The new strain of coronavirus, tentatively-known as the 2019-nCoV, is spreading at an alarming rate. In China, the tally jumped to 2,700 cases and the number of deaths climbed to at least 80. 12 countries recorded confirmed cases.
The novel coronavirus, also referred to as ‘Wuhan coronavirus’, is a viral illness new to humans that affect the respiratory system, similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). The virus is believed to have originated from a yet-to-be-identified animal source peddled in a seafood market in Wuhan. However, it is confirmed that the disease can be transmitted through humans.
As of 24 January 2020, the WHO maintained that the 2019-nCoV was not a pandemic, despite the increasing number of confirmed infections reported around the world. However, without a vaccine currently available, the novel coronavirus is causing panic worldwide.
How the virus affects travel
In an attempt to contain the virus, 15 cities are now in formal lockdown, affecting more than 57 million people. All 15 of the cities are in Hubei Province, central China. The lockdown closes the main arteries to and from the cities, paralysing road, rail and air travel.
Tourism of several countries is affected by the virus. Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, is an important transport and industrial hub for China. Known as the “thoroughfare of China,” restrictions on its transport links will have a major impact on China’s economy. China is also getting a bad rap because of the virus with many cities with confirmed cases.
Other countries are also on the move in preventing the virus to enter or spread in their territories. In the Philippines, nearly 500 tourists from Wuhan that arrived in Kalibo, Aklan this weekend were sent home after the country has suspended all flights to and from Wuhan.
Meanwhile, Malaysians are petitioning the ban of Chinese tourists to prevent the entry of the new coronavirus. Thailand is also mulling the temporary ban on Chinese tourists, but it may put a dent on its tourism industry.
Confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Australia, US, Vietnam, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal and Taiwan that may affect their tourism if the virus continues to spread.
The timing could not be any worse for Hong Kong and Australia, both with confirmed cases of coronavirus. The two countries are both recovering from recent events that greatly affected their tourism industries.
Some attractions like the Disneyland in Hong Kong and Shanghai are closed until further notice. HK’s Disneyland has not recovered yet from its losses brought about by democratic protests that paralysed HK’s travel sector.