What to do if you cannot avoid travelling this coronavirus season

Avoid travelling to the coronavirus-affected countries, if possible. If travelling is inevitable, remember to follow the government guidelines and follow the best hygiene practices.

 |  4-minute read |   04-03-2020
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The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been travelling across the globe and infecting more and more people with each passing hour. As of Wednesday afternoon, a total of 28 persons have tested positive for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in India. These include one each in Delhi and Telangana, six in Agra, 16 Italian tourists and an Indian driver, and three in Kerala who were discharged after undergoing treatment.

main_covid19-agartal_030420035501.jpgHealth desk to screen travellers for signs of the coronavirus at Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport in Agartala. (Photo: Reuters)

The Indian government has imposed heavy restrictions on travelling to other countries, especially the ones affected by the coronavirus. For instance, the latest advisory issued by the government says, “Indian citizens are advised to refrain from travel to China. People travelling to China henceforth will be quarantined on return. Indian citizens are further advised to refrain from non-essential travel to Singapore, Republic of Korea, Islamic Republic of Iran and Italy. Passengers (foreign and Indian) other than those restricted, arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan must undergo medical screening at the port of entry."

Heavy restrictions have also been imposed on the tourists intending to visit India from countries like China, South Korea, Iran and Italy. For instance, all existing visas (including e-visas that have already been issued) are no longer valid for any foreign national travelling from China. If you are a foreign national coming to India from China on an essential trip, you will need to apply afresh for an Indian visa. You can contact the Indian Embassy in Beijing 24x7 at +8618610952903, +8618612083629, helpdesk.beijing@mea.gov.in and visa.beijing@mea.gov.in. The helpline will also serve Indian nationals in China. Or you can reach out to the Consulates in Shanghai (ccons.shanghai@mea.gov.in) and Guangzhou (visa.guangzhou@mea.gov.in) for the same. If you are travelling to India from South Korea, Iran and Italy, or have a recent history of travel to these countries, you will be quarantined for 14 days on arrival to India. Do come prepared accordingly.

main_air-india-fligh_030420035800.jpgIf you are sick on the flight, inform the airline crew and get them to give you a mask. (Photo: ANI)

So this was for those who can try and avoid travelling to and from India. But what about those who are stuck in the ‘essential’ travel bracket and have compelling reasons to travel to China, South Korea, Iran or Italy? Or to other countries with sustained community transmission of Covid-19, where the local population has been infected with the virus and the spread is ongoing?

In that case, the health authorities advise you follow some simple health measures at all times (that you should be doing even otherwise — coronavirus risk or not!)

You need to observe good personal hygiene and practise frequent handwashing with soap. Follow respiratory etiquettes — cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Avoid close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness, such as a cough, runny nose etc. Since the virus is zoonotic (meaning that the initial infection originated from animals and then spread to humans), it is advisable to avoid contact with live animals and consumption of raw or undercooked meats. Further, avoid travel to farms, live animal markets or where animals are slaughtered.

At the earliest sign of an infection including a cough or a runny nose, health authorities advise you wear a mask to contain the spread.

If you feel sick on a flight while travelling, you need to:

1. Inform the airline crew about illness and get them to give you a mask and the self-reporting format.

2. Avoid close contact with family members or fellow travellers.

3. Follow the directions of airline crew while getting off the flight to avoid the spread of infection.

4. As soon as you disembark, immediately report to the Airport Health Office/Immigration Office in Delhi and also on the helpline number — 011-23978046.

5. Follow the directions of the airport health officer or as issued by the helpline.

So, all is well and you are back home and heave a sigh of relief. But what if you did that too soon? The government’s advisory as per WHO guidelines say that you are not out of risk for 28 days after you return from Covid-19 affected areas. If you feel sick within the 28 days after return, do yourself and others a favour and maintain effective self-isolation at home and with others. Consider having a sick room at home that has access to a separate bathroom, if possible. Next, immediately call the helpline number (011-23978046) and follow the directions issued. If you have already approached a doctor or healthcare facility, inform them of your travel as well.

Bottom line: Avoid travelling to infected parts of the world. If you must, remember to stay safe and also ensure others’ safety. Most importantly, do not panic or spread panic. And keep the basic hygiene in mind.

Also read: What is coronavirus? Should Wuhan flu worry you?


Rajeshwari Ganesan Rajeshwari Ganesan @rajeshwaridotg

Assistant Editor, DailyO

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