South Korean carrier Asiana Airlines announced on Wednesday, February 12, that it will reduce service to China due to the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. According to media reports, around 80 percent of flights have been suspended until March 28. An airline spokesperson also said that cabin crew members are being asked to take unpaid voluntary leave between February 15 and 29, due to the reduction in service. Further adjustments to routes to China may occur over the coming days and weeks. Up-to-date information on affected routes can be found on the Asiana Airlines website here.
Heightened screening measures were also implemented on Wednesday, February 12, for travelers arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Individuals arriving from the abovementioned areas will be required to use specific counters and fill out a special quarantine report that includes providing their mobile phone number, the address of their stay in South Korea, and disclosing any visits to Hubei province (China) withing the past 14 days. The government is also advising Korean nationals to refrain from traveling to China, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand due to the ongoing outbreak. As of Wednesday, officials have confirmed 28 cases of coronavirus in South Korea.
Further international spread of the COVID-19 virus is to be expected over the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in 28 countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a "very grave threat."
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Individuals traveling to South Korea are advised to confirm flight reservations, keep abreast of the situation, and contact their nearest embassy for further details. Individuals are advised to take precautionary measures to reduce their risk of contracting the virus:
- Avoid all contact with animals (dead or alive); avoid eating animal products that are undercooked; avoid all markets where animals are sold
- Avoid all close contact with people displaying symptoms of the disease (e.g. difficulties breathing)
- Frequently wash hands and wear a face mask
- Adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments
- Travelers returning from China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid spreading the disease.