What you need to know about the Coronavirus threat

Risk intelligence company assesses the response to the outbreak and its impact on travel.

Non-essential travel to areas of China affected by the Coronavirus should be deferred and corporate travellers must be prepared to leave the place immediately if authorities introduce a partial or total lockdown.

That's according to Risk intelligence company Riskline, which has produced a special report in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The flu-like infection has ramped up from initial screenings and observing infected patients to the point where the Chinese authorities placed lockdowns on entire cities on 23 January.

These include Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei and a key domestic transportation hub. Large public events were also cancelled across the country. 

The lockdowns have had a huge impact on air, rail and road travel, Riskline says, including delays from medical screenings at airports and border crossings.

Medical facilities have been under an “unbearable” strain particularly in Hubei province, where long queues, overcrowding and tension were reported in public hospitals, the company said. 

Response to the outbreak

Infected patients were placed under observation while authorities traced the infection line and eventually closed down Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, where the outbreak started.

Screening and surveillance measures were then introduced at all major airports and train stations in the country while hundreds of health officers were at transportation hubs.

The chances of spreading the infection were greatly increased in the run-up to the Lunar New Year festival, which is peak travel season in China.

The Riskline report, called 'Is 2019-nCoV coronavirus the biggest threat to travellers?' said: “It is possible that the response was not as timely as it should have been as it was eventually decided on 23 January to progressively place lockdowns on entire cities, including Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei and a key domestic transportation hub. Large public events were also cancelled across the country."

Impact on travel and security

There’s been a huge impact on air, rail and road travel. Meanwhile, medical facilities have shown to be under strain, particularly in Hubei province.

“The lockdown has also triggered the risk of possible shortages of food and profiteering from shop owners,” the reports said.

The situation also increases the risk of protests from the population, although the fear of contagion may counterbalance and mitigate this risk.

What you need to know before travelling to China

As the situation is changing daily, check consular and health authorities for an update before travelling, says Riskline. 

Ask employers to provide an appropriate level of travel risk intelligence in real-time to keep you safe during your travel.

Travellers should also defer non-essential travel to areas under infection and be prepared to leave the place immediately if authorities introduce a partial lockdown or if they announce a total one. 

How to minimise the risk of exposure

There is no vaccine currently available to prevent the infection.

Those who travel to infected areas must practice careful hygiene measures including frequent hand-washing while closely monitoring health for relevant symptoms. 

Avoid all contact with infected persons and wear a face mask in public areas.

If you have come into contact with infected people or have travelled to an infected area, seek immediate medical attention if you display any symptoms like fever, diarrhoea, shortness of breath and coughing.

The symptoms?

Infected patients developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, shortness of breath and cough.

"People infected by the virus may also have gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhoea and nausea/vomiting, while more severe complications, including pneumonia and kidney failure, have also been reported. The incubation period is averaging five or six days but can range from two to 14 days.

Health workers, family members or others in close contact with infected people are at greatest risk of infection," according to advice from Riskline.

Origin of the outbreak

On 31 December 2019, a cluster of 27 cases with "pneumonia of unknown cause" originating from the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, came to the attention of local health officials who alerted the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In early January 2020 a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was the cause of the outbreak after tests ruled-out seasonal flu, SARS, avian flu or MERS-CoV.

As of 24 January, at least 830 cases of 2019-nCoV, including 26 fatalities, were reported in China, with most fatalities recorded in Wuhan. Cases have also been reported in Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and even the United States of America.

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