Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, remains on lockdown and wearing masks in public is now mandatory in some Chinese cities.
Hong Kong is to stop cross-border travel with mainland China. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said that the high-speed rail line between the territory and mainland China would be suspended from Thursday 30 January, while there will also be restrictions on flights, buses and ferry services.
You have to treat an epidemic as you would a fire, that’s to say find the source very quickly
Over in France, where there have been three confirmed cases of the coronavirus, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said that she expects more cases to arise due to Europe’s open borders. “We see how difficult it is in today’s world to close the frontiers. In reality, it’s not possible,” she said “We have two cases. We will probably have other cases.” She said that she believes that one of the reasons why France is the first European country to have confirmed cases is due to its rapid diagnosis methods. “You have to treat an epidemic as you would a fire, that’s to say find the source very quickly,” she said.
In Germany, the first case of human-to-human transmission in Europe has been reported, making it the second European country to confirm its first case of coronavirus. A German was infected following a visit from a Chinese colleague. He has been isolated and is being medically monitored and, according to Bavaria health officials, he is in a clinically good condition. Health Minister Jens Spahn said: "The risk to the health of people in Germany from the new respiratory disease from China remains low."
In the US, five people, all of whom recently travelled to Wuhan, have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Another 25 have tested negative for the illness, but at least 100 more possible cases are being reported, according to Nancy Messonnier, Director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. She said that she expects more US cases to be reported in the coming days.
Northcott Global Solutions (NGS) has released a Traveller Insight Report, warning that the demographics at highest risk from coronavirus are the elderly and patients with underlying health problems or compromised immune systems. However, NGS points out that the outbreak is still in its early stages, so the characteristics and how it may affect populations remain unclear.
The outbreak is still in its early stages, so the characteristics and how it may affect populations remain unclear
The company’s advice to travellers to Wuhan and China, which travel insurers should take note of, are: limit contact with sick or ill people; avoid animals, animal markets and animal products such as uncooked meat; maintain a recommended hand-washing regimen; wash hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds; use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if no hand-washing facilities are available. In addition, it advised that travellers with known health issues and immunocompromising conditions should discuss travelling to Wuhan with their GP or primary care physician.
NGS also said that travellers who have visited Wuhan or other regions of China and feel unwell with sickness, fever, cough or shortness of breath should: seek medical attention right away; before going to a doctor’s office or emergency department/walk in centre, contact them beforehand and advise about their recent travel and symptoms; avoid contact with others to prevent spreading the virus through contact; not travel while sick or presenting with the above symptoms; cover their nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing; wash hands regularly and thoroughly.
Global Assistance Providers provided an update on the status of coronavirus in South Korea on 27 January. “We have two cases of 2019-nCoV already here in South Korea,” it stated. “Because there were over 30 MERS victims in South Korea about five years ago, we are keeping our eyes on the 2019-nCoV outbreak far more seriously.” It said that for travellers entering South Korea it will require certain information in order to arrange appropriate medical assistance and prevent further infection: the date they entered South Korea; the country they visited before entering; whether they visited or transferred through China, Hong Kong or Taiwan, including the name of the country and city; and whether they have a fever or any respiratory symptoms. It advised travellers to wear a mask and follow thorough hand washing procedures while in Korea.
More expert advice
Businesses can be fundamentally affected by infectious diseases such as this ... which is why preparation is key
Simon Worrell, Global Medical Director at Collinson, a global leader in the provision of medical, security and travel risk management services, has also commented on the coronavirus outbreak: “While the first priority must continue to be the protection of people, Chinese businesses are also starting to feel the impact of the spreading coronavirus. The impact on businesses globally will only worsen as the coronavirus spreads further into Beijing and around the world, with supply chains and offices at risk. Businesses must be thinking about business continuity plans and ensure that they have Infectious Disease Protocols in place.
“These plans should account for when someone presents ill, where they go and who looks after the process, as well as logistical matters, like cleaning and closing canteens. Businesses can be fundamentally affected by infectious diseases such as this, altering organisational function, culture and decimating both upstream and downstream processes, which is why preparation is key.”
Meanwhile, financial markets are concerned that billions in losses to the economies of China and its neighbours could be incurred. According to estimates from the World Economic Forum, pandemics can cause US$570 billion in annual economic losses. Indeed, from 2014 to 2016, the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa led to more than $2.2 billion in losses, according to World Bank data.