28 February, 2024

A novel strain of coronavirus hit international headlines in 2020, with millions infected globally. For those travelling abroad, coronavirus is an ongoing concern. So what happened, and what should travellers know now?

What exactly is the Coronavirus?

A virus transmitted between humans, the initial cases were predominantly in Wuhan city, where the outbreak was sourced back to a fresh food market. Symptoms include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Which countries are affected?

Coronavirus spread globally, no country escaped the initial waves and it remains present across the globe. Countries with widespread, successful vaccination programs are back to normal, and cases remain at a minimum. However, this is not the case everywhere, particularly in countries which did not have access to widespread vaccinatinos.

Should I cancel my trip?

Although concern over the virus is understandable, there is no call to cancel travel at this point. Keeping up to date with your vaccinations, and continuing to take precautions like hand sanitising and mask wearing in overcrowded spaces is plenty of precaution to take for most people.

Timeline of Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in 2020

As one would expect with the rapid spread of a virus that is invisible and unpredictable, the coronavirus caused public panic and widespread travel concerns. Just weeks after airlines cut flights to China over the coronavirus outbreak, airlines cut flights elsewhere and many tours and travel events were suddenly cancelled. In particular, for anyone that was planning to travel across Asia, travel disruptions were unavoidable. Airlines, booking agents, tour operators and travel insurers all reported that even for countries without restrictions in place, large numbers of anxious customers simply wanted to avoid the region.

The summary below demonstrates just how quickly stringent travel restrictions began to play-out.

  • On 23 January 2020, Wuhan went into lockdown with flights and trains blocked and public transport halted. DFAT upgraded its warning to 'Do Not Travel' to Wuhan. The city of Wuhan in central Hubei province has since been quarantined, and nearly half of China is currently living 'under travel restrictions' with travel limitations of varying degrees enforced in provinces and cities across the country.
  • On 29 January 2020, the Smartraveller website raised the travel warning level to ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ to mainland China, which was later upgraded to 'Do Not Travel' on 2 February. Many airlines have temporarily reduced or stopped flights to China. You should contact your airline to confirm your travel arrangements.
  • On 31 January 2020, the WHO declares the new coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency of international concern.
  • A case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed in Cambodia and body temperature screenings were put in place at international airports.
  • On 2 February 2020, the US began implementing stringent travel restrictions that include temporarily denying entry to foreign nationals who visited China in the 14 days prior to their arrival in the US.
  • On 5 February 2020, after a two-week trip to Southeast Asia, more than 3,600 passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise began their 14-day quarantine aboard the cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan.
  • On 5 February 2020, Vietnam introduced stricter measures to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. If you’ve travelled to China, including transit, in the last 14 days, you won’t be allowed to enter. Expect health screening at entry points.
  • On February 7 2020, Hong Kong introduced additional measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. From 8 February, a 14-day mandatory quarantine will be imposed on anyone entering Hong Kong from mainland China.
  • On February 9 2020, Qantas suspended its two direct services between mainland China and Australia (Sydney-Beijing and Sydney-Shanghai) from 9 February until 29 March 2020, due to the entry restrictions imposed by countries including Singapore and the United States.
  • Travel restrictions spread far beyond Asia with most countries entering complete lockdowns and restricting entry. it would by July 2022 before Australia's final Covid-19 related travel restriction was lifted.

Does travel insurance cover cancellation due to coronavirus?

Travellers wanting to change their travel plans and cancel their trips are unlikely to be covered for ‘change of mind'. We have researched who covers coronavirus related cancellations, check out the full guide here

What if I go on my trip and contract coronavirus?

If you travel to an affected country and contract coronavirus, your travel insurer is likely to do everything they can to assist you. In most instances, your medical costs would be covered, subject to when you purchased your policy and any travel advice warnings that are in place. This not only includes covering the costs for medical treatment but also providing support and updates to family members where appropriate.

A final word

While fears regarding coronavirus are not unfounded, the general population are generally safe and uneffected at this point. Read further information on travel disruptions due to coronavirus and the steps you can take to recover your costs.