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Coronavirus: Advice for traveling in and within China

With the novel coronavirus, which originated in Chinese city of Wuhan, continuously spreading across the world, tourists and expats living in China are also more concerned about what they can do to protect themselves against the outbreak. As of 11 February, the virus has killed more than 1,000 people and infected more than 40,000, with the vast majority of cases in mainland China and dozens of cases in several countries including Japan, Thailand, France, and the United States. Scientists have yet to produce vaccinations to counter this novel virus.

In this Pacific Prime China article, our experts are going to discuss the safety precautions tourists and expats in China can take to minimize their risks of getting infected.

The current situation in China

The Chinese government has adopted stronger containment measures in Hubei province, as well as other major cities, in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. These measures include forbidding crowd gathering, closing public facilities, and limiting travel within the province. 

However, despite the government’s efforts, governments across the world have escalated their precautions by conducting entry and exit screenings and issuing a travel warning or ban to China. Airlines are also cutting down on or completely suspending flights to and from China. Several international events due to take place in China have been postponed, if not cancelled.

In view of the increasingly dire situation, it is advised that non-essential travel to and within China should be avoided, especially for those with underlying medical conditions or chronic diseases, or exhibiting symptoms of fever, respiratory illness, and coughing. Tourists are encouraged to contact their travel agencies or airlines regarding available routes out. They should also be aware of delays and checks when entering or leaving China, or large cities within China, and when travelling from China to other countries, particularly at airports.

Precautions for international tourists

Nevertheless, if you must visit China for business or other reasons, there are some safety precautionary measures that you can take. Below are the WHO standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of the virus.

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands;
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough;
  • If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and share prior travel history with the doctor;
  • Avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
  • Avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products to avoid cross-contamination.

In additions to the above tips, you should also:

  • Observe food safety and travel precautions of your government;
  • Wear a medically-approved, single-use face mask, which is certified as offering FFP3 protection;
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you may have contracted the virus.

What kind of mask should you wear?

There has been a lot of debate over whether face masks are really effective in protecting one from getting infected. While it can stop a sick person from contaminating others, how they can stop a healthy person from getting ill remains a question.

Having said that, face masks are very common now in China and it is very hard to get one on the market. So if you are thinking about buying one, this naturally begs the question: what kind of mask should I wear?

According to experts, most commonly-worn surgical masks can easily let in air and become moist quite quickly through the act of breathing in and out. Therefore, they can only offer limited protection.

Respirator masks, if worn properly, are way more effective in reducing the amount of virus that gets behind the mask. “N95” rated masks, which block 95 percent of small (0.3 microns) particles from entering, are the minimum standard for this type of mask. Experts also remind that people should change their masks every two to four hours.

Mental wellness is equally important

Health authorities have reiterated the importance of ‘social distancing’ and encourage people to stay indoors and work from home as much as possible. However, this kind of loneliness, together with the worry and anxiety over the outbreak, may hinder our mental wellness. Below are a few ways you can protect your mental health.

  • Maintain a healthy routine by getting enough sleep and eating nutritious food;
  • Recognize your feelings of anxiety instead of avoiding them;
  • Talk to your friends and family;
  • Go for walk in a less crowded area or at a time when you know there are fewer people;
  • Stay active by engaging in indoors exercise, which can help elevate your mood;
  • Switch off from the news to switch your focus and avoid the overwhelming feeling of anxiety.

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