last updated: March 04, 2020
As you’ve no doubt heard, the coronavirus has been spreading to various countries around the world. If you’re concerned about how this might affect your travel plans, keep reading for comprehensive answers to the most commonly asked questions so far.
How serious is the outbreak right now, and how worried should I be?
The outbreak is serious enough to have captured the world’s attention (aided of course by wall-to-wall, 24-hour media coverage), but this isn’t a reason in itself to panic. More data is needed to understand the lethality of the virus, but very early figures show about 1-2% of those infected have died. In comparison the common flu virus kills about 0.2% of those infected.
The epicentre of the virus is in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, and it’s in China that the most cases have been recorded (93,000 as of March 4, 2020). South Korea is so far the second most affected (about 5000 cases), but confirmed cases of the virus have now been found in around 80 different countries.
At time of writing, there have been 41 cases in Australia.
How worried should I be about travelling?
Unless you are travelling to (or via) to one of the ‘hotspots’ (check out the regularly updated map on this page to see where those are), there’s currently no reason to change any travel plans. Follow standard hygiene advice to remain healthy: wash hands frequently and try to avoid touching your face.
If you’re still nervous and want to cancel your trip, a compromise could be to change your dates.
What about cancellations and refunds?
Whether or not you can cancel and get a refund on any travel will completely depend on where you were due to go, and the airline you were due to fly with. Airlines flying to places not seriously affected (which at the time of writing is most places) are unlikely to give refunds on this basis alone.
If an airline cancels your flight for any reason at all (including for reasons relating to coronavirus), you will be entitled to a full refund.
If you have purchased insurance that allows a “cancel for any reason” plan, then you will be able to get a refund for any flight to anywhere.
Keep up to date on the latest health advice for Australians on the official government page.
At the time of writing, you’re advised to avoid travelling to: China, South Korea, Iran, Mongolia and (especially the north of) Italy.
How will the travel ban affect study abroad programs?
This depends on your school, the study abroad program, and of course, the destination. If there are official travel bans in place for the destination of your study abroad program (i.e. China), your program will likely be cancelled. Some programs in areas affected by novel cases of the virus but without official travel bans, like Italy, have also been cancelled. These decisions are up to the individual school/program.
How can I stay healthy while travelling?
- Wash your hands regularly
- Eat and sleep as well as possible
- Avoid travelling to areas with heavy outbreaks
- If possible, stay away from large crowds in affected areas
Do airports screen for potentially infected people?
This will depend on the location of the airport, but generally speaking, if the airport is in a heavily affected area, then yes, there will likely be screening measures.
Do hospitals treat foreigners?
Yes, hospitals will generally always treat people, regardless of their nationality. However, this is where it is super-important to have travel insurance, as medical care in countries in which you’re not a citizen can be astronomically high.