The attention of the world continues to be on China and the threat of the spreading coronavirus. The death toll from the outbreak rose above 1,300 on Thursday, and infections world-wide are approaching 60,000.
The vast majority of cases remain in mainland China; outside of China, the biggest cluster of cases are on the Princess Dream cruise ship quarantined off of Japan.
The rate of new infections had been showing signs of slowing, but rose significantly today. The spike in new cases overnight is said to be due to a new technology officials are using to diagnose coronavirus cases.
In a report issued on Monday, health authorities say that the virus has a mortality rate of 1% at this time, although it may be higher than that in the province of Hubei, where the outbreak first began.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, the WHO officially announced that the virus has been named COVID-19. This name was chosen so as not to stigmatize a specific geographic location or people, said the WHO spokesperson.
On Tuesday, the WHO activated a UN Crisis Management Team, and hosted a meeting of more than 400 scientists from around the world, both in person and virtually, on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
In the U.S. there are now 15 confirmed cases of the virus, with at least 7 cases in Canada.
The 200 Americans who had been under federal quarantine at a Southern California military base for the past two weeks, were released on Tuesday, and no one in the group was found to have the virus, reported CBS News.
The group of 195 people was evacuated from the epicenter of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China on a U.S.-chartered flight in January. But today, one case was confirmed in Texas in a passenger who had been evacuated from Wuhan and had been under quarantine.
Cruise bans in effect
Global industry group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)—whose member lines make up more than 90% of ocean-going cruise capacity worldwide — expanded its response to the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on the global cruise industry, effective Feb. 7.
Saying that the “health and safety of cruise passengers and crew is and remains the number one priority of CLIA and its member lines,” CLIA members are to deny boarding to all persons who have traveled from, visited or transited via airports in China, including Hong Kong and Macau, within 14 days before embarkation.
CLIA members were also directed to deny boarding to all persons who, within 14 days before embarkation, had close contact with anyone suspected as having coronavirus. In addition, CLIA Members are to conduct enhanced preboarding screening necessary to effectuate these prevention measures, and provide initial medical support to any persons exhibiting symptoms of suspected COVID-19.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and Norwegian Cruise Lines were banning all Greater China citizens, even those who have not been in China recently.
This includes passengers holding a Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passport, said Royal Caribbean.
UPDATE: Travelmole reports that Royal Caribbean has dropped its blanket ban of Chinese passport holders. The ban is still in effect at NCL, however.
Meanwhile, the number of cases of the virus on the Princess Dream cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan rose, with 219 of about 3,700 people on board testing positive as of Thursday, including a Japanese official who had been screening passengers.
DFS store closings
Directly impacted by the virus, all seven DFS stores in Macao are closed from Feb. 6- Feb. 19, and the company announced it was temporarily closing its T Galleria by DFS, Tsimshatsui East and T Galleria Beauty by DFS MOKO in Hong Kong.
“We have no cases of coronavirus in any of our stores and we continue to take all necessary precautions to keep our stores hygienic and safe for all… We look forward to reopening as soon as possible,” says the DFS website. The T Galleria by DFS, Canton Road and T Galleria Beauty by DFS, Causeway Bay stores remain open and people may shop on dfs.com.
The DFA duty free store in Macao is also temporarily closed, company CEO Jerome Falic confirmed to TMI.
Statement from TFWA/ APTRA
TFWA, in a joint statement with the Asia Pacific Travel Retail Association (APTRA), announced that both associations are continuing with preparations for the TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference in Singapore on May 10 – 14. The associations are working together to assess the situation as it develops to provide the most valuable support they can offer the industry, especially to businesses in Asia Pacific.
Alain Maingreaud, President of TFWA, said: “Our first thoughts must be with the victims of this outbreak, and with the individuals and companies most affected. All of us at TFWA stand with our colleagues and partners in China and in Asia Pacific, where the impact of the current situation has been felt most keenly.
Maingreaud continued: “We are of course fully aware of the negative impact of the current crisis on TFWA’s members and those of APTRA. However, we are continuing to prepare for our event in Singapore, which is the major annual gathering of our industry in Asia Pacific. The TFWA Board and team are in constant contact with our partners in Singapore along with government authorities, and are monitoring the situation very closely.
“The TFWA Management Committee will meet as planned in early March and will take stock of the situation at that time, with a view to moving forward in the best interests of our industry.”
Grant Fleming, President APTRA, comments: “The current measures on travel restrictions and recent store closures in some locations are sensible precautions to help limit the spread of the virus and, although they are painful commercially in the short-term, we wholeheartedly support these mitigation strategies for the long-term benefit of the industry. The health and safety of employees and customers is an absolute priority.
“Asia Pacific is unquestionably resilient and resourceful and there is proven analysis of the bounce-back from previous crises, such as SARS or the 2008-9 global financial crash.
“There are underlying long-term positives, with IATA reporting an influx of 450 million additional
Chinese air passengers over the last 10 years and analysis that China will become the largest aviation market within the next five years, within long-term growth projected to deliver 1 billion new passengers by 2037, to 1.6 billion.
“When Chinese tourists start traveling again at full pace, which they will do, we should expect a return to commercial growth with the same vigor and energy we’ve seen when faced with other headwinds. We are, after all, a region that thrives on fast change.”
Fleming added: “We support TFWA’s plans for the Singapore event in May – a crucial rendezvous in the industry calendar. This will be an important opportunity to discuss how we will rebound from what has been, for all our members, an exceptionally challenging start to the year.”
ASEAN emergency meeting
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China are planning to hold an emergency conference, which would take place as early as February 20 in Laos, to discuss the new corona-virus epidemic, reports Kyodo News, citing diplomatic sources.
The emergency meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers is intended to share information and improve coordination between China and the 10-nation bloc to combat the virus.
Due to the developing situation in China and Asia concerning the Coronavirus, ASEAN is running a live update service to keep businesses involved in ASEAN and Asia aware of the latest relevant regional news. It can be assessed here.
Doug Yakel, Public Information Officer at San Francisco International Airport, shared the following statement with TMI:
“The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continue to conduct health screenings for international arriving passengers at SFO to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. The CDC has been conducting these screenings at SFO since January 18. The initial focus on the screening was for passengers who had visited the Hubei province, but on February 2, the CDC expanded screenings to any passenger who had been in main-land China over the last 14 days. Screenings are being conducted inside the Customs facility at SFO. Airlines are also reducing or suspending flights to/from mainland China.
“At present, more than 77% of all flights between and SFO and China, including Hong Kong, have been suspended.
“We recommend passengers check the following sites for updates before traveling: www.cdc.gov/wuhan
In its Monday update, OAG reports that the Coronavirus has resulted in two-thirds of international capacity to and from China being cancelled.
“In less than four weeks the number of weekly international seats operated from China has fallen by some 1.4 million seats since the week commencing the 20th January. In comparative terms that reduction in capacity is more than all of the scheduled international capacity planned from France this week,” said the agency.
OAG warns that Japan, which is hosting the Summer 2020 Olympics, will have real challenges in reaching their stated ambition of 40 million visitors by 2021.
“No single market has been impacted by coronavirus as much as Japan where scheduled airline capacity has fallen by some 200,000 per week compared to the week of the 20th January; a 60% fall in capacity in four weeks. Week on week comparison shows some 118,000 scheduled seats dropped from China to Japan.”
The results of the virus are far-reaching – impacting everything from oil production to supply chain management along with travel — and most economic reports forecast that China will be seriously impacted in the first quarter as a result of the coronavirus, but they do expect the country to recover.
While the efforts to constrain the virus are having wide-ranging effects, in the long term the downturns are expected to recover.
In fact, pre-registration for the TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference 2020 is now open, and while TFWA is closely monitoring the current situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak, preparations for the event are continuing as planned.
“At a tough time for the travel business in Asia and beyond, we are continuing to prepare for our event in Singapore, which we trust will provide an opportunity for our industry to regroup and to plan for better times ahead,” said TFWA President Alain Maingreaud.
“We remain optimistic that the effects of the current outbreak will be short term, and we believe it is important to be ready for business to resume as quickly as possible once the immediate issues have been resolved. Ours is a resilient industry and I am sure that this year’s event will provide further proof of that.”
To book your place at the TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference, please visit www.tfwa.com.