In light of the widespread coverage of Wuhan’s coronavirus, I received several questions from readers asking me if I would still recommend traveling to or through China.
It goes without saying that I am not a doctor, a world health expert or anything else. I am just a boy who travels a lot and over time I have reflected significantly on some of the “problems” that could discourage people from traveling to certain regions.
Therefore I will instead answer the question of whether I would be willing to travel to China (and especially Wuhan) at this time. This week I’m going to mainland China (though not in Wuhan), so I’d like to share how I rationalize the situation.
The first case of Wuhan’s coronavirus was identified in Wuhan in mid-December, and since then there have been over 450 confirmed cases and nine deaths.
This was transmitted by animals and people and was connected to a Wuhan market that sold fish and live animals.
So far most deaths have involved older people with other conditions. This has even spread internationally, as the US CDC yesterday revealed that there was a confirmed case in the United States of someone arriving from Wuhan.
The challenge is that nobody knows how many people really have this, and also how much it will get worse. When it comes to traveling, a particular concern is that the Chinese New Year is this weekend, which means that many people will travel, further increasing the risk of spreading this virus.
I have no qualms about traveling to mainland China
I plan to spend one night in Beijing later this week on my way to Taipei. My father is aware of this trip, so not surprisingly he called me yesterday, saying “you are not traveling in China, are you?!” I don’t blame him for his concern, based on how this is treated in the news here in the United States.
Do I worry about the prospect of becoming something like MERS or SARS? Obviously. But at this point it would seem somewhat paranoid to change travel plans when traveling to a completely different city in China.
It’s one thing if there were ten thousand new cases discovered overnight, but other than that, I wouldn’t change plans.
I probably wouldn’t travel through Wuhan
As mentioned earlier, I am traveling to Beijing and not to Wuhan. The cities are around 700 miles away, so it would be like reconsidering the trip to San Francisco because of something that is happening primarily in Seattle.
Would I like to travel to Wuhan right now? No, probably not.
Not because I necessarily think it is so risky (in my opinion the statistics simply don’t support it in a city of over ten million people), but rather because of the stress that my family would cause, which for all the right or wrong reasons would be very worried about me.
Furthermore, it seems that if you can avoid being subjected directly to everything around it (including further screening at airports and beyond), it’s probably for the better.
When it comes to situations like Wuhan’s coronavirus, everyone has to decide for themselves what they are comfortable with. In my opinion, traveling is never worth it if you are in a situation where you feel at risk, whether rational or not.
Over the years, I have developed fairly consistent guidelines when it comes to who I am and I don’t feel comfortable when I travel. For example, I will fly any airline without considering their safety record. Why? Because even on less “safe” airlines, you are even safer than in the car. When I enter an Uber, I don’t write down that car’s safety assessments in detail, I interview the driver about their driving skills, etc.
Of course I’m not entirely consistent with my logic, because the chairlifts still scare me. 😉
We will have to see how Wuhan’s coronavirus develops. If this turns into something where suddenly there are tens of thousands of new cases in a short period of time, then I would definitely avoid any area with many reported cases.
However, statistics don’t currently support it.
I’m curious to know what you guys think, since I don’t really think there is a right or wrong answer, with anyone with different levels of comfort.
Would you feel comfortable traveling to Wuhan right now? What about mainland China in general?