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Coronavirus outbreak: Latest updates

This feed was updated at 7pm on Tuesday January 28

The FCO is advising against all but essential travel to mainland China amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The advice excludes travel to Hong Kong and Macao.

Updated advice published by the FCO on Tuesday evening said: “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to Hubei Province due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak. If you’re in this area and able to leave, you should do so.

“The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao).

“The Chinese government continue to impose further restrictions on movement within China in response to the coronavirus outbreak. It may become harder over the coming weeks for those who wish to leave China to do so.

“If you feel that you may want to leave China soon, you should consider making plans to do so before any further restrictions may be imposed.”

The FCO warned that due to increasing travel restrictions and difficulty accessing medical assistance, it is working to “make an option available” for British nationals to leave Hubei Province.

Earlier on Tuesday Hong Kong closed its high-speed rail link to mainland China and suspended permits for Chinese tourists visiting the territory after the territory confirmed six cases of coronavirus.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, said rail and other cross-border train services would be cancelled from January 30 and the number of flights cut in half.

Bus routes will also be reduced while some boundary crossings have been shut.

The deadly virus broke out in Hubei’s provincial capital Wuhan. The death toll is now up to 106 across China with more than 4,500 confirmed ill.

Almost 50 cases have been confirmed in countries outside China including Thailand, the US and Australia.

Travel restrictions have been tightened and wearing masks in public is now mandatory in some cities.

All transport hubs including airports, railway and bus stations, have been closed in Wuhan and travel restrictions are in place in other cities in Hubei Province.

Many tourist attractions are closed. China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism has suspended all domestic tour group companies’ activities to prevent further virus spread.

Public Health England has offered advice to travellers and the FCO has urged visitors to comply with any additional screening measures put in place by local authorities.

The FCO said it is “working to make available an option for British nationals to leave Hubei province”.

Read the full FCO advice for China here

Airlines

British Airways is offering customers due to fly to or from anywhere in China, including Hong Kong, full refunds or the option to rebook.

The airline said: “We fully understand that you may want to change your travel plans as a result of the recent coronavirus outbreak in China, and so whilst we await further advice from the government and health organisations, we are offering any customers due to fly to or from China including Hong Kong until 23 February the option to refund or rebook.”

Singapore Airlines is waiving all cancellation and change fees for passengers with tickets issued prior to January 24 for travel to and from mainland China up to and including February 29.

“We also have in place a set of standard operating procedures to handle various in-flight medical emergencies, including potentially infectious diseases,” the airline said in a statement.

Coronavirus shutterstock

“Any unwell passenger will be attended to by the relevant medical authorities immediately after the aircraft lands.

“Passengers and crew who are feeling unwell and have travelled to China recently are strongly advised to promptly seek medical attention, and report their travel history.”

Hong Kong-based Cathay Dragon has suspended flights to and from Wuhan until March 31.

The Cathay Pacific subsidiary is continuing to run flights to other mainland China destinations, but timings and schedules are subject to change.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and will continue to coordinate with the health authorities in Hong Kong and in all the ports to which we operate flights,” the airline said.

“Our customer services team will be assisting affected passengers to refund their bookings or postpone their travel plans.

Iata said it is closely monitoring developments related to the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

The airline trade body said it is “actively engaged with the World Health Organisation secretariat, ICAO and the US Centres for Disease Control”.

Iata added: “WHO is advising measures to limit the risk of export or import of the disease, without unnecessary restrictions on international traffic.

“Airlines are prepared to work with public health authorities when there are outbreaks of communicable diseases with well-developed standards and best practices.”

Tour operators

Speaking before the FCO changed its travel advice, Wendy Wu Tours founder Wendy Wu said she was confident the outbreak of the coronavirus will be contained quickly as a result of the “lightening speed” it is being dealt with by the Chinese authorities.

The operator has no escorted group tours travelling or scheduled to depart for China from the UK until the end of February due to the Chinese New Year period, which is a particularly busy time for domestic travel and lasts until January 25.

She said: “We feel extremely confident that by the time our tours start, and the attractions re-open, everything will be back to normal and that this will not have a big impact on travel.

“This is not as big as it is being made out to be in the media.”

Wu said she had had assurances from the Chinese government that preventative measures were well underway to isolate the virus and plan an immunisation programme.

Some private, tailormade tours are going ahead, she said, and to date there have been no cancellations.

Any clients due to travel in February can cancel or postpone free of charge.

Wu admitted the media coverage would inevitably mean a short term “dip” in sales and enquiries for China as a result of the outbreak but said she expected there to be more interest in the destination longer term, once the country’s main attractions have re-opened, as a result of publicity generated.

Kerry Golds, managing director of Abercrombie & Kent, said none of its tours visit Wuhan but is advising customers to wear surgical masks.

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

Exodus Travels said it has no passengers currently travelling in China. The first group tour departures are scheduled to run until at the end of March, with one itinerary passing through Wuhan.

The operator said it has a contingency plan in place to divert this itinerary away from Wuhan, “if needs be”.

“As the health and safety of our clients is our primary concern, we shall continue to closely monitor the FCO advice and that of the relevant health authorities.”, the operator said.

Kuoni said most of its clients due to travel are booked onto small group escorted tours in March and it is “keeping a close eye on the situation” and calling customers due to travel.

Cruise lines

Royal Caribbean International and MSC Cruises cancelled sailings from Shanghai on Monday and Tuesday.

Royal’s Quantum-Ultra class ship Spectrum of the Seas was due to sail a four-day Best of Okinawa cruise on Monday, but the line has suspended the voyage and is offering affected passengers full refunds.

Spectrum of the Seas

The line has also 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.”

MSC Cruises has cancelled its sailing on MSC Splendida due to depart today (Tuesday) also from Shangai and is offering passengers full refunds or the option to rebook an alternative sailing  with additional onboard credit on a date before the end of the year.

The line said: “We will continue to closely monitor the public health and safety situation in China and are consulting with international and local health authorities, as well as the ministry of transport of the People’s Republic of China, and strictly follow their advice and recommendations.

“Guests and travel partners have been informed and will be kept abreast of any further changes as the situation evolves.”

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