Let’s talk about the not-so-discreet-and-very-annoying elephant in the room: Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The fast-spreading respiratory disease is causing a bit of a global panic. It’s spread to over 80 countries and there have been over 110,000 confirmed cases worldwide… but how worried should you actually be?
What are the facts?
We’re not doctors, nor are we scientists, but we did want to look at the facts and share some great sources of information with you:
- This is a BBC article about the symptoms of Coronavirus, how to protect yourself, and what the risks actually are. The article was written for UK citizens, but the information is sound. Here is a more dense Australian version.
- These are five things you need to know about Coronavirus - e.g. face masks aren’t really useful.
- Coronavirus testing in South Korea has been the most extensive thus far, and shows a much lower death rate than the rest of the world.
- Doctor Abdu Sharkawy who works in the Division of Infectious Disease wrote about his main concern being not the virus itself, but the consequent global panic.
- A real-time map of reported Coronavirus global cases.
- If you’ve got the time, this is a very thorough chat with infectious disease epidemiology expert, Michael Osterholm.
Our biggest takeaways are:
- Coronavirus is thought to be similar to other flus in terms of spread and prevention.
- Basic hygiene practices like washing your hands with soap or hand sanitiser, covering your mouth when you cough, and avoiding large crowds and close contact with people who are unwell are the way to go. So is staying generally healthy - eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and cut back on smoking and alcohol.
- Wearing a face mask is almost useless for protection, unless you have a cough you're trying to contain; please leave these for the dentists and doctors who actually need them!
- The symptoms - fever, a dry cough, shortness of breath - are really similar to other colds and flus, and in most cases are mild. This also means that the current Coronavirus statistics can seem more dire than they are, as so many people are infected without realising, and recover without ever getting tested.
- Some patients do end up needing medical care, and in some extreme cases, Coronavirus may lead to death.
- Those most vulnerable to Coronavirus are the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
- The death rate of Coronavirus appears to be higher than that of the seasonal flu, but it is not yet totally conclusive, as statistics differ between locations.
- South Korea is at present the country that has conducted the most thorough Coronavirus testing. This has made them the second highest country of confirmed cases (as they’re actually being reported). Their death rate is 0.6%, which is much lower than the rate calculated by China and the US.
- There is currently no vaccine available for Coronavirus.
- The death risk of Coronavirus is not so frightening to those in the medical field; what is frightening to them is how overloaded the global healthcare system could become due to infected patients needing quarantine and medical care.
- Experts are also very concerned about the repercussions of global panic & the impact on travel, tourism, trade, business and economies in general.
An almost empty flight flying from Milan to London, Laurel Chor/Getty Images
What does this mean for travellers?
The travel industry has been hit extremely hard since the spread of Coronavirus. (We’re certainly feeling it…)
Major tourist attractions have temporarily closed, events have been cancelled, popular destinations are deserted, and it seems to be worsening. Travel restrictions have even been put in place for China, Italy, South Korea, Iran and Japan.
The World Health Organisation is recommending that any elderly or travellers with pre-existing health conditions avoid traveling to areas with ongoing rates of Coronavirus transmission, as these are the persons at highest risk of fatality.
It’s also important to consider other factors like the quality of healthcare available in places you travel through, should you get sick, and the possibility of areas going into quarantine (or you getting quarantined on your way back home).
Hong Kong International Airport on 10 March, Sky News
Are there any good bits?
Thankfully, yes there are!
Due to the (worrying) crash of the travel industry, there are some crazy cheap deals on flights! Could be a great time to line up your next holiday?
If you’re traveling in the next few weeks, you’re also likely to experience usually packed attractions being pretty tourist-free. For some, that’s not a vibe, but for others - that just means less queues and less noisy crowds!
We also imagine there might be a global push to help keep tourism industries afloat, meaning some sweet discounts and travels deals could be on the horizon. Keep your eyes peeled, folks.
The bottom line
Basically guys, the best thing you can do at this stage is to stay informed, do your research, and keep a level head about this Coronavirus.
Stay safe, be hygienic, make smart decisions about your holiday plans - but don’t be more worried than you actually need to be!
And, for goodness sake, please don’t go hoarding enough toilet paper to mummify the Harbour Bridge twice over.