Updates from Virtuoso preferred partners and helpful resources regarding the Coronavirus outbreak aggregated here for your convenience.

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February 2, 2020

(CNN)The United States will implement stringent travel restrictions Sunday evening in an effort to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak that has so far killed more than 300 people in China and infected more than 14,000 worldwide.

The plan, which goes into effect at 5 p.m. ET, includes temporarily denying entry to foreign nationals who visited China in the 14 days prior to their arrival to the US, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday.
Restrictions also apply to US citizens who have been in China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, in the 2 weeks prior to their return to the US. Upon their return to the US, those citizens will be subject to a mandatory quarantine of up to 14 days, he said.
US citizens returning from the rest of mainland China in the 14 days prior will undergo health screenings at selected ports of entry and face up to 14 days of self-monitored quarantine.
Flights from China will be directed through 7 airports — John F. Kennedy in New York, Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma, Los Angeles and Honolulu.
Azar outlined the restrictions Friday as he declared the coronavirus a public health emergency in the United States, stressing that “the risk to the American public remains low at this time, and we are working to keep this risk low.”
That sentiment was echoed by National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien who told CBS “Face the Nation” on Sunday, “Right now there is no reason for Americans to panic” regarding the coronavirus. O’Brien added, “this is something that is a low risk we think in the US.”
The Transportation Security Administration also took steps to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The agency issued a new directive this weekend that required airlines to ask passengers on flights from outside the United States if they’ve been to mainland China in the past 14 days. All frontline employees will also be permitted to wear surgical masks.

8th case recently traveled from Wuhan

Eight cases of the novel coronavirus have so far been confirmed in the US, the latest being a college student in his 20s, according to health officials.
The eighth confirmed case is a student at the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts, health officials said Saturday, and had returned from Wuhan on January 29. He sought medical after his return and has been isolated ever since. The few close contacts he had have been identified and monitored for symptoms.
The case poses no increased risk to other students on the schools’ campus, the medical director of the Boston Public Health Commission told reporters Saturday. He’s “doing quite well” in quarantine at his home and is being monitored by public health nurses.
Other coronavirus cases have been confirmed in California, Washington state, Arizona and Illinois. In total, according ot the CDC, 241 patients in 36 states are under investigation. Among those, 114 tested negative and 121 had results pending.
Outside the US, 305 people have died of the coronavirus — 304 of them in China. The Philippines on Sunday announced the first reported death outside mainland China, a 44-year-old Chinese man who had flown into the country from Wuhan. There are 173 confirmed cases in more than 20 countries outside of China.

Second evacuation of US citizens planned

A second evacuation flight is set to carry US citizens out of of Wuhan, a US official with knowledge of the matter told CNN.
The flight should be ready for departure Monday, according to the official, as indicated in US Embassy Beijing’s email to American citizens who are still in the central Chinese city where the virus originated.
The official said there might be an additional evacuation flight due to continued high-demand from US citizens in Wuhan.
“I can’t confirm the numbers yet, but this upcoming evacuation might not be the last,” the official said said.
Last week the first chartered plane carrying nearly 200 US citizens — including diplomats and their families — arrived at March Air Reserve Base in Southern California.
The CDC ordered a federal 14-day quarantine for those citizens — the first such order in more than 50 years.

Airlines expand their flight cancellations

Delta Air Lines decided to suspended flights until April 30 beginning Sunday — 4 days ealier than initially planned. Its last China-bound flight left on Saturday and the last returning flight from China to the US leaves Sunday.
Meantime, American Airlines, which canceled all flights to mainland China Friday, said Saturday it was canceling flights to Hong Kong through Monday and would make daily decisions on Hong Kong flights depending on the situation.
United Airlines announced Friday it would suspend flights from its hub cities in the US and Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai from February 6 to March 28. Select flights will operate until next week to “help ensure our US-based employees, as well as customers, have options to return home,” it said in a statement.
January 31, 2020

Coronavirus: A three-week story or something longer?  Travel Weekly – By Arnie Weissman

U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said Friday it was too early to say whether coronavirus would end up being a three-week story or something longer.

“The problem is, the numbers lag,” he said, making it difficult to assess impact quickly. “My only concern at this point is that the media doesn’t always differentiate between the questions ‘Is it safe to travel?’ and ‘Is it safe to travel to China?’” he said.

When the message is muddled, fear and misinformation can spread quickly, he said, and gave an example.

“I was on a radio talk program this week, and a woman called in from Ohio and said, ‘I’m going skiing to Vail on Friday. Is it safe?’ She sounded like an intelligent person. So, I’m just worried about misconceptions.”

During past epidemics, U.S. Travel held webinars with the heads of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dow said they’re monitoring the situation, and if needed, they will try to do so again. “We’re on the phone daily with the NIH, CDC and White House” getting updates, he said.

Dow said that despite his concerns, he’s still forecasting a good year for travel. They had projected a slowdown in 2020 after 10 straight years of month-over-month growth. “We’re predicting 2-3% growth: international arrivals flat to 0.5% down, leisure up 4-5%. Leisure is still carrying the industry.”

January 31, 2020 – TRAVEL WEEKLY/AP

Europe evacuates citizens from China, Russia shuts Border – By Barry Hatton, Associated Press 

Italian authorities kept some 7,000 people on board a cruise ship for nearly a day while they checked one passenger for a possible infection.

An A380 evacuation flight took off Thursday morning from a former Portuguese military airport at Beja, 120 miles southeast of Lisbon, carrying just its pilots and crew.

Capt. Antonios Efthymiou said the flight was going first to Paris to pick up a team of doctors and extra crew before heading to Hanoi and then China. He told Portuguese media it would bring back about 350 Europeans. He said the crew would take special medical precautions but did not elaborate.

China has reported 170 deaths and at least 7,800 infections have been confirmed worldwide from the virus that emerged last month in the central city of Wuhan. Sports, transport and cultural events have been cancelled across the country and over 50 million people are under a government lockdown in central China.

In Europe, there have been 10 confirmed cases of the virus so far: five in France, four in Germany and one in Finland.

In Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin issued a decree ordering the temporary closure of the country’s border with China, which extends for 2,600 miles. In addition, all train traffic between the two countries, except for one train connecting Moscow and Beijing, was stopped Thursday. 

Britain said its delayed repatriation flight for 200 U.K. citizens in Wuhan would leave there on Friday, with the returning Britons quarantined for 14 days upon arrival. The U.K.-government chartered plane had been due to return earlier but it was delayed because permissions form the Chinese government had not come through.

Italian health authorities did not allow 6,000 passengers and 1,000 crew aboard a cruise ship docked north of Rome to get off after a passenger from Macao came down with flu-like symptoms. The Costa Crociere cruise line said the 54-year-old woman and her partner, who had no symptoms, were immediately put into isolation Wednesday and the case reported to Italian maritime authorities. 

“All the planned mechanisms were activated. Health authorities are on board, doing checks,” Italian Coast Guard Cmdr. Vincenzo Leone said at the port of Civitavecchia. “The situation is under control. There’s a security cordon on the dock.”

The ship was sailing from Mallorca, Spain, to Civitavecchia on a weeklong Mediterranean cruise. Later Thursday, just over 1,000 passengers were allowed off the ship for a walk through sunny Rome.

The Czech Republic announced it was stopping issuing visas to Chinese citizens due to the outbreak. More than 600,000 Chinese tourists are estimated to have visited the Czech Republic last year, especially its old-world capital city of Prague.

On the retail front, Swedish furniture and home goods retailer IKEA announced all its stores in mainland China would remain closed to protect customers and staff from the outbreak. The stores are a favorite haunt of Chinese city dwellers, both for shopping and for just hanging out. 

More European airlines announced halts in service to China, all citing efforts “to protect the health and security of customers and staff.”

Air France suspended all its regular passenger flights to and from China until Feb. 9. The French carrier had already suspended flights to Wuhan, the epicenter of the viral outbreak, and reduced traffic to Beijing and Shanghai. Air France said it will run special flights starting Thursday to bring back some customers and employees from Beijing and Shanghai.

Scandinavian Airlines announced it was halting all its flights to Beijing and Shanghai beginning Friday and running  through  Feb. 9th. SAS has 12 regular weekly flights from Scandinavia to China.

Spain’s Iberia national airline halted the three return flights a week it runs between Madrid and Shanghai due to the virus, a move it said would continue through February.

Finnish national airline Finnair said it has stopped accepting new bookings on its flights to mainland China.

Those announcements followed earlier moves to halt or reduce flights to China by other European airlines, including British Airways, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Swiss and KLM.

Norway, which is not part of the EU, said it was working with other European countries to get Norwegians out of China. 

The virus comes from the coronavirus family, which includes the common cold but also more severe illnesses, such as SARS and MERS. 

January 31, 2020 – From Travel Weekly

American Airlines has suspended all flights to mainland China, effective immediately, while Delta and United will suspend all mainland China flights beginning Feb. 6. 

American said its Hong Kong schedule remains unchanged. United will continue operating one flight daily between San Francisco and Hong Kong. Delta doesn’t fly to Hong Kong.

In a brief statement Friday, American said its decision for the immediate suspension was based on the late Thursday announcement by the State Department to raise the advisory level on travel to China to Level 4 (do not travel) due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

American’s decision also followed a lawsuit filed earlier Thursday by the carrier’s pilots, which sought an immediate halt to China flights. 

Delta said it would continue operating outbound flights to mainland China until Feb. 3 and return flights from China through Feb. 5. United will operate its last outbound China flight on Feb. 4 and its final inbound flight on Feb. 5. The carriers said they are continuing flights until those dates in order to make sure customers and crew have the option to return home. 

Delta plans to resume China service April 30 while American and United have set a resumption date of March 28. 

All three airlines had previously announced substantial cutbacks to their China schedules beginning in early February. 

The carriers are offering refunds for the canceled flights. Travelers ticketed on a Delta or United flight to China in the coming week can obtain a change-fee waiver, but not a refund.

January 31 – Costa Smeralda Cleared; Passenger Had ‘Common Flu’

Costa Cruises has confirmed that Italian health officials diagnosed the passenger onboard Costa Smeralda with the common flu. 

Earlier on Thursday, the ship had essentially been quarantined in the port of Civitavecchia due coronavirus concerns. 

“The situation on the ship, which is docked in Civitavecchia, has been under constant control and the crew have provided the best possible assistance. Guests who were in the meantime traveling to the Terminal also found the Costa crew ready to assist them,” Costa said, in a prepared statement.

“Thanks to the protocols that are applied onboard the fleet, last night our medical team promptly identified a suspected fever case in a 54-year-old woman, just a few hours before the ship’s arrival in Civitavecchia. As soon as the case was discovered, the required precautionary procedures were immediately taken. The relevant authorities were informed and, on arrival of the ship in the port of Civitavecchia they carried out all the checks required.

“While we appreciate the inconvenience caused, the procedures in force and our cooperation with the Health Authorities were effective in managing this situation and were intended to ensure maximum safety for all our guests, crew and the community as a whole.”

The ship will skip the port of La Spezia, scheduled for tomorrow, and will remain docked at Civitavecchia on Friday, before leaving to conclude its current cruise as scheduled in Savona, Italy.

January 27 –  Coronavirus: What Does Travel Insurance Cover?  By Adam Leposa Travel Agent Central

With the coronavirus outbreak in China drawing concern from North American consumers and shuttering local tourist sites, here are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding the outbreak and travel insurance:

Is it Possible to Claim for a Trip Cancelled in Fear of the Coronavirus? Unfortunately, an outbreak of a virus/disease is a not covered reasons under travel insurance plans for trip cancellation purposes. For those who purchased a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) optional upgrade, however, some measure of trip cancellation protection may be available.

Is Trip Protection Available Should Sickness Occur While Traveling? If someone with a travel insurance plan gets sick while traveling, they could have benefits under the trip interruption coverage and the emergency medical coverage. The emergency medical coverage in a travel insurance plan could provide reimbursement for medical expenses incurred during the trip.  If someone waits to see a doctor or go to the hospital until after their trip has ended, then the travel insurance plan would not pay a benefit, as it only covers expenses incurred during the trip. 

Is Trip Protection Available Should Sickness Occur Prior to Traveling?  For policies that include trip cancellation coverage, policyholders can claim for cancellation of their trip should they cancel due to the insured, a family member, or a travel companion becoming seriously ill prior to leaving.

January 31 –State Department Coronavirus Advisory: Impact On Travel           by Adam Leposa Travel agent Central

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), talks to the media at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. // Photo by Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP, Newscred

The State Department has upgraded its travel advisory for China to its highest level, Level 4: Do Not Travel, due to the coronavirus outbreak. This comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

“On January 30, the World Health Organization determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” the State Department said in a written statement. “Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice. Commercial carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.”

The State Department also advised those currently in China to consider leaving through commercial means. All non-essential U.S. government personnel have also been advised to defer travel to China.

The WHO says that its greatest concern is the potential for the virus to continue to spread to other countries, particularly those with weaker health systems.

 “So far we have not seen any deaths outside China, for which me must all be grateful,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO. “Although these numbers are still relatively small compared to the number of cases in China, we must all act together now to limit further spread.”

A declaration of emergency by the WHO typically allows for the mobilization of more money and resources to combat the spread of an infection that poses a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response. The WHO had considered issuing such a declaration last week, but said at the time that it was too early for such a measure.

Impact on Travel

Thus far the outbreak has caused China to request a temporary halt to tour activities in the country, shuttered major tourist sites and caused flight cancellations and cruise itinerary changes. Analysts have also warned that a drop in travel during the busy Chinese Lunar New Year travel period could have a negative impact on cruise and hotel companies that are heavily invested in China and the larger Asia-Pacific region.

 “From a macro, long-term perspective, travel is one of the most resilient industries in the world. Unfortunately, we are susceptible to issues like super viruses, natural disasters and world events that can impact our business,” Matthew D. Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, tells Travel Agent. “We are working to provide our members from around the globe, including China, with a crisis management toolkit, ensuring they are armed with the most current information to share with their clients. And, most importantly, we are here to support our members, partners and clients during times of uncertainty.”

In a recent report credit rating and analysis agency Moody’s warned that the outbreak could put earnings pressure on Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Carnival Corporation, in particular, as those companies have a strong presence in China. Royal Caribbean has announced cancellations on Spectrum of the Seas, its China-homeported ship, while Costa Cruises, a Carnival Corp. brand, has also seen cruise cancellations and the disembarkation of one of its ships in Italy delayed as a passenger is screened for the virus.

In terms of hotel impact, Hyatt, Hilton and Wyndham each have over 10 percent of their total rooms in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Moody’s, while Marriott had approximately 28 percent of the rooms added to its development pipeline last year in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to GlobalData, China officially became the largest tourism source market in the world last year, as well as the second-largest source market by spending. The country accounted for 12.2 percent of outbound travelers globally in 2019.

As of Thursday afternoon there were 7,834 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 7,736 in China, which represents almost 99 percent of all reported cases worldwide. There are 98 cases in 18 countries outside of China, including eight cases of human-to-human transmission in four countries: Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the United States. A total of 170 people have lost their lives in the outbreak thus far, all of whom were in China.

January 31, 2020 – Major Insurance Company Policy

Travelex, one of the most respected insurers points out:

It all goes back to the policy.  In the case of travel bans due to viruses and even gov’t bans, the policy is clear and the virus is not covered.

The only way to recoup your money is to purchase a cancel for any reason policy.  It is a premium supplement to their Travelex Select policy.

In FL – guests pay a supplement of 40%, but can only receive up to 50% back on their costs.

Everywhere else – guests pay a 65% supplement for up to 75% back on their costs.

January 31, 2020 -Letter Sent to Booked Regent Guests

Dear Valued Guest and Travel Partner,

We would like to provide you with an important update regarding your upcoming Regent Seven Seas Cruises® voyage embarking on February 12, 2020.

Your cruise itinerary and land program remains unchanged.

The safety, security and well-being of our guests and crew is our number one priority. As such, due to the growing concern regarding coronavirus infections in China, guests who have visited mainland China within 30 days of their voyage embarkation will not be allowed to board a Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ ship. Kindly note Hong Kong is not considered part of mainland China and guests who have visited Hong Kong will be permitted to sail.

In addition, we are implementing non-touch temperature screenings for all passengers embarking in Hong Kong. Any guest who registers a body temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius or higher, will not be allowed to board.

We truly appreciate your understanding and thank you for your assistance in helping to ensure all guests and crew remain in good health. We also thank you for your continued loyalty.

If you have traveled to mainland China within 30 days of your cruise, please contact your Travel Advisor or Regent Reservations at 1.844.4REGENT (1.844.473.4368) so we may begin the process of cancelling your upcoming voyage and starting the refund process.