In light of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommending that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China at this time, planners share tips regarding coronavirus and travel.
Here are the tips that planners shared concerning coronavirus and travel. Aside from not going to China, good hygiene is the best defense against the new 2019-nCoV coronavirus, according to the CDC. The virus, like influenza and other respiratory viruses, is thought to be transmitted via the respiratory droplets released by sneezing or coughing. These can travel up to six feet. It is not known yet if or how long the virus can survive on tables or other surfaces.
Typically, with respiratory viruses, people are the most contagious when they are the sickest, so the CDC advises the best prevention is to avoid close contact with people who are sick; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
World Health Organization (WHO) also advises using an alcohol-based hand rub when hand-washing is not possible, and maintaining a healthy distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.
Neither the CDC nor WHO recommends wearing a face mask unless you are caring for someone with the virus. Masks can provide a false sense of security, however several planners add them to their travel health arsenal.
Eric Hutchins, CTA & CMP, senior director, global accounts, Lamont Associates, said that while he has not curtailed his own travel plans, he probably would not travel to Asia now. “However, with several confirmed cases in the U.S, I am taking precautions in airports and suggesting the same to my clients on behalf of their travelers.”
He suggested planners add a travel advisory link on registration websites and email communications to attendees. Plus, because turnout may be lower than expected, “remember to include contract clauses to protect your company in case of the need to cancel or mitigate against attrition.”
Sharnell Roberson, executive assistant to the minerals division president, Weir Minerals, canceled a March visit to see her daughter who is teaching in Guangdong. “We were told that the city she lives in is safe but to limit unnecessary travel for now, and that includes her coming back to the US during the Chinese New Year.”
She lamented that the internet and social media expose people to so much information, but much of it is inaccurate. “My advice to planners is to use only reputable sources for accurate up to date information. Be proactive and share information from reputable sources, not social media sites.”
Adele Farina, senior director of global events and strategic planning, ION, said her company has a lot of staff in APAC that travel back and forth to EMEA and the U.S. “My company has stalled all non-essential business travel company-wide and halted all travel to any APAC countries. We are hiring local onsite staffing for our events.”
Hutchins personal health tips include using hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes for planes, busses and airports, boosting immunity with vitamin C, echinacea and Zinc before traveling, and “bring plenty Emergen-C.” Other things on his list: “Vaseline to keep your nose moist so it can catch germs before they get in your system, plenty of rest and staying hydrated (use chia seeds in your water).
Farina said that she is concerned that “no one has a handle on this virus, how quickly it can spread or how far it has already traveled.” Her advice to planners who are traveling: “Take all precautions. Wear a mask when traveling even if you feel foolish. Carry Clorox wipes and wipe down the seats and tables on airplanes. Wash your hands often. Take your vitamins. Emergen C is your friend. Do everything in your control to stay healthy.”