Coronavirus: ‘a fluid situation’ for the global emergency response industry

time sensitive

The death toll from the coronavirus that originated in China has now surpassed 1,000. With the ever-changing situation, the assistance industry is constantly having to revise its response

Growing criticism over how Chinese authorities have handled the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in the removal of several senior officials – the party secretary for the Hubei Health Commission and the head of the commission, as well as the deputy director of the local Red Cross, who was removed for ‘dereliction of duty over handling of donations’.

Despite China experiencing a peak in cases of coronavirus over the weekend, the number of new cases has dropped by almost 20 per cent from Monday (10 February). Globally, there have been over 43,100 confirmed cases and 1,018 deaths since December last year.

In Hong Kong, health officials have traced at least two confirmed cases of the coronavirus to Hong Mei House in Tsing Yi, a small residential island in the region. It is believed that the two people could have contracted the coronavirus from faecal matter due to a possible design flaw in the building's piping system. Researchers have yet to confirm whether this is possible.

In Japan, there are now 163 confirmed cases of coronavirus – 135 of which are onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship held at Yokohama port.

In response to the rising numbers of cases, the US has announced that commercial ship crews who have been to China within the past 14 days — or who are working on a ship that has been in China within the same period — will be required to remain aboard the vessel upon entering the US except to conduct activities directly related to cargo or provisioning operations. In addition, the US Coast Guard declared that passenger vessels, or any vessel carrying passengers, that have been to China or embarked passengers who have been in China within the past 14 days will be denied entry into the US – this does not apply to crews, passengers or ships that have been to Hong Kong or Macau.

With the virus spreading within other Asian countries, Colin Dutkiewicz, Head of Life at Aon’s Reinsurance Solutions, said: “This is a wake-up call for insurers to further analyse their exposure to epidemics and pandemics through specialist catastrophe models.”

For the global emergency response industry at least, it’s been all hands on deck from the start. Northcott Global Solutions (NGS), for example, released its Traveller Insight Report on the novel coronavirus at the end of January, advising travellers to limit their contact to sick or ill people, maintain a recommended handwashing regime and avoid animals, animal markets and animal products amongst other things.

However, speaking to ITIJ more recently, Emil Pohl, Medical Operations Manager at NGS, explained: “The fact that this is such a fluid situation does pose some issues as travel advice issued on Monday may be completely out of date by Wednesday of the same week, so what we have been doing is communicating as much as possible.”

Look out for a comprehensive overview of the coronavirus and its effect on the travel and health insurance industry in the upcoming issue of ITIJ.