The rapid spread of COVID-19 around the globe has thrown the international travel industry into chaos.
Increasing numbers of travellers are opting to stay home amid fear of exposure to the new coronavirus, which has spread to 79 countries since late December, claiming more than 3,000 lives and infecting almost 95,000 people globally.The virus, first detected in China's Wuhan and for which there is no vaccine yet, has prompted worries the world over, with governments closing borders with affected countries and barring entry to or subjecting travellers from outbreak areas to lengthy quarantines. This is despite the World Health Organization (WHO) advising against such travel restrictions.
Amid the disruptions, companies are calling off major conferences and global sport bodies are cancelling, postponing or relocating key tournaments.
Should you cancel or postpone your travel plans?
It depends, say public health experts.
If you do decide to travel, even if its destinations without major cases, you should consider your own risk factors and the quality of healthcare available in the region you are going to if you become ill.
The WHO is recommending that for all travelers and those with underlying health conditions delay or avoid travel to areas that are experiencing ongoing transmission of COVID-19. That is because the disease, while mild in some 80% of cases, can be fatal for people who are above 65 years or who have chronic illnesses.
That list of countries experiencing local transmissions is updated daily by the WHO. In Asia, it currently includes China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia .
European countries on the list are Italy, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Greece and Romania. Three countries in the Middle East are listed - Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.
In the Americas, the United States, Canada and Ecuador have reported transmission of COVID-19 infections,However,Australia in the Oceania region is also on the list. Governments have also put out their own travel warnings. But this varies from country to country.
For instance, the British Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to mainland China, two cities in South Korea and the 11 towns in northern Italy that have been placed under lockdown. The US travel advice is more wide-ranging, with travellers told to avoid the whole of mainland China, South Korea, Italy and Iran unless absolutely necessary.