Everything You Need to Know If You're Traveling During the Coronavirus Outbreak (Video)
The U.S. has extended travel restrictoins to Canada and Mexico through June 21.
Since reports of the coronavirus surfaced in late December, over 5,900,000 people have been infected and over 358,000 have died around the world. As the virus continues to have a global impact, the countries around the world have established travel advisories and rules, leading airlines and cruises to cancel their routes.
The U.S. has reported more coronavirus cases than any other country in the world at over 1,712,000. The virus, which originated in China, made its way to the U.S. in February where over 99,000 people have died. As precautions including states of emergency, and lockdowns were put in place across the country, the State Department has advised Americans to avoid all international travel. The Trump administration's coronavirus task force announced they are restricting gatherings of 10 or more people.
The Department of Transportation also released guidance mandating airlines to issue refunds for flights that have been canceled or changed due to coronavirus.
China, which was the origin of the outbreak at the beginning of the year, has started to see signs of relief as the number of reported cases has slowed and their makeshift hospitals have been closing due to lack of demand. Additionally, the strict lockdown on Wuhan and the Hubei Province has lifted.
In Europe, Spain, Italy and France, have eased their restrictions, allowing non-essential employees to go to work and the European Commission has announced a "phased and coordinated approach" to opening borders.
Additionally, the International Olympics Committee confirmed that the Tokyo Games would be postponed to 2021.
Here is everything you need to know about traveling right now.
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus was first discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, within the Hubei province of China. WHO announced on Feb. 12 that the official name for the specific strain of coronavirus is COVID-19.
In the beginning of March, WHO officially declared the coronavirus as "a pandemic."
“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats, and bats,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Both Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are caused by a coronavirus, but not the strain that’s currently circulating.
The doctor who first discovered this strain of coronavirus and alerted authorities, Li Wenliang, died at age 34 of the disease on Feb. 7. China quickly launched an investigation into his death, according to a statement released by the official Xinhua news agency.
"We express our deep condolences and sadness, pay our tribute to him for fighting on the front line against the epidemic, and show our sincere sympathy to his family," government reps said in the statement.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
In addition to flu-like symptoms, the CDC reported that additional symptoms include:
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
“You'll get a fever, cough — it’s primarily a lower respiratory virus — general malaise, there may be some gastrointestinal distress,” Dr. Rebecca Katz, a professor and the director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University, told Travel + Leisure in January. When complications of the virus occur, patients could develop pneumonia or kidney-related issues, which could lead to death.
What can you do to prevent coronavirus?
General flu hygiene practices, including washing your hands regularly and covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, are simple ways to keep healthy. Extra measures include sanitizing commonly touched surfaces with antibacterial wipes or sprays. Also, avoid touching your face and close contact with people you may see coughing or sneezing.
When eating, be sure to thoroughly cook all meat and eggs.
Additionally while traveling, the TSA has allowed passengers to carry 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in a carry-on bag until further notice, according to their website.
"Passengers can expect that these containers larger than the standard allowance of 3.4 ounces of liquids permitted through a checkpoint will need to be screened separately, which will add some time to their checkpoint screening experience," the update read.
What countries are affected by coronavirus?
The number of confirmed cases and deaths below are according to Johns Hopkins University's real-time map from their Center for Systems Science and Engineering Department unless otherwise noted.
The United States:
The United States now has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world at over 1,712,816 cases and over 101,000 people have died. For a state-by-state breakdown of responses to the coronavirus, see T+L's guide.
Americans are advised to avoid all international travel in a Level 4 advisory issued by the State Department.
"In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the US should arrange for immediate return," the State Department wrote on Twitter.
The border between Canada and the U.S. is currently closed and Americans flying home from any countries listed in Trump's travel ban are subject to enhanced screening when touching down in the U.S.
Specifically, travel restrictions for Canada and Mexico have been extended through June 22.
“Non-essential travel will not be permitted until this administration is convinced that doing so is safe and secure,” Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement, Reuters reported. “We have been in contact with our Canadian and Mexican counterparts and they also agree that extending these restrictions is prudent at this time.”
The administration also restricted travel from Europe to the U.S. which was later extended to the UK and Ireland. Following the Europe travel ban, the government declared a national emergency, according to The Associated Press.
During a White House Press conference following the passing of the first coronavirus-related death in Washington state, the Trump administration subsequently asked the State Department to increase their travel advisory for infected parts of Italy and South Korea to a Level 4 "do not travel" warning.
On April 21, Trump announced that people will not be able to obtain green cards for 60 days, CNN reported. The ruling would not apply to temporary work visas.
Amid the outbreak, airports around the country, including JFK and LAX, have rerouted passengers coming in from China to screening centers. If passengers show no symptoms during their enhanced screening, they are rebooked to their final destination, although they are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Initially, the overwhelming majority of coronavirus cases were within mainland China, with over 84,100 confirmed cases and over 4,600 deaths.
The city of Wuhan, which was the original epicenter of the outbreak and has been under strict quarantine, had its lockdown lifted on April 8. The lockdown restrictions in the remainder of the Hubei province will be lifted on March 24. Under quarantine, transportation links were cut and streets and shelves were empty as residents were urged to go outside only for essential supplies.
Elsewhere in Asia:
South Korea has more than 11,200 coronavirus cases, and 269 people have died since the first case was confirmed on Jan. 20. On March 13, the country reported that recoveries outpaced the number of confirmed cases for the first time, marking a milestone in relief efforts. Students have started to return to school.
In Japan, there have been over 16,600 confirmed cases and 846 deaths. The country has lifted its state of emergency, allowing businesses and attractions to reopen.
In the aforementioned announcement to postpone the Olympics, a joint statement from the Tokyo Organizing Committee and the International Olympics Committee said, "In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC president and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community."
Thailand has 3,054 confirmed cases its Tourism Authority has no plans to reopen to tourists anytime soon.
Taiwan has 441 cases of coronavirus and Vietnam has 327.
Spain has the most cases of coronavirus in Europe at over 237,000 and has started to lift their lockdown rules. Italy — with over 231,000 cases — also slightly lifted their quarantine restrictions allowing most employees to return to work and select Italian shops to open.
France eased on lockdown restrictions after eight weeks of quarantine. Select shops have opened and many students were allowed to return to school. Masks are mandatory while riding public transportation. The country has over 186,000 cases and 28,665 people have died.
The Tour de France has also been canceled.
Belgium, with over 57,800 cases, also implemented lockdown restrictions including limited movement to supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, or medical emergencies.
Germany has over 182,000 cases and has also closed its borders. Oktoberfest has also been canceled.
Meanwhile, Slovenia has been deemed the first nation in Europe to declare an end to the coronavirus, according to CNBC.
The United Kingdom has over 270,000 confirmed cases and over 37,500 confirmed deaths.
In an update from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he called to have the lockdown in the U.K. slightly lifted by asking some workers in certain industries to return to work, according to CNN. However, people returning to work should avoid public transportation
"We now need to stress that anyone who can't work from home, for instance, those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work," he said in a televised address where he announced new protocols allowing people to return to everyday routines.
The increase in coronavirus cases lead to Queen Elizabeth II to deliver a televised address to the country in the beginning of April where she thanked medical workers and those quarantining at home. She is quarantining with Prince Philip at Windsor Castle.
Canada has over 89,700 confirmed cases and 7,000 deaths. In March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the country will be closing the border to anyone who is not a citizen, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
International flights are permitted to land only at the international airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver, in order to enhance screening, the CBC also reported. All residents flying in and out of the country are required to wear a face mask according to a government news release, Air Canada has also required passengers to have their temperature checked before flying.
Trudeau also confirmed at a press conference that he spoke with President Trump and has agreed to initially close the border to the U.S — a restriction that has been extended til June 22.
“This is an important decision that will keep people in both of our countries safe,” Trudeau said at a press conference, according to CTV.
India has over 165,000 cases of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the world's largest lockdown on March 24, which has now been extended to May 31, according to The Associated Press, however some small shops and businesses have reopened.
Essential places like grocery stores, ATMs, and gas stations will remain open. The Taj Mahal is also closed.
Indira Gandhi International Airport has begun reopening, requiring passengers to check in online before they come to the airport and scan their boarding passes themselves, according to CNN.
India Railways is repurposing its empty train cars for makeshift isolation wards.
Brazil has reported over 411,000 confirmed cases. Most Brazilian states have instituted quarantine restrictions, according to The BBC.
On May 25, the Trump administration announced it will restrict entry to any foreign nationals who spent time in Brazil 14 days before planning to come to the U.S.
Australia's Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has instituted nationwide restrictions including closures of restaurants, gyms, and places of worship. Australians are also advised to avoid non-essential travel, as the country has over 7,100 cases of coronavirus and 103 deaths.
Anyone returning from overseas must quarantine for 14 days.
Under the new restrictions, gatherings of more than 500 people outside or more than 100 people inside. However, schools are still open but parents have the option as to whether they'd like their children to attend.
Australia's Department of Health has an ongoing active warning in regards to coronavirus, with strict travel restrictions to China.
New Zealand has lifted the majority of its strict lockdown restrictions as they've seen a downturn in new cases. People can return to work in a contactless manner and small gatherings can be held.
The country, with just under 1,504 cases of coronavirus reported new infections in the single digits.
"We are not out of the woods," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged. "(Level three) is a recovery room of sorts to assess if the incredible work that New Zealanders have done ... has worked."
How are airlines responding to coronavirus?
In the latest news in the airline industry, the Department of Transportation has ruled that airlines are required to issue refunds for flights that are canceled or changed due to coronavirus.
“Although the COVID-19 public health emergency has had an unprecedented impact on air travel, the airlines’ obligation to refund passengers for canceled or significantly delayed flights remains unchanged,” the DOT wrote in its Enforcement Notice. “The longstanding obligation of carriers to provide refunds for flights that carriers cancel or significantly delay does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control (e.g., a result of government restrictions).”
T+L spoke to experts for more clarification when it comes to getting a refund.
On April 14, the federal government reached a deal with major U.S. airlines for a bailout deal of $25 billion.
Airlines around the world have halted service to mainland China amid warnings from WHO. As time has gone on since the beginning of the outbreak, airlines have adapted to evolving restrictions and advisories to accommodate customers.
United, American, and Delta have all suspended their service to China, citing low demand. The longest of these cancellations are with Delta, which has suspended mainland China service until April 30. As New York has become an epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, many airlines have suspended their flight routes to and from JFK and LaGuardia Airports.
In a statement, Lufthansa Group (including Austrian Airlines and Swiss) said they will not accept new bookings to China through the end of February, however the airlines will continue to operate flights to Hong Kong. British Airways announced an “immediate” suspension of flights to mainland China.
Travelers should contact their airline directly for more information.
How are cruise lines responding to coronavirus?
In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an extension to its no-sail order, meaning that cruise ships will not resume service in U.S. waters until at least July 24. The CDC also recommends that “travelers defer all cruise travel worldwide,” due to COVID-19 at this time.
Norwegian Cruise Line is following the CDC’s no-sail directive and will not resume sailings until at least July 1, the company announced on its website. All cruises through September 30 can be canceled up to 48 hours before the vacation start date. Future cruise credits can be used on trips through December 2022.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean plans to resume operations for a large part of its fleet on June 12. All affected passengers will receive a future cruise credit for 125 percent of their original booking. The new cruises must be booked by Dec. 31, 2021 for cruises through Apr. 30, 2022. The cruise line's "cruise with confidence" policy allows ticket holders to cancel reservations within 48 hours.
Carnival Cruise Line plans to slowly resume its North American service starting August 1. "Guests will receive a full credit for their fare, usable on any future sailing of the guest’s choice in 2020 or 2021," their announcement read.
Princess Cruises extended their service suspension through the summer. Some cruises will remain on pause even through the fall.
Norwegian Cruise Lines has extended its suspension through July with plans to resume their sailings in August, according to USA Today.
Seabourn paused its sailings for five cruise ships through the autumn. The ships will not resume service until October or November, depending on their routes. Passengers whose trips are canceled will receive a 125 percent future cruise credit, which may be used on sailings through Dec. 31, 2022.
Virgin Voyages delayed its much-anticipated debut of the Scarlet Lady, originally scheduled for April. The inaugural cruise has now been pushed back to August, “when we can all feel free to enjoy ourselves,” Richard Branson wrote in a letter to passengers.
Viking River Cruises also announced a suspension of trips until June 30. The company's announcement follows the news of a passenger on one of their ships who tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the quarantine of 28 other people on board. Customers whose trips are canceled can receive a 125 percent credit or a cash refund, depending on individual circumstance.
For future cruise plans, the managing editor of Cruise Critic recently told Travel + Leisure, "It’s best to contact your cruise line or travel advisor directly with any questions or concerns. All cruise lines that have canceled cruises are offering affected guests the option to receive a full refund.”
The last three cruise ships at sea finally disembarked in April after weeks of searching for (and being denied) docking ports.
The Grand Princess, which was quarantined on the coast of California, finally let its crew disembark following a week docked in Oakland, after one passenger died from coronavirus. More than 2,000 passengers were allowed off the ship last week and put into a two-week quarantine at a military base. The Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan has been completely evacuated after its quarantine from Feb. 1 through Feb. 14, during which time five passengers died. Princess Cruises has canceled all of its global sailings through May 10 following both incidents.
Another cruise ship that was under quarantine earlier this month was Holland America's Westerdam, which left Hong Kong on Feb. 1. It was denied disembarkment in the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Guam, and Thailand. The cruise ship always asserted that its 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members on board were healthy. Passengers aboard the cruise ship who have returned to the United States no longer need to isolate and can resume normal activities, according to the CDC, The New York Times reported.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is fighting any notion that cruise ships are inherently an incubator for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. “While it’s easy to focus on cruising because of its high profile, the fact is, cruising is neither the source nor cause of the virus or its spread,” the association said in a statement. “What is different about the cruise industry is the very stringent reporting requirements applicable to vessels that do not apply to comparable venues on land where the spread of communicable disease is just as prevalent. It would be a false assumption to connect higher frequency and visibility in reporting to a higher frequency of infection.”
Should I cancel my trip because of the coronavirus outbreak?
The U.S. State Department issued a level 4 — its highest level — warning, notifying Americans that they should not travel to China. The CDC also issued a warning against all nonessential travel to China. However, this does not include Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan.
Travel warnings for Italy and South Korea were increased from a Level 3 to a Level 4 on Saturday, advising Americans not to travel to infected areas.
To feel secure about any upcoming travel plans, communicate with your hotel and airline directly, and monitor updates and alerts for the current information in your destination.
More Coronavirus Travel Advisory Information
The information in this article reflects that of the publishing time above. However, as statistics and information regarding coronavirus rapidly change, some figures may be different since this story was originally posted. While we strive to keep our content as up to date as possible, we also recommend visiting sites like the CDC or websites of local health departments.