Topline: As the number of coronavirus cases surpasses 110,000 people worldwide, with more reported daily, the federal government has issued a number of travel advisories—here’s where to avoid, and where it’s probably okay to visit:
- The Centers for Disease Control has three levels of travel advisories, with Level 1 being the lowest caution and Level 3 being the highest (with China, Iran, Italy and South Korea on that Level 3 list).
- The CDC has designated Japan with a Level 2 advisory due to ongoing community transmission of the disease, which means older people and people with chronic underlying medical conditions should reconsider traveling there, while Hong Kong is a Level 1 advisory, based on its risk of limited community transmission.
- The State Department also has a four tier travel advisory system, with Level 4 being the most severe warning, and says travel to Level 3 countries Azerbaijan, Mongolia and Turkmenistan should be reconsidered due to the outbreak; the department released a complete country-by-country advisory database on Monday specifically for coronavirus.
- “I think you can go anywhere [internationally] if you don’t mind being delayed by 14 days,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious diseases scholar at Johns Hopkins University, adding, “it’s not in terms of ‘it’s safe’ or ‘not safe,’ but logistically feasible to get home in time” if a traveler is quarantined.
- Adalja said that domestic travel within the U.S. is safe for most people, (and the CDC hasn’t recommended travel restrictions within the U.S.) but “if you’re older or have underlying medical conditions, reconsider nonessential travel because we are likely seeing more community spread.”
- “We have to dispel the notion that coronavirus is a travel-related illness,” said Adalja, because the virus has likely been spreading since November, and health officials are catching up to containment and treatment.
Crucial quote: “We already have community transmission within the United States,” Shira Doran, an infectious disease specialist at Tufts University, told NPR Friday. “So, at some point, it’s not going to be any riskier to go to another country than it is to stay right here.”
Key background: The coronavirus outbreak has thrown a wrench into travel worldwide, with numerous airlines cancelling flights, cruise ships quarantining passengers and even domestic trains, such as Amtrak’s Acela, canceling service between major cities. Travelers around the world have been quarantined as countries work to contain the disease. Multiple businesses and corporations have suspended travel for employees. Major conferences and events, like the South By Southwest music and culture festival, have also been called off. The CDC has recommended travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Level 3 countries: China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. (Entry by Chinese and Iranian nationals has also been suspended due to the outbreak). And the State Department has advised against all traveling by cruise ships.