Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have canceled all flights to China, Hong Kong, and Macau due to the ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that originated in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). On Sunday, February 2, the government announced a travel ban on all individuals traveling from mainland China and its special administrative regions, including Hong Kong and Macau, following the first 2019-nCoV death outside of China. Subsequently, Philippine Airlines officials announced on Monday, February 3, that they have canceled all flights to mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau effective immediately until at least Saturday, February 29. Cebu Pacific representatives similarly confirmed on February 2 that all flights to Hong Kong and Macau are canceled until at least February 29, while all other flights to mainland China remain canceled until Sunday, March 29.
The airline also reminded travelers that all foreign nationals (except those with permanent residency status) that have visited mainland China or its special administrative regions 14 days before traveling to the Philippines will be denied check-in for their flight. All Filipinos and permanent residents arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau in the 14 days prior to arrival in the Philippines will be required to undergo a home quarantine process.
Health officials confirmed two cases of 2019-nCoV as of February 2, including one fatality. Further spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of 2019-nCoV 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 more than 26 countries and territories worldwide. Human-to-human transmission has been confirmed in Germany, Japan, the US, and Vietnam. Virus screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the ongoing novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak is a "public health emergency of international concern."
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.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries and consider rebooking options, if needed, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments. 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, wear a face mask
- Individuals within China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to seek medical attention, avoid contact with other people, and wash hands regularly
- 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 spread of the disease