December 2019 saw the record of the first cases of pneumonia caused by the previously unknown coronavirus COVID-2019 (2019-nCoV) in the Chinese city of Wuhan (Hubei Province). Most likely, the virus has spread from animals to humans and has acquired the ability to transfer from person to person by droplet infection. By February 2020, it managed to reach 4 continents, and the number of confirmed infections was over 20,600, of which about 20,400 in mainland China alone (as of February 4, 2020).
Coronavirus: What Is It?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses transmitted by birds and mammals that cause respiratory infections. In most cases, the infections are mild, however some of the coronaviruses cause severe respiratory infections. Coronaviruses include, in addition to viruses causing common cold, also microorganisms that cause severe SARS and MERS disease.
What are the symptoms of Wuhan coronavirus infection? Alarming is the appearance of fever and fatigue of the body, combined with a decrease in kidney function, diarrhoea, a decrease in the number of white blood cells, as well as a number of symptoms from the respiratory compress - the occurrence of abundant runny nose, sore throat, dry cough and shortness of breath. Coronavirus-induced COVID-19 disease can affect people of all ages, but older people with chronic diseases have been found to experience a much worse course. The treatment is symptomatic.
How Does Coronavirus Spread?
According to hypotheses, the Wuhan coronavirus is of animal origin and has probably transferred from animals to humans at one of the markets in Wuhan, Hubei Province. Further infections were found quite quickly - this time the germs began to spread between people. Due to high contagiousness, the Chinese authorities decided to separate the cities most affected by the epidemic (including the provincial capital, 11-million Wuhan), as well as construct an isolation hospital, intended only for people who have been infected with coronavirus.
Coronavirus COVID-19 is transferred by droplet infection, and can be easily spread in agglomerations of people, for example by sneezing or coughing. Symptoms appear 2 to 14 days after infection. People who have had direct contact with the sick are most at risk of illness, such as those who help patients in hospitals or meet infected people at work or in public places. On top of that, people returning from the region of the epidemic are at an increased risk group.
How to Avoid COVID-19 Coronavirus Infection?
For this disease, as with other infectious diseases, the best way to avoid infection is strict compliance with hygiene rules. First of all, you should wash your hands with warm soapy water (at least 20 seconds) and avoid contact of unwashed hands with the mucous membrane (eyes, nose, mouth). Furthermore, it is recommended to avoid contact with sick people, as well as take extra care when contacting farm animals. Meat, fish and seafood should treated with heat for a long time (cooking, frying, baking). Following the rules is important because there is currently no vaccine for this type of virus.
The decision to travel to China and Southeast Asia depends on the travellers. All cases of non-Chinese nationality have occurred among those returning from the Far East. If you need to travel to Southeast Asia it is worth checking the terms of travel insurance and making sure that there are no exemptions in the GTC due to staying in the epidemic area.
Can I Rebook or Return My Air Ticket?
When is it possible to rebook or cancel a flight ticket? All depends on what the target or the hub airport is.
Flights to China, and with a transfer in China
If you have flight tickets on routes to China or with a transfer in China, most airlines will allow a return or rebooking of your ticket without additional costs.
Example: if you have a flight ticket to Beijing, you can request a change of date or return the ticket at no additional cost.
Example 2: if you have a flight ticket with a transfer in Beijing, you can request a change of route, change of departure date or return of ticket at no additional cost.
Some airlines also allow a refund or change of ticket as well on routes covering Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Please keep in mind that only part of the lines that have introduced a policy of cost-free returns or changes on routes to China have also included the territories mentioned above.
Note! The possibility of introducing changes applies to flights on specific dates.
Flights to other countries
In the case of tickets for flights to other countries, returns or changes are based on standard conditions of the airline’s tariff.
Example: If you have a ticket for a flight to Washington, then a possible ticket return or rebooking will be carried out as standard, in accordance with the policy of the selected airline (usually it is paid extra). The coronavirus outbreak will not affect the procedure.
Example 2: if you have a ticket for a flight to Johannesburg with a transfer in London, then all changes (including changes of the route) and ticket refunds will take place in accordance with the tariff conditions (usually paid extra). The presence of coronavirus does not affect these conditions.
Example 3: if you have the so-called non-refundable ticket for low-cost airlines to London and you want to rebook or cancel the flight, you cannot claim a refund for an unused ticket.
You can find information on the airline policy below.
What Is The Reaction of Airlines To The Coronavirus?
The extent of the disease and the rate of spread of the virus have led airlines which maintain connections with China and neighbouring countries to restrict or suspend flights to this country.
Responses of airlines to the outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus:
- Aeroflot - the airlines allow free changes to your ticket or refund payments for flights to China and Hong Kong that are scheduled for January 24-February 7.
- Air Canada - suspension of all flights to Beijing and Shanghai until February 29. The lines allow rebooking of tickets or full refund. Flights to Taipei and Hong Kong are performed as scheduled.
- Air China - airlines have suspended some connections between China and other countries. Air China allows you to cancel your trip with a full refund.
- Air France - suspension of all flights to Wuhan until February 29, and to Shanghai and Beijing until February 9. The lines allow you to make changes to tickets or a full refund.
- Air Mauritius - suspension of all flights from Mauritius to Shanghai from January 31. The airlines allow rebooking of flights with connecting flights in Hong Kong, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.
- American Airlines - cancellation of all flights from and to mainland China by March 27. The lines allow rebooking of tickets or a full refund.
- British Airways - cancellation of all flights to and from mainland China by February 29. Passengers whose flights have been cancelled can request a full refund. Restrictions do not apply to flights from and to Hong Kong.
- Cambodia Angkor Air - suspension of all flights on the Sihanoukville-Beijing route during February 5-29. Full refund for unused tickets.
- China Eastern - the ability to opt out of travel to China with a full refund.
- China Southern - suspension of flights on the Moscow-Shenzhen route until March 26. The airlines raise the awareness of passengers about the need to undergo more stringent airport security procedures and ask for wearing masks on aircrafts.
- Delta Air Lines - suspension of all flights to and from China from February 2 to April 30. The airlines allow passengers to rebook or obtain a refund for tickets.
- EVA Air - maintains connections to China, Hong Kong and Macau, but uses additional security measures on board aircraft, including: the use of masks by the crew, the use of protective gloves and increased control of the condition of HEPA air filters. In addition, the menu on aircrafts was limited to reduce the risk of the disease spreading.
- Finnair - suspension of flights to Beijing and Shanghai until February 29, and to Guangzhou, Nanjing and Beijing Daxing Airport until March 29. At the passenger's request, the airlines can refund the entire amount for airline tickets.
- Hong Kong Airlines – the airlines allow free changes to the air ticket to and from Hong Kong, as well as connecting flights at this airport.
- LOT - suspension of flights from and to China from January 31 to February 9. Passengers who have tickets for travel until February 29 (tickets bought before January 27 this year) can postpone the departure date or cancel their ticket at no extra charge.
- Lufthansa - suspension of Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian flights to Beijing and Shanghai until February 29, and to Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao until March 28. Passengers on cancelled flights may rebook tickets or request a refund.
- Qatar Airways - suspension of all flights to and from mainland China from February 3. Passengers whose flights are cancelled can rebook their tickets for free or receive a full refund.
- S7 - suspension of all flights from and to China and Hong Kong until March 28. Full refund of purchased tickets.
- SAS - suspension of flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai from January 31 to February 9. Suspension of ticket sales for flights from the abovementioned airports until February 29. The lines allow rebooking or refund of tickets. Flights to Hong Kong are performed as scheduled.
- Turkish Airlines - suspension of all flights from and to China until February 29. Option to rebook or refund the ticket.
- United Airlines - suspension of flights to China from February 5 to March 28. The line allows you to make changes to your ticket or cancel.
- Vietnam Airlines - option to change the ticket or obtain a refund for flights from and to China from January 24.
- Virgin Atlantic - suspension of flights from and to China until February 17. Option to change your travel date or get a full refund.