Answer Bank: What if I have to travel internationally during COVID-19?

With more than 95,000 COVID-19 cases confirmed in more than 85 countries and regions worldwide, people are being advised to avoid public and crowded spaces and reduce their travels.

But what if you have to travel internationally at times like this? What should you pay attention to in order to protect yourself against infection?

Screening measures at airports

Airports around the world have introduced special health screening procedures to check arrivals at customs.

In China, for example, customs have launched a comprehensive health inspection and quarantine system since the onset of the outbreak, requiring the screening of all inbound passengers.

People exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, traveling from countries severely-hit by the virus or who have been in contact with confirmed and suspected cases are subject to medical check and quarantine.

As of Tuesday (March 3), of the 779 suspected cases entering China, 75 have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Chinese customs authorities.

Other countries, such as the U.S., Canada and Japan, have adopted similar measures. Some countries have adopted special entry and exit restrictions, especially for people from severely hit countries and regions. Travelers are advised to check what measures are in place at their destination in advance.

Safety tips

The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested international travelers practice the following:

• Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections
• Frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment 
• Avoiding close contact with live or dead farm or wild animals 
• Travelers with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance from others, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands). 

WHO advises against travel restrictions 

Although the WHO has raised the global COVID-19 risk from "high" to "very high," it has repeatedly advised against travel or trade restrictions on countries affected by the epidemic, saying evidence shows they are ineffective.

It noted that restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, disrupt businesses, and have negative social and economic effects on the affected countries.