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Coronavirus Travel Risks: What travelers should know about NOCV-19 outbreak (updated)

Updated: COVID-19 information for tourists in the Czech Republic

BRAKING News 

23:20 – 15 March 2020: 

Czech Government has limited free movement of persons, until 26th March. More than the limitation of free movement, it is a set of precautions to limit person-to-person contact.

13:50 – 13 March 2020: 

Czech Government has issued new stricter precautions that will apply from Sunday (15 March) midnight until further notice.

    • Closed borders: Czech citizens are not allowed to travel to any countries unless they have a working permit in such country
    • No entry for foreignersNo foreigners form any country are allowed to enter the Czech Republic unless they have a working permit or temporary/permanent residence.
    • Deliberate spreading (not following the quarantine, safety rules) of COVID-19 is classified as a criminal offense.
 

15:00 – 12 March 2020: (old)

The government of the Czech Republic has declared a state of emergency for 30 days.

    • No entry for foreigners: the government has banned the entry of foreigners from 13 potentially hazardous countries to enter the Czech Republic (China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, but also Austria, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain or France). Foreigners with temporary residence are an exception.
    • No entry to risk areas: Czech citizens and foreigners with temporary residence are not allowed to travel to above mentioned countries. 
    • Ban on events with the participation of over 30 people: Including theatre plays, cinemas, and other cultural performances as well as sports, religious and other events such as pilgrimages both public and private.
    • Restricted access to public gyms, clubs, and libraries.
    • Vehicle transportation across borders is limited to a maximum of 9 people

Friendly note: I fully sympathize with you if you are completely fed up with media coverage of COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, I won’t be angry if you skip reading this article… you might as well want to skip to the last paragraph, where you will find my honest opinion on this dilemma.

Some of us like classic seaside vacations, others prefer adventures in lands of fire or ice. Doesn’t matter which group you belong to, we have one thing in common – we all love to travel. And that’s why we also have another problem in common – recent outbreak of Coronavirus (referred to as: “2019-nCoV” or “COVID-19” or “SARS-CoV-2” or “Novel Coronavirus”). This virus, about 100 times smaller than the thickness of human hair, is now causing havoc around the world. And thanks to the excessive media coverage, many of us may now be afraid or panic – in most circumstances, it is completely unnecessary. Yet still, it is not wise to underestimate this worldwide phenomenon. Let’s take a closer look at this together.

Coronavirus Travel Risks – table of contents:

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that usually infect the upper respiratory tract (RTI) of various animal species, including birds and mammals. Exceptionally these viruses may mutate and then they can start spreading from infected animals to and between humans. During the recent past, only four major coronaviruses outbreaks have been recognized:

      • in 2003 outbreak of SARS-CoV in Foshan, China (infected > 8,000 people and reported at least 774 deaths)

      • between 2015 and 2018 three major outbreaks of MERS-CoV in the various Middle East cities (infected > 2,000 people reported around 858 deaths)

Although both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV had a much higher fatality rate (~10% and ~30%) it seems that the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is more contagious or current climate is more suitable for its spreading.

First infections of the novel coronavirus appeared in the 11-million-person city of Wuhan (Hubei Province, China). Speculations considered for the origin of the virus a large market in the Wuhan’s center where both live and dead animals were sold. It was also believed that infected animals were snakes or bats. Recent research suggests that Pangolins may also be the animal source of COVID-19. However, none of these information was confirmed, and the exact source of this coronavirus still remains a mystery.

Coronavirus affects most often the mucous membranes of the upper and lower respiratory tract. Typical symptoms of the disease include respiratory difficulties, fever, and cough. The incubation period is usually between two and fourteen days. There is no known treatment for any coronavirus disease, only symptoms are treated. Currently, around seven types of coronavirus can be transmitted to humans.

How is coronavirus transmitted?

Coronavirus is an airborne disease. This doesn’t mean that the virus can fly itself, but the virus is transmitted via droplets (similar to flu/influenza).

Human to human transmission primarily occurs in close contact -cough, touch, handshake. But… The coronavirus survives outside a human body up to 2 days (usually only a few hours). But if a person infected with coronavirus coughs in the palm and then touches the holding-rail in public transport, you can imagine that in a few hours, a lot of people will touch it too.

Most common myths about coronavirus

Let’s take a look at the most common myths about COVID-19 that started spreading around the internet. Not only they aren’t true, but some of these hoaxes may even be dangerous.

Claim: “Antibiotics help.”

A lot of people have started to use antibiotics, thinking that they will help as a sort of prevention against the novel coronavirus. Unfortunately, it’s complete nonsense. Coronaviruses, as the name suggests, are viruses, not bacteria. Antibiotics are only effective against bacteria-based diseases. If you are taking antibiotics, the only result will be your weakened organism (especially kidneys), and therefore, you are more prone to other diseases such as flu or coronavirus. As for alternative medicine, it is the same fairy tale – there is no proven effect.

Claim: “COVID-19 is deadly.” or “COVID-19 kills only the elderly.”

Like almost any type of disease, the coronaviruses are most dangerous for the elderly and people with immunity disorder (or with weakened immunity)caused by other diseases. Children and young people don’t seem to be at such high risk. The statistics show that the average age of a patient who died of COVID-19 is around 60 years. The average mortality rate of the COVID-19 is roughly 2% (until 3. March about 3100 deaths; source: https://covid19viruslive.com/).

Claim: “Packages from China can transmit Coronavirus.”

Yes, at first glance it may seem that ordering goods from China is not a good idea in such circumstances. Fortunately, this is a hoax. As mentioned above, the virus is not able to survive long-term outside the human body (and is unable to withstand transport conditions – such as temperature changes).

Claim: “There is a cure ready.”

I wish it was true. Yes, several treatments are tested, including plasma transfers or Ebola vaccines, but none has been proven to be working. Only symptoms (fever, cough) are being treated. However, research continues very quickly.

Claim: “Alcohol or chlorine will keep you safe from COVID-19.”

Although both of these substances are in recommended amounts suitable for surface disinfection, none of them will help you if the virus has already entered your body. Drinking or spraying chlorine over your body might be deadly, as well as excessive alcohol drinking as prevention from coronavirus.

Claim: “It’s just a flu, bro!”

Well, not exactly. COVID-19 and the flu shares similar symptoms. Therefore, many people will experience the Novel Coronavirus as seasonal flu (the real lucky ones have experienced only runny nose), but the estimated mortality rate of 2% suggests more serious complications. (Compared with a flu mortality rate of 0.095% in the US; source: cnbc.com) Also, the incubation time of COVID-19 can be up to 14 days, which is really dangerous since you still can during this period infect others. However, three months is a still short time to make any conclusions, including the comparison with flu.

Other busted myths connected to COVID-19:

UV lamps, hand dryers, sesame oil, regularly rinsing your nose, drinking hot water or eating garlic haven’t proved to be effective either. Although eating garlic is healthy! 

How to plan a holiday during coronavirus outbreak?

So dear travelers, what to do now? Should you travel during COVID-19 outbreak? Well, yes! However, it is necessary to follow all the safety rules issued by your government, the government of the country your traveling to, and WHO.

Countries most affected by COVID-19 identified as critical (currently China, South Korea, and Italy) should be avoided. At the same time, try to spend as little time as possible in places with a high concentration of people (big cities, airports…). You get me, right.

And finally, consider your current health – if you are over 50 years old and have health problems (breathing problems, heart …), be more strict – avoid all locations where COVID-19 has been confirmed. Did you pay for your holiday in Venice? Cancel it. I understand that this is unpleasant, but if you can visit Scandinavia instead. Own safety always comes first.

If you are young and healthy, there is not much to worry about. The chances of catching Coronavirus (if you avoid critical locations) is very low. And the symptoms of the disease would probably be similar to the flu. Then the main risk is that you will spread the disease and might infect weaker or the elderly (even your parents or grandparents) and only you can decide if you want to take the risk. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep in mind prevention.

How to protect yourself and others from coronavirus

  • Wash your hands often and very thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.  Don’t forget the fingertips and thumbs! You might want to use disinfectant gel. (Although they are not proven to be 100% effective, having own soap if better than a shared one.)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth with your arm/sleeve, not your hand (the droplets can then passed on).
  • Avoid crowded places (airports, public transport in affected areas …)
  • Use tissues only once and directly throw them in the trash.
  • Probably obvious, but it’s better to mention – avoid people who are obviously ill.
  • Surgical/face masks may cause more harm. Surgical masks are used to prevent spreading disease (for already ill people) and are meant to be worn for only a short period of time. After a time, they will probably only help to spread virus/bacteria particles. Do not use them as a prevention unless you are ill. 
  • If needed wear an FFP3 respirator. Why FFP3? it uses a filter over which coronavirus particle (in droplets) is unlikely to pass. It cannot be said that FFP1 and FFP2 are useless but much less effective. Wear them airtight, over your mouth and nose. A wrongly worn respirator may have a similar effect as above mentioned surgical mask. Wear them for the recommended time only and dispose them afterward (if they are for one time use). And again respirators are not 100% effective.
  • Do not trust everyone. It is 2020 but hoaxes are still a thing. Keep that in mind, when an auntie you haven’t heard about recommends you a magical treatment/prevention in your email inbox. Centers for disease control and prevention and the World Health Organization can give you useful tips. 
  • Follow the safety rules of health officials. 
  • Consider quarantine if you have been recently traveling or at least don’t visit anyone elderly. Many countries, including the Czech Republic health officials, may now require their citizens to stay in quarantine if they have traveled to the most affected areas such as Italy or China. Many employers will be happy to give you the option of a home office.
  • Your own health should always be a priority.

Live Map of COVID-19 outbreak

For up-to-date information on coronavirus outbreak (including Bloomberg: COVID-19 outbreak map, Interactive COVID-19 outbreak map), visit the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The only continent where the virus has not been confirmed is Antarctica. The countries with the highest number of confirmed cases are: China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran. Japan, Germany, Singapore, and France also have over 5 000 confirmed cases.

Are coronavirus conspiracy theories true?

Various conspiracy theories began to spread on the Internet. The Washington Times, for example, came up with the theory that it is a leaked biological weapon from a Wuhan laboratory (allegedly, the Wuhan Biology Laboratory is directly linked to the development of secret biological weapons in China). More absurd, however, is the theory that it is a deliberately released virus to wipe out the elderly. Please don’t believe it. Conspiracy theories are … Conspiracy theories 🙂

Is it safe to travel to the Czech Republic and should you visit Prague during COIVD-19 outbreak?​

 The government of the Czech Republic has temporarily closed borders, please read the braking news above. Ministry of health of the Czech Republic official website

Well, no one can guarantee you a 100% safety from coronavirus in any country or during transport. However, according to the latest news, the Czech Republic seems to be relatively safe from coronavirus. Over 100 cases of COIVD-19 have been identified in the Czech Republic to this day and 4000 people are staying in quarantine. All patients had recently visited Italy or been in close contact with someone already infected.

You can get good travel and medical/health insurance for your stay. If needed (have a fever or other symptoms) you can contact your insurance provider company – they will advise you what to do and be happy to help. If you experience any symptoms during flight always tell the crew, they will know what to do. There should also be a standby medical team at Prague airport. In emergency cases, you can always contact local authorities – call 112.

In the Czech Republic, some safety measures have been made – as a normal tourist, you don’t need to worry. Direct flights from China, South Korea, and high-risk areas in Italy (Milano, Venice, Bologne) have been temporarily stopped. Some public buildings such as universities and Parliament have limited access for the public. A part of the World Cup Biathlon series, which should take place in Nové Mesto (Czech Republic) won’t be accessible for the public and fans. According to the latest news, all public events hosting more than 30 people are temporarily banned. Restaurants, shops are working from 8am to 8pm.

So should you be scared of COVID-19?

As I said above, three months is still a short period to study the behavior of any disease and to make valid conclusions. Therefore no one can be surprised that governments and WHO are proceeding with excessive caution. And media are only covering this story so much because their source of income is a read/watch time.

Always keep this in mind when you see a new safety recommendation, or even big cities being put in quarantine. These precautions are not meant to scare anyone, but only to prevent a new, unknown disease from spreading.

To be honest, not all adults are now behaving rationally. Of course, in some cases, their reasons for such “excessive caution” might be well-founded. It is also ok to admit if you are scared of something unknown. However, the last thing you want is your loved ones to live in a 24/7 panic, especially kids. If your kids are scared because of the COVID-19 outbreak, try to talk to them explain everything and make them feel comfortable and safe.

So tell me, travelers, how do you perceive the situation around coronavirus? If you have a similar opinion, I’d be happy if you shared this article with your friends. Any view is welcomed in the comment section!

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