Operators monitoring coronavirus crisis as people in UK are tested

Operators are closely monitoring the developing China coronavirus crisis as at least 14 people in the UK were reported to have been tested for the deadly virus.

An incident team has been set up to deal with the health threat in Scotland where five people were tested, while one man was treated for symptoms in Belfast.

Public Health England reported that 14 cases had been tested as a precautionary measure on Thursday night but the locations were not divulged.

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All had been in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus first broke out, in the last fortnight.

The likely spread of the virus came as 830 cases from 25 provinces in China were reported by authorities. At least 17 deaths out of a rising total of 26 have occurred in Hubei province including Wuhan city which has a population of 11 million.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed that Wuhan authorities closed all transport hubs including airports, railway and bus stations on Thursday.

Another four cities – Huanggag, Ezhow, Chibi and Xianto – face a similar travel clampdown as China prepared for the start of the Lunar New Year.

A total of 10 cities in the province of 60 million people now face a travel lockdown.

All major new year celebrations in Bejing have also been cancelled.

China specialist Wendy Wu Tours said: “We are aware of the coronavirus that is currently in the news and advise that all of our tours continue to run as normal and clients’ sightseeing is unaffected.

“The travel advice to China is to avoid all but essential travel to Wuhan.

“We can confirm none of our tours operate sightseeing to this city and any tours which transited through Wuhan airport have been re-routed. Travel to all other areas in China remains unaffected.

“Our passengers’ health and wellbeing is always our top priority and we will continue to closely monitor this situation.”

Kerry Golds, managing director of Abercrombie & Kent UK, said: “There has been no travel ban or warning issued yet by the UK government, and A&K’s China brochure programmes do not visit the city of Wuhan.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates to our clients as needed.

“While we are concerned about the possible spread of this new coronavirus, travel to and from China remains open.

“For any A&K guests travelling to China over this period we recommend that when flying or taking the train to wear surgical masks and our guides will avoid taking them to crowded areas.

“Our boat, the Sanctuary Yangtze Explorer does not start sailing until late March, we continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Royal Caribbean International has banned any passengers who have travelled through or are from the Wuhan region from boarding its ships as a precaution.

“All other guests embarking in China will receive enhanced, secondary health screenings before embarkation,” a spokesperson added.

“Additionally, we are increasing medical staff, providing medical consultations for our guests, and conducting special, onboard sanitizations to ensure the health of our guests and crew during their voyage.”, China’s largest online travel agency, is waiving cancellation fees on all hotels, car rentals and tickets for tourist attractions to Wuhan and is ”actively monitoring the situation to ensure the safety of all travellers”.

Shanghai Disney Resort is temporarily closing Shanghai Disneyland from Saturday “in response to the prevention and control of the disease outbreak and in order to ensure the health and safety of our guests”.

The theme park giant said: “We will continue to carefully monitor the situation and be in close contact with the local government, and we will announce the re-opening date upon confirmation.”

Many airlines have agreed to refund fares or let passengers rebook free of charge if affected, while hotels are now following suit as more travel restrictions are imposed.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China announced that airlines should give refunds for cancelled flights, triggering a slump in the share prices of the country’s three major airlines, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and China Air.

The FCO continued to advise against all but essential travel to Wuhan and warned that travel restrictions may be in place in other nearby cities.

“Public Health England has offered advice to travellers. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the local authorities,” the FCO added.

Tom Jenkins, chief executive of European tourism association Etoa, said: “We do know that the factors that led to the rapid spread of Sars are not being repeated. The Chinese authorities have been prompt in highlighting the problem.

“The Chinese may be far more mobile than they were in 2002, but the country is far better prepared and determined that the virus will be contained.

“Draconian measures are being put in place to halt any spread, including the banning of all outbound public transport from Wuhan.

“In Europe, precautions are in place. Airports are installing monitoring. Major public information campaigns are being initiated. All health officials are on alert. The virus is of major international concern, it remains a very remote threat – effectively no threat – for any traveller in Europe.”

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