China remains the country with the largest number of cases of coronavirus, but is it safe to travel? And should you cancel your trip to Hong Kong? We answer your questions below
China is still registering new cases of coronavirus, with the number infected passing 80,000 and deaths over 3,000.
The vast country was the first to be subject to Foreign Office (FCO) restrictions, which remain in place today: the FCO advises against all travel to the province of Hubei, the capital of which is Wuhan, where the illness originated. It also advises against “all but essential travel” to the rest of mainland China.
“If you’re in China and able to leave, you should do so,” the FCO says. “The elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be at heightened risk.”
The Foreign Office advice, however, only extends to mainland China and excludes Hong Kong and Macao, both key tourism destinations.
What does the Foreign Office say?
The FCO says that it has closed its Consulates in Wuhan and Chongqing and that the ability of the Embassy to provide help to Britons still in the country is now limited: “British Consulates-General in Shanghai and Guangzhou will – for the immediate future – continue to provide essential travel documentary services to British nationals wishing to leave China.”
For those still travelling to China – airlines are still operating, see below for more information – the Foreign Office warns that the Chinese authorities have imposed “various control and quarantine measures across the country, including restrictions on movement, reduced transport, entry and exit controls for towns and villages, and isolation requirements for travel between different parts of the country”.
It goes on: “The possibility that local authorities impose mandatory quarantine in response to fresh outbreaks is high. Restrictions in place may also affect travel to Hong Kong and entry to other countries if travelling from China.”
Among the measures in place across the country are:
- Temperature checks at transport hubs, hotels and other commercial centres
- Restrictions on access to residential centres
- Self-isolation plans for anyone arriving from a number of destinations, including Italy, Japan and South Korea. There have been reports of British nationals being placed under “compulsory quarantine”
Anyone with future travel booked elsewhere should check requirements as some countries have imposed restrictions on entry for anyone to have recently visited China.
Will my holiday be affected?
If you are travelling independently and can gain entry into China, it is likely your trip will still be impacted.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has suspended all tour group companies’ activities and closed a number of tourist attractions; some business have also closed.
The Foreign Office says: “A large number of airlines, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have announced a suspension of flights to and from mainland China. Other commercial airlines are still operating, but it may become harder to access departure options over the coming weeks.”
It also warns that medical facilities across China are under pressure and some may not accept patients. Fresh outbreaks could lead to mandatory quarantines, it says.
What should I do if my holiday is affected?
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have cancelled their services to China, the former flying to Beijing and Shanghai and the latter to Shanghai.
Both continue to fly to Hong Kong, but are allowing rebookings or cancellations free of charge: BA up until May 31 and Virgin up until March 31. Both airlines have also introduced more flexible booking options for alternative destinations to help travellers with peace of mind.
Check with your airline for more details.
If you are in any doubt as to whether the coronavirus will affect your trip, contact your airline or tour operator – as the Foreign Office has now advised against travel to China, your tour operator or airline is likely to offer you refunds or alternative trips to avoid affected areas.
Travellers flying via China or Hong Kong onward to destinations in south-east Asia or Australia should check if their flights are affected. Travellers who have been to China recently but have plans elsewhere, especially in the US and Caribbean, should check with their operator or airline as to whether restrictions apply to them.
“We urge all customers to check and familiarise themselves with their travel insurance policies before travelling,” Virgin Atlantic said.
Trips to areas on the periphery, including, for example, Japan or Korea, are not covered by the FCO advice and therefore you would likely incur a charge should you wish to cancel. The FCO has, however, added advice about the virus to a number of its pages, including Japan, Hong Kong and Australia.
China Southern, China Eastern and China Air are still operating some flights to Europe, including the UK, but are allowing passengers to cancel and reschedule flights free of charge. Other airlines, including Qantas and Cathay Pacific, where some passengers might be affected have also issued guidance.
Wendy Wu Tours, which runs trips to Asia, said it was monitoring the situation and expects travel plans to China from April 8 to operate as normal, but will contact anyone with April and May departures to discuss any changes.
“The current travel advice is relevant for travel to China now, i.e in the next few days, and is changing on a daily basis,” it said. “We are fully expecting the travel advice to be revised again shortly and will update as soon as this information changes.”
Abta, the UK travel association, said customers due to travel should read the Foreign Office advice for the country they are visiting and to follow the health advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre.
What is the travel advice for Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is not included in the Foreign Office’s travel advice for China, however it has issued guidance on visiting the territory, where there have been more than 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and two deaths.
Flights to Hong Kong continue to operate, with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Cathay Pacific still flying from the UK. However, some services have been reduced.
The Hong Kong government has announced a number of measures to combat coronavirus and travellers have been told to expect increased health screening measures on entry to and departure from the city. There is also a 14-day mandatory home quarantine period for new arrivals of any nationality who have been to mainland China in the 14 days previous.
All non-Hong Kong residents who have been in South Korea in the previous 14 days will be denied entry. Anyone who has been to the Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna or Veneto regions of Italy in the past 14 days will be required to stay in a quarantine centre; the same is true of Iran.
All border crossings with mainland China remain indefinitely closed.
The Foreign Office says: “Those transiting through Hong Kong airport will not be automatically subject to mandatory quarantine, but will be subject to advanced screening measures, including temperature checks.”
What is the advice for visitors going to Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Singapore?
See here for a full breakdown of travel guidance to Asia, including Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
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