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COVID-19 Watch: Travel Safety Tips During An Outbreak

Since it is a new strain, little is known about the novel coronavirus sweeping across China’s Wuhan region and beyond. The first recorded cases involved humans acquiring it from animals at the Wuhan live animal market, but experts later confirmed that human to human transmission is also possible.  

So, what does this mean for travelers? While the outbreak doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cancel all your travel plans, it’s essential to be extra careful when hopping on and off planes or visiting exotic locales.



Wash Your Hands Frequently

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The coronavirus is a respiratory virus, which means it spreads through contact with an infected person. Specifically, contact with droplets produced by an infected person from coughing, sneezing, or even simply expelling saliva, mucus, or other bodily fluids.  

Experts agree that the most effective way to avoid getting sick is by washing your hands frequently with soap and water for around 20 seconds, which kills the virus if it’s on your hands. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also a good option, especially when you’re on the move. Remember to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing, after going to the bathroom, after handling animals or animal waste, when caring for the sick, before eating, and before, during, and after food preparation.



Be Conscious of Good Personal Hygiene

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Personal hygiene goes beyond hand washing. It’s also important to avoid touching your face constantly, specifically your eyes, nose, and mouth. Hands are constantly exposed to various surfaces and if your hands get contaminated then you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you run the risk of transferring the virus directly to yourself. 

Learn to protect others from your own droplets as well. When you cough or sneeze, make sure you cover your nose and mouth with your flexed elbow or a tissue. Wash your hands and discard the tissue immediately. Don’t cough or sneeze directly into your hands as this makes you more likely to contaminate others with your touch.



Practice Caution in Airplanes 

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One of the main concerns of travelers when it comes to the novel coronavirus is flying in the midst of the current outbreak. Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly is an effective way to keep clean of the virus on a plane. It’s possible that the novel coronavirus can survive a few hours on surfaces, so while seats and tray tables are typically cleaned by the airline before boarding, it doesn’t hurt to wipe them down with disinfectant wipes again upon getting aboard.  

According to a study in 2018, the window seat presents the lowest likelihood of infection. Passengers on the window seat are less likely to move around the plane during the flight and less exposed to people who are moving up and down the aisle. Generally, transmission on a plane is quite low with viruses most likely to be transmitted only to those within one row of the infected passenger.



Steer Clear of People Who Appear Sick 

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Avoid close contact with people who are sick, coughing, or sneezing. To be safe, generally keep a distance of at least 1 meter between yourself and other people. Try and be extra careful in crowded areas in affected countries, since it may be possible for people infected with this strain to infect other people before showing symptoms.

If you’re seated next to a person who appears to be ill on an airplane, you may request a different seat from a flight attendant, although it’s possible your request may be denied due to a full roster.



Be Aware of the Symptoms 

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It’s always important to be aware of the virus symptoms, so you can avoid contact with people who present these symptoms, seek help when you start presenting these symptoms, and prevent passing it on to the people around you. For corona, the most common symptoms are cough, fever, and difficulty breathing. More severe cases can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure, and death.

Seek medical care immediately if you notice symptoms and you’ve traveled in an area where the virus has been reported. The incubation period of the virus is currently believed to be from two to 14 days.



Mask or No Mask?

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Wearing masks don’t hurt and it can be useful, but it can’t really protect you completely from the novel coronavirus. According to WHO, only people who are showing signs of respiratory infection and people caring for patients under investigation for the novel coronavirus are mandated to wear surgical or n95 masks. Those who are visiting crowded places, wet markets, and hospitals with patients suffering from a respiratory illness should also wear a mask. 

Otherwise, there’s no need to wear a mask 24/7. In fact, with a shortage of surgical masks in a number of countries, it may be better to save these masks for when you (or others) truly need it.



Be Careful In Markets

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Practice good personal hygiene when visiting wet markets and live animal markets, especially in affected countries. WHO recommends avoiding contact with sick animals, spoiled animal products, and even stray animals wandering around the market, such as rodents and birds. Make sure that all animal products are thoroughly cooked before eating.



Keep Updated on Latest Information

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Finally, don’t travel in a bubble. Browse the news every day to check the latest updates and guidelines on the novel coronavirus. If you’re traveling to China or other affected countries, try to keep your itinerary flexible, so you can adapt and adjust if new information or precautionary measures are released by medical officials.



Made a booking with KKday for a trip to China, Macau, or Hong Kong and wish to make adjustments to your reservation? Read this to find out how. 



*Featured image via Vulkova luliia on Shutterstock