News about the epidemic of a new corona virus strain named 2019-nCoV is present in all media. Reports will not cease soon either, as Chinese health experts estimate the peak of the epidemic just around the middle of February.
So far, around 20000 infections have been confirmed in laboratories. According to the current state of knowledge (Feb. 4th 2020), almost all of the over 400 deceased patients died in the Wuhan area of central China, around 700 have recovered. Access to the affected region populated by approximately 50 million is very limited.
The European epidemic prevention agency ECDC updates it´s daily Coronavirus bulletin with the latest findings about the worldwide spread of the virus.
On 31st of January the special committee of the World Health Organization announced a Public Health Event of International Concern. It contains WHO recommendations to countries to work together on information exchange, research and the containment of the virus.
However, there is no mention of travel or trade restrictions, state issued constraints should be applied with care says the WHO. This proclamation hardly affects Austria, since the measures proposed therein have already been implemented.
The Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a level 4 security warning for China and level 5 for the Hubei province with its 11 million metropolitan area of Wuhan as of February 4th 2020. This means that one should refrain from non-essential trips to China because of high risk and avoid Wuhan at all.
If you are Austrian citizen and already present in the province of Hubei, you ought to contact the Austrian representation since a few Austrians have recently been flown out. General recommendations for behavior during your stay in China can be found on the website of the Austrian Ministry of Health.
The ministry's hotline at 0800 555 621 answers questions regarding the coronavirus
Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Travel restrictions since outbrake
Various airlines such as Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, SAS, SWISS, Lufthansa as well as a series of non-European air carriers have banned flights to China altogether. Star Alliance flights to Beijing and Shanghai, which were originally scheduled to be interrupted until February 9, will now stay closed until the end of February. In addition, it is planned not to fly to secondary destinations such as Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao until the end of March.
Passengers with booked tickets can rebook for later flights free of charge or receive reimbursement of costs. For booked flights to China that are due to take place by March 31, AUA also will rebook free of charge. However, the replacement flight must take place by September 2020.
There are individual regulations for flights to Hong Kong, as flights are currently taking place. Delays, health checks and a certain risk of quarantine has to be expected.
Please note that countries such as the USA, Australia, Japan, Italy, Greece, the Czech Republic, Taiwan or Singapore currently prohibit (re)entry from China!
Effects on vacation packages
The corona epidemic is affecting upcoming or already ongoing vacation packages to China. Cancellation rights and reimbursements for failed services for customers of Austrian travel agencies can be brought to bear.
As mentioned, the State Department issued a level 4 security warning for all of China and 5 for the most affected province of Hubei. A clear travel warning from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (level 6) would guarantee customers a free withdrawal, which has not yet happened.
Such a clear travel warning is not absolutely necessary, if specific circumstances of the individual case speak for the free cancellation. Such circumstances exist, for example, if reputable media reports on the local hazard coincide and would refrain average customers from traveling.
Of course, it is also relevant how close to Wuhan itself the destination or booked excursions are and when the trip should take place. Due to flight bans of many airlines, shut down tourist attractions in China and increasing entry bans from China to third countries, it is likely that tour operators will offer to cancel on their own initiative. Customers should definitely contact their tour operator as early as possible!
For further information about consumer rights and options please read our article withdrawal due to risk at destination.
Obtain further information here:
Legal Information about package vacations (DE)
Security Warnings Austrian State Dep. (DE)
ECDC corona bulletin
ECDC virus spread
Coronavirus Q & A by WHO
Visualization of virus spreading
Flight ban Austrian Airlines
Flight & Visa bans Schengen countries