Is it Safe to Travel to China Now?

Is it Safe to Travel to China Now?

The Novel Corona virus is sweeping international news; so would it be safe to travel to China now? Should you cancel that coveted plane ticket and reconsider going elsewhere for vacation?

A map showing the Coronavirus's spread - China travel

What is the Novel Corona Virus?

You’re certainly aware of what this virus is. It originated at a Wuhan ‘wet’ market where wild animals were sold for consumption, and made the jump from something (likely a bat) to a human. Thus was born a new pathogen inflicting humans.

Patients can carry the virus and be asymptomatic. What makes the possibility of this virus’s spread worse than SARS is that those infected can pass it on to others even when they don’t present any symptoms.

More likely, however, those infected will develop flu-like symptoms and come down with pneumonia. At the extreme end of cases, the Novel Corona Virus causes extreme respiratory distress, organ failure, sepsis, and sometimes death.

The Novel Coronavirus - so is it safe to travel to China?

The disease has mostly killed the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions so far. A few people have recovered, but the severity of symptoms changes from person to person.

The Novel, or Wuhan, Coronavirus is being monitored closely in its transmisison by the CDC and by international medicinal organizations around the world.

As of just yesterday, the CDC announced that the virus is mutating very quickly. Also, it is spreading more easily than previously thought and every person infected is expected to infect another 3 to 4 people.

These are the official and established facts. However, there are a number of epidemiologists (those who study diseases and their spread) and scientific papers that are claiming a much broader scope to this virus.

Fears of Misinformation, Under-Reporting

Here are links to 2 videos produced recently by China’s top foreign Youtubers, laowai86 and serpentza.

In the videos, the two explain how the government started its response to the virus by arresting people who spoke out about it and demanding doctors not to talk about what they were seeing.

This obviously created an environment where containment could not begin. Because the virus took hold so quickly the government was forced to acknowledge the issue and take drastic steps to address the concerns of the domestic and international community.

Wuhan wet market - Is china safe for travel?
The Wuhan wet market where the virus is thought to have originated

This video, however, explains that three weeks into this virus’s ‘official’ christening people in Wuhan were still wandering around without face-masks and playing mah-jong in the street.

Also, face-masks were slow to catch on because they remained illegal in many public places even as the virus began to spread.

What does this tell us about the government’s figures and credibility in reporting them accurately?

Well, here’s a video from a nurse in Wuhan where she calmly explains that 90,000 people likely already have the virus.

This would not be hard to believe considering the fact that hospitals are overflowing with patients, many who cannot even be treated and are simply sent home with some sort of anti-inflammatory medicine.

Hospitals in Wuhan fighting the Novel Coronavirus

According to other reports, dead bodies mingle in hospital corridors with the throngs of patients waiting for care (who are most certainly infecting other potential patients also waiting in line for treatment).

Lastly, we have this report (yet to be peer-reviewed) from a body of epidemiologists collaborating on this virus’s spread and containment.

Their prediction?

That up to 250,000 people may have the virus in Wuhan by February 4th.

A paper detailing the spread of China's novel Coronavirus

So much for 4500 cases.

Remember, none of this is officially confirmed – but anyone who trusts the Chinese governments ‘official’ reports with impunity is either light in the neuron department or completely ignorant about how the CCP operates.

OK, so how worried should I be?

I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve lived in China for 2 1/2 years. I bought a ticket out a few days ago and will be leaving this country for 4 months, and longer if this gets worse.

China travel; is it safe?
I love my life in China, but can’t chance catching this thing

Is it because I’m afraid of the virus? Absolutely. My case, though, is different. I’m an asthmatic and any pneumonia-like condition that affects the lungs can kill me.

I’d rather not be the first young, healthy foreigner felled by this disease.

Regardless, you should take the above information into consideration.

Many people are citing that we shouldn’t panic, that the numbers are low, that chances of getting the virus are statistically insignificant, and that you’re likelier to get killed in a car crash to the hospital than by the disease.

Good points. However, I would say that there is a significant amount of risk involved in traveling to China right now.

We simply can’t be sure of how many people are affected or just how deadly this thing might prove to be.

A car crash is an isolated event. A virus can blow around in the air for hundreds of meters and leech its way past your immune system after latching onto your eyeball.

How viruses can spread

There are lots and lots of people in China who are not taking the precautions that ought to be taken, even though most are.

What if I’m Really Not Worried About Catching the Novel Coronavirus?

OK, so you’re not worried about contracting the virus, and believe it safe to travel to China now. That’s reasonable and I don’t blame you. But consider this:

All major tourist attractions are, as of two days ago, shut down across the country.

The Forbidden City, the Terra Cotta Warriors, basically every built attraction where people can congregate in large numbers is closed indefinitely.

That’s not all: bars, clubs, malls, gyms, a number of restaurants, bath-houses, movie theaters and schools are also shutting their doors for the foreseeable future.

A road is blocked in Guizhou, and a sign reads "people from outside cannot enter"
Guizhou citizens blocking off roads, telling non locals they can’t come in

It’s possible that these closures are for show. Provincial governments are going to do everything they can to make sure they don’t look like the governor of Wuhan.

And if that means closing every public establishment in spitting distance, then that’s what will happen.

It’s possible all this will blow over quickly, but unlikely for the data.

It may be that everything has been ‘closed’ at the midpoint of Chinese New Year (when it was all closed anyways) and will simply re-open once Chinese Near Year is finished.

Don’t bank on it, though.

60 million people are currently quarantined in Hubei province (where Wuhan is the capital). That’s 1/8 the population of the entire USA.

If you’ve got a trip planned and want to roll the dice then you can wear a face mask, wash your hands often, and take all the blah blah prevention measures necessary. Chances are you’ll be fine.

But you may get quarantined. And may not seeing anything of import.

And may catch the damn thing.

With that in mind, travel to China now at your own risk. If you choose to, get yourself insured. If you choose not to, it’ll still be there once this all dials back.

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