The Coronavirus pandemic has swept the globe with over 20,000 confirmed cases worldwide. Additionally, over 400 people have lost their lives, the majority of who are in China. As the death toll skyrockets, the FCO has updated its travel advice, urging Britons in the country to leave, and advising against all but essential travel.
The updated warning on the FCO website reads: “The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao).
“The British Consulates-General in Wuhan and Chongqing are currently closed.
“If you’re in China and able to leave, you should do so. The elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be at heightened risk.”
Coronavirus began in Hubei Province, thought to have been sourced from meat at an animal market.
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FCO advise Britons to leave China
The FCO initially advised “against all travel to Hubei Province due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak”, however, this has now stretched far beyond the province’s borders.
In their most recent update, the FCO also advised that some staff and dependents from the British Embassy and consulates were being withdrawn from China.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has also warned against “all but essential travel to mainland China”.
Mr Raab said: “The safety and security of British people will always be our top priority. As such, we now advise British nationals in China to leave the country, if they can, to minimize their risk of exposure to the virus.
“Where there are still British nationals in Hubei Province who wish to be evacuated, we will continue to work around the clock to facilitate this.”
Although the illness began in China, it has since spread to countries around the world.
There have been cases reported in France, Germany, Japan, the US, the UK, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, the UAE, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Canada and Nepal.
Meanwhile, the first death outside of China was reported in The Philippines.
What should you do if you are travelling?
Many airlines, cruises and other tour operators have cancelled journeys to mainland China.
These include British Airways and Virgin Atlantic who have cancelled their usual journeys.
A statement from the airline reads: “We have suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect following advice from the Foreign Office against all but essential travel.
“We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority.
“Customers due to travel to or from China in the coming days can find more information on BA.com.”
Virgin Atlantic made a similar offer to their passengers booked onto flights to Hong Kong, Shanghai or any “codeshare” destinations within China.
Passengers can rebook, or cancel and receive a full refund, regardless of booking terms and conditions.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “We’re closely monitoring the situation regarding Coronavirus and will always follow the guidance set out by relevant authorities.
“We urge customers to visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel web page for more information on travelling to affected areas.”
Additionally, many countries are now denying entry to travellers who hold a Chinese passport or who have recently been to the country.
Airports and travel operators are putting in place practises to ensure passenger safety, however, the NHS and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have offered advice to travellers who are concerned.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say hand sanitiser could play a role in preventing the coronavirus from spreading or people contracting it.
The NHS states that handwashing with soap and warm water is still the best way to stop the spread of flu viruses. Passengers are allowed to carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer on flights in their hand luggage so long as it is under 500ml.
Anything over that size can be carried in checked luggage.
Meanwhile, across the world face-masks are selling out as more people use them as a preventative measure.
However, experts point out that if you wear a regular surgical mask, you are not protected from the virus as some may believe.
To protect against coronavirus, a specialised mask – an N95 respirator – can be effective. Coronavirus requires the thicker respirator mask to help prevent spread.
Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, explained why these specialist masks are the best form of protection – but also why they can be uncomfortable to wear.
He said: “You have to work to breathe in and out. It’s a bit claustrophobic. It can get moist and hot in there.”
Dr Schaffner added: “I know that I can wear them when I need to for about a half-hour.
“But then I have to go out of the isolation room, take it off and take some deep breaths, kind of cool off before I can go back in.”