? If the answer is going to typically be no, you really should take another look at travel.


Coronavirus is not to be taken lightly, but since it’s already spread globally to the US, Middle East, Europe, Australia and Asia, and it’s ultimately a new version of the “flu” as we know it, it’s hard to understand the amount of fear mongering centered around Asia alone.


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Did you know that at least 16,000 people died from the common flu this year alone in the United States, with over 250,000+ hospitalized cases. That’s 11,000 more than current Coronavirus death totals and almost 3x case totals. Is anyone sounding the alarm? No.

With a population of greater than 126,000,000 people and under 200 Coronavirus cases confirmed in the country, a visitor to Japan stands just under a one in a million chance of contracting Coronavirus, let alone dying from it – and Japan is one of the most effected countries.


If anyone offered you betting odds on the chance to place a bet that stood less than a one in a million chance of winning – would you ever place that bet? If the answer is going to typically be no, you really should take another look at travel.

Coronavirus is not to be taken lightly, but since it’s already spread globally to the US, Middle East, Europe, Australia and Asia, and it’s ultimately a new version of the “flu” as we know it, it’s hard to understand the amount of fear mongering centered around Asia alone.


By no means should Coronavirus be ignored.


Coronavirus: is it safe to travel and should children be kept home?


How do you test for the Covid-19 virus?


If a doctor suspects a person has the virus, they will swab the person’s nose and throat and, if they are able to produce sputum, get a sputum sample and send these to a Public Health England laboratory. Scientists then amplify genetic material called RNA in the samples and look for sections that match the virus’s RNA. The test takes 24 to 48 hours. Once the result is available it is sent back to the clinician who informs the person whether they tested positive or not.


When should I keep my children away from school?


People who have recently returned from any of the northern Italian towns that are under containment should self-isolate, whether or not they have symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, or fever. They should stay at home, inform NHS 111 of their travel details, and await advice for further assessment or testing.


There are 10 affected towns in the Lombardy region of Italy, namely Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano, and one in the Veneto region, Vo’ Euganeo. The same guidance goes for any travellers returning from Wuhan city and Hubei province in China, Iran, and Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea.

Schools are issuing specific advice if they suspect pupils may be infected. If you believe your child has contracted the virus through a different route, call NHS 111 for advice.


Any untimely loss of human life is a tragedy and heartfelt condolences go out to anyone who has been affected by the virus in any way. But like many things in life, panic and fear spread through sensationalism are trumping statistical facts and actual risks.

These number may be slightly conflated, but not enough to change the bigger picture. Since figures this improbable are hard to keep relative, keep in mind that Madison Square Garden Arena in New York holds up to 20,700 people and imagine yourself in that crowd as the statistics are presented.


Let’s also refresh a quick geography primer.


Flights from North Asia to South Asia, not even considering placing like India and the other far reaches can span 6+ hours, whereas a flight from New York to London took just 4 hours 56 minutes recently. Read as: Asia is massive, so pretending that it’s all some area the size of Pennsylvania and “all of it” shares some mutual issue is just-plain-dumb.

South Korea is in the news, with headlines of huge surges in outbreak bringing the total number of confirmed cases circa 1000. South Korea has a population of over 51,000,000 people. That gives odds of around one in every fifty thousand people contracting the virus as it stands today.


Furthermore, a vast majority of those cases – over half – are from a “religious group”, which borders on a cult in Daegu, which is no less than an hour flight by air from Seoul, where a majority of visitors never set foot. In other words, the odds of safety are likely greater, assuming you don’t travel to Daegu to join a religious cult.


With all this doom, gloom and fear mongering in the news, occupancy at top hotels is shockingly low across most of Asia, and deals to get to Asia using miles or cash are everywhere, in every cabin.


Oh, and keep in mind that the USA, UK, France and Italy have had more confirmed cases than many key Asian countries and tourist destinations. Japan and Korea were the extreme examples.


Like Thailand, where 35 cases have been confirmed, with 20 patients already discharged in good health. It’s important to note that while over 2,000 people have died tragically from Coronavirus, virtually all but 17 deaths have been inside of China, and are predominantly people with pre-existing health conditions or of elderly age.


Thailand has a population of 69 million people, which gives you near a one in 2 million chance of contracting the virus at present numbers. Even if a 3x outbreak were to occur, the likelihood is far lower than most tourist incidents in the western world.


Bali has seen a shocking 16% tourism drop, with over 40,000 cancelled recent hotel bookings, despite just 10 cases in all of Indonesia against a population of over 260 million. You have less than 1:26,000,000 chance of contracting the virus in Bali. One in twenty-six million!


Those dreamy Bali hotels are now eager for business, and at the prices they’ve gone down to-to attract it, they’re hard to pass up. And shouldn’t be.


But let’s focus on the rest of the world, to put those risks into perspective. London, which could easily be considered one of the safest cities in world had 132 murders last year, with roughly 30,000,000 visitors.


That would give you at the very worst a 1:222,000 chance of being killed, rather than just contracting a virus in Asia, which a vast majority people live from, with nothing more than flu like symptoms. New York offers a similar ratio of risk for visitors, with roughly 1:216,000 standing a statistical chance of death by murder. And these are among the safer cities in the west!



And lets not forget general life statistics…


Like most people stand a 1:20,000 chance of dying in a motor vehicle related incident each year, and far worse over a lifetime. You also stand a 1:65,000 chance of dying in a train accident, and the tragic obvious ones like 1:7 heart disease, 1:10 some form of cancer and so forth.


If I ignore any government advice against all but essential travel, will my travel insurance still cover me?


The Association of British Insurers is clear. If you travel against government advice then you will most likely find that this invalidates your travel insurance. If unsure, speak to your travel insurer, it says.


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