Since January 2020 when COVID-19 was identified in Wuhan, China, Global Rescue has fielded thousands of calls about traveling during the coronavirus outbreak.

COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. While it’s true the annual flu kills more people, albeit at much lower rate, scientists, physicians and travelers are familiar with the highs and lows of a flu season.

With COVID-19, there are still a lot of unknowns — and this is what worries travelers.

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“Are there any recommendations for travel to Taiwan as a stopover during a trip to India? Do you know what is happening on the ground there?”

“I am looking to fly through Hong Kong and wanted to make sure it is currently safe to do so?”

“Do you have specific reports on the virus yet? We are traveling to Vietnam.”

Here’s advice from Global Rescue experts for travel safety in a coronavirus world.

1. Evaluate options

As long as you follow reputable hygiene and social distancing precautions, the odds are in your favor that you will not contract coronavirus. If you do contract coronavirus, the odds are in your favor that you will survive.

Questions you need to ask yourself before travel:

  • Are you aware that borders can close without notice?
  • Would you be okay with recovery in a foreign hospital?
  • Do you understand the protocol to prove you are contagion free may not be well understood in your location?
  • If you are not able to return home by air travel, are there other transportation options? 
  • Do you realize your family will not be able to visit you?

2. Assess your health

A pre-travel health consult is always recommended before traveling. COVID-19 is widely reported as more dangerous for seniors and people with a history of health conditions. Travelers with these characteristics should think think about their increased risk and ask a doctor for advice before a trip abroad.

According to China’s National Health Commission (NHC), 80% of coronavirus fatalities occurred in people over the age of 60 and 75% had an underlying disease.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes there’s still a lot to learn, current information does suggest older people and those with severe chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, are at higher risk of developing more serious illness from COVID-19.

3. Research your destination

The Global Rescue intelligence team is closely monitoring the outbreak, regularly updating a daily coronavirus report. The detailed report contains the latest information on restrictions and flight status updates, along with outbreak locations and data, signs and symptoms and advice for travelers. Members may also access real-time alerts for travel warnings through the My Global Rescue mobile app.

“As fewer and fewer countries remain coronavirus-free, travelers should gather information about the extent of the outbreak in their intended destination and make a decision consistent with the severity of the situation,” says Dan Richards, Global Rescue CEO.

4. Follow travel advisories

Be sure to do thorough pre-travel research for international travel. Start by visiting the U.S. Department of State website to check for any travel advisories for your intended destination.

The Department of State issues its travel advisories in four levels. When a country is listed as a “Level 4,” the Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the destination or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so.

Be aware of varying levels. While the Department of State issues an overall travel advisory level for a country, levels of advice may vary for specific locations or areas within a country. For example, you might find the country you’re going to is listed as a Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution, but a particular area of your destination might be listed as a Level 3 – Reconsider Travel.

Also consider any travel health notices for your destination, which are issued by the CDC to inform travelers and clinicians about current health issues.

5. Plan for restrictions

Global Rescue recommends travelers carefully review all coronavirus control policies for their destination before departure. Defer travel if there is a chance of being quarantined due to coronavirus.

Every traveler should be aware that restrictions — like mandatory quarantines or entry denials — can be imposed without warning.

Individual countries can also impose travel restrictions without warning. Borders may close without notice.

“Travel uncertainty will continue for at least a few weeks,” Richards said. “Travelers should plan for restrictions, cancellations and involuntary quarantines for an uncertain length of time.”

6. Practice safe hygiene

Dr. Carmen Dolea, Head International Health Regulations Secretariat of the World Health Organization, recommends etiquette similar to the flu or any respiratory infection. Dolea’s recommendations include screenings, testing and washing your hands often.

Other health and safety experts suggest social distancing, avoiding contact with sick people, working from home and self-quarantining to help reduce virus exposure.

7. Prepare for new guidelines

In countries with ongoing transmission of COVID-19, plan for an entry or exit screening. Screenings include taking a temperature, checking for symptoms (like a cough) and possibly a questionnaire to collect history of exposure or contact information.

Now some countries require documentation of a negative test result and/or proof of vaccination. Other countries are considering digital health passports. Do your research on the paperwork needed before travel. 

8. Get travel protection services

At the end of many articles with information about COVID-19, you’ll typically find a recommendation to add travel insurance.

IMG Signature Travel InsuranceSM is the perfect add-on to a Global Rescue membership, providing coverage against a variety of unexpected expenses.

Global Rescue TotalCareSM members have access to a team of medical experts for real-time video consultations and treatment, without leaving home. Doctors are board-certified and licensed in 48 states.