Coronavirus UK latest: Is it safe to travel? What you need to know

Coronavirus has caused widespread travel disruptions, with flights cancelled and red lines drawn up about where you should travel to. Amid the chaos, holidays have become hellish for many citizens, such as those stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The ship has been stuck in Japan after a passenger who had disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus. The British government has come under attack for not evacuating its citizens from the cruise liner, with one passenger saying that he had “given up on anybody in the UK”.

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The threat of catching the virus may loom large in many people’s minds, but should you cancel your travel plans?

What official bodies are saying

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is currently advising against all travel to Hubei Province, and against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China.

The new strain of the coronavirus was first identified in Hubei Province. If you’re in China and able to leave, you should do so, cautions the public body.

The FCO is not advising against travel to any other country/territory as a result of coronavirus risks.

Some countries in Asia and further afield have announced increased travel restrictions for travellers who have recently been in Hubei Province or elsewhere in China, however.

If you’re affected by these changes or need further information, contact the local immigration authorities or the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country you’re travelling to.

Some airlines, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have suspended flights to and from China, or revised their schedules.

“If you’re travelling, you should comply with these measures. Contact your airline, travel company, port authorities or local health authorities if you need further information,” advises the Department of Health (DoH).

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How can I tell if someone has the coronavirus?

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

How to avoid catching or spreading the virus when travelling

As the NHS explains, there’s currently no vaccine for coronavirus, but there are things you can do to help stop germs like coronavirus spreading.

The health body recommends the following:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

The NHS also advises against touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.

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What should I do if I think I have it?

If there’s a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to isolate yourself, warns the NHS.

This means that for 14 days after returning from China or other specified areas, you should:

  • Stay at home
  • Not go to work, school or public areas
  • Not use public transport or taxis
  • Ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands for you
  • Try to avoid visitors to your home – it’s OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food

“While the risk to people in the UK is low, these steps can help reduce the possible spread of infection,” explains the NHS.

What is the current situation in the UK?

As of 15 February, a total of 2,992 people have been tested, of which 2,983 were confirmed negative and nine positive.

If more cases are confirmed in the UK, it will be announced as soon as possible by the Chief Medical Officer of the affected country.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, has announced strengthened legal powers to bolster public health protections against coronavirus.

The regulations have been put in place to reduce the risk of further human-to-human transmission in this country by keeping individuals in isolation where public health professionals believe there is a reasonable risk an individual may have the virus.

The Department of Health and Social Care will be publishing updated data on its website on a daily basis at 2pm until further notice.

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