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Perspective needed - travel to areas 'relatively' unaffected by covid-19 - specifically England

There's quite a bit of good advice re travel to Italy and on some of the various related threads people are voicing opinions on travel in general right now. So sorry to be starting yet another thread but I'm trying to make a decision and having a horrible time doing it.

I have a trip booked to London from March 13-27. I know I won't get any airfare back if I cancel but it was so cheap ($340) that I really don't care. But I have hotel reservations amounting to about $1000 for the two weeks that I only have until tomorrow to cancel. On the one hand I'm not really worried about myself getting sick, I honestly think the chances are very slight but my worry is about travel disruptions and closings.I had planned on doing several day trips by train. I never would have thought a city like Milan would effectively close down but it did happen. Photos of Milano Centrale essentially deserted are really spooky. Even more worrisome would be getting caught in a quarantine. I know RS tours and others are still gong to England (and elsewhere except northern Italy) - those people aren't canceling (or at least the tours aren't) so I feel like I should just go. On the other hand, it's not that important a trip to me. I'd probably go to NYC instead for a few days where the chance of getting the virus is probably equal to that of London but at least I can just drive home at a moments notice rather than being dependent on a flight.

Just looking for thoughts.

Posted by
4435 posts

You could always cancel the hotel now and make your decision a day or two before travel.

I had a similar scenario during the volcano in Iceland. The airspace was closed and it was not clear when it would reopen. I had to cancel my hotel by a certain date. I did cancel that hotel because of the uncertainty. The airspace reopened 2 days before my flight so I rebooked then.

Posted by
2903 posts

I wish I had a magic answer for you! In the end, the decision needs to be one you feel good about. The worst thing would be to constantly be second guessing yourself afterwards.

Posted by
16587 posts

I was going to make the same suggestion as Laura. Have you taken a look at a website like booking.com to see what might be available in London if you wanted to re-book today for your time period? I'd also recommend checking premierinn.com. I will note that Premier Inn rates generally do creep up as you get closer to your arrival date, so the price you see today might be rather different on March 10, 11 or 12. On the other hand, PI's Flexible Rate normally allows you to cancel even on the day of arrival, so if you see something suitable and affordable now you could book it and buy yourself some time--more than two weeks--to gather additional inforamtion before making a final decision.

I don't think I'd be particularly concerned if I had a March trip to the UK planned, but that's easy for me to say since I'm retired and have no family members dependent on me. And even I wouldn't start booking anything in Europe right now; I'm holding off on my own plans for this year to see how thins develop.

Posted by
2297 posts

We are planning to go to England at the end of March and have not considered cancelling our trip. I do think that cancelling your hotel reservations and rebooking at last minute could work, since this is not the busiest time of the year in England.

Posted by
41 posts

Hi, Isabel,
We, too, are scheduled to travel in two weeks. We are concerned about what to do and do not consider ourselves to be alarmists. Our travel plans do not include Italy, but they do include travel through many airports and on trains where we will be exposed to a large influx of people from around the globe. Also, new cases are being reported in formerly untouched European countries, so there is no telling how far or quickly the virus will spread.

If it helps, we are considering three main factors in our decision, one of which you have mentioned. Our major concern is that we may, unwittingly, expose others, especially elderly and very young family we will be visiting. (Apparently, folks can be contagious before symptoms appear.) Second, we, too, are concerned that we may be in Europe when this erupts, and find ourselves quarantined. Finally, while we travel a lot, jet-lag really hits us no matter how we prepare, and we always know our immune systems are compromised for the first several days of our trip.

When you say "it's not that important a trip to me," you may already be decided.

Now, to address in advance all the folks who are about to jump on me for my answer, let me just say that Isabel asked for advice and these are my two cents. It is very frustrating to post an answer on RS Forum and have folks tear you apart for writing what you believe to be true. If you have a trip scheduled and decide to go, I hope you have a blast. We will probably reschedule.

Isabel, whatever you decide, have a great time. Hope this helps,
Happy trails,
GypsyRover

Posted by
193 posts

The issue is that none of us have a crystal ball, and the situation changes so rapidly. I say this as somebody working in a testing laboratory.

To the best of my knowledge, UK has 13 cases, and nothing new since Sunday - BUT this time last week Italy had only 3 cases, and look how fast that esculated. My personal feeling is that we are not going to be able to avoid the virus here - there will always be gaps in containment measures (probably asymptomatic carriers) - and it is a question of "When " rather than "If".
I think your logic of staying nearer home makes a great deal of sense, particularly if you are one of the people for whom the virus is more dangerous.

I have a holiday booked to Emilia Romagna in two weeks time - this looks exceedingly unlikely to go ahead, but I am still in "wait and see" mode. I can cancel my accomodation with 48hrs notice.

Posted by
633 posts

Thanks for all the replies. At this point I'm really just hoping than within the next month people realize it's not going away, but it's also not the end of the world, it's not the plague with 40% mortality rates, and not much will be gained by shutting everything down. What will help is better funding for vaccine research (in general) and more money for health care facilities so they can deal when there are outbreaks. It's just unfortunate for those of us who have to make decisions right now.

I will probably cancel my reservations, I can use that $1000 for other travel. I have a trip booked from late August through September and am not very concerned about that one. My daughter has a trip ( which includes Italy) starting mid April, and my husband has a trip starting late April to the UK and I just hope that in 6 weeks time things have calmed down.

Posted by
653 posts

Just my two cents. :) I think people are missing a point if they are basing, "Go or No-Go," on a destination. The destination isn't really the problem: Its how you get there and how you come back is the real problem. It makes no difference in your destination, because even if you are just taking a domestic flight, there will be at least a few people from all over the world on that flight. Being in a crowded space is unavoidable for modern travel. The incubation time, and effectiveness of transmission on this particular virus is the big, unknown nasty. No one knows how front loaded the vectors already are, and we will not know that for the next three weeks. I never thought I'd ever say it, but I have a great deal of sympathy for TSA employees right now. Just imagine what happens if they all stay home. We've put off any travel this year, just till its a bit more clear where all this is heading. We were planning on Portugal, but as I've said, the destination isn't the problem.

Posted by
140 posts

It’s unpredictable so the best bet is to have flexible reservations as recommended above and to remain flexible to life’s uncertainties as it sounds that you already are!

Experts around the world are monitoring the situation so there is no need for anyone to panic— but if the experts change their advice, it should not be ignored.

Posted by
181 posts

IMHO - if the risk of catching something isn't significantly or statistically greater where your going then it is where your coming from, I'd go so long as where you're going remains "open for business." Sounds like London is. It much like threats of terrorism or getting struck by lightning. There is always a risk that something can go wrong when you travel. Yet we can get struck by a car around the corner from our homes here in the US. From my perspective, life is too short and there's too much out there to enjoy and experience and build life-long memories from to let fear of a remote possibility control your decision making.

Posted by
633 posts

Thanks for the added perspective. In my situation I'm not really worried about the actual illness or getting sick, rather that site and transportation would be closed/disrupted on a moments notice as in Italy. I actually got a wonderful rate when I booked the hotels, if I cancel now and rebook (even if I were to re-book right away) the price almost doubles. So my gamble is mostly about price. Obviously I don't have to make a final decision till the day of travel.

But from more reading today of BBC and some other UK sources, it seems they are taking a more pragmatic approach and seem like they are less willing to panic and close everything.

Posted by
5 posts

I have a planned trip to London end of may. Im less worried about catching the bug and more worried about sites/attractions shutting down or transportation shutting down.

The good news is in 3 months we will know more. If the virus has spread chances are countries shutting down should be off the table. The focus i would hope will be on treatment and prevention ( u folks that dont wash your hands leaving the public bathroom stalls im looking at u!!).

I paid for my hotel, transportation & cruise upfront so not cancelling now. There would have to be a cruise cancellation or london dont let me in the country type of thing to stop me. I guess if we are in the zombie apocalypse I might consider not going and eating my costs...but then again, it would be my last possible time to see london so maybe Id just bite the bullet anyway!

Trying to stay positive. Everyone be safe, don't panic, the human race has weathered bigger storms!

Posted by
4 posts

There is no mention here in England of any plans to shut anything. Our NHS are quite confident they have it under control.

Posted by
193 posts

"There is no mention here in England of any plans to shut anything. Our NHS are quite confident they have it under control."

I wish I shared your confidence, and I work for the NHS. Obviously I hope it can be contained, but if we get a Chinese style surge, any healthcare system would be overwhelmed.

Posted by
477 posts

Perspective: 200,000 people died from regular flu last year and zero people changed their travel plans.

Posted by
46 posts

We (family of 5) have a London spring break trip to London at the end of March.

Yesterday the second half of the payment for our apartment rental was due, and my wife and I discussed our limited options. While we were making the decision to keep the booking, the auto-payment went through and it was made for us :). Thankfully our flights are insured, so we only lose out on half of our expenses if we need to cancel.

That said, there are three real questions in regards to the situation:

1) Is it safe for us to travel (i.e. not get sick).
2). Might we get stuck there if any future travel restrictions are put in place.
3) Though the risk of us getting sick seems minimal, does our traveling have a potential to make the situation worse?

The last question is the one that worries me the most, and the hardest to answer. Making the decision not to go has impact on the tourist economy, something that London could probably shrug off, but more tourist dependent places would have a harder time with. Unwittingly bringing the disease there or back, now that would be much worse. The odds seem low, but still.

A somewhat lesser worry is, what if we get there and lots of stuff is closed and/or activities are restricted? My brother (in Brussels) just got told to work from home until further notice, and my employer told folks to avoid large public meetings. Any uptick in cases could change this equation.

Hoping the situation works out for all travelers, and praying for those who are currently or become sick!

Posted by
1756 posts

Unwittingly bringing the disease there or back, now that would be much worse.

That's the crux of the matter.

On an individual level, you're unlikely to get sick, you're even less likely to die. But in a world where we expect to be able to travel where we want and when we want, it's the transmission that is so easy across communities, countries and continents.

Personally I would be putting travel plans on hold until the situation has settled down. And that maybe some time.

Posted by
46 posts

I'd question whether it is the relevant authorities' job to set travel restrictions and ours to follow them?

One can altruistically go above and beyond to protect others (as you valiantly suggest), but to what level? If we don't go as scheduled, we'll likely not make it until next year at best due to timing and budget Not to mention being out $2500. Plus we'll have to figure our some sort of alternative.

My current guess is we'll play it by ear, and unless restricted from going (or feel the relevant authorities should have put restrictions in place) than we'll go. Hoping for the best!

Posted by
2297 posts

We have paid for a 5 day Rabbies tour at beginning of April. I have put the cancellation date on my calendar, since we would get no refund at all after that date. Our issue is will the meeting my husband is supposed to attend in London be cancelled, which would cancel our trip. If we cancel, we will be out the money we paid for theater tickets and one night's nonrefundable hotel, minor compared to all the chaos and concern this is creating for so many people.

Posted by
16587 posts

Cala, some London shows have a way for you to turn your tickets back in for re-sale. I know Hamilton does.

Posted by
193 posts

"Perspective: 200,000 people died from regular flu last year and zero people changed their travel plans."

It's commonly mentioned, but I really don't think it is relevant. Because of the new nature of covid 19 much is unknown, but it appears that the virus is more virulent than flu, likely has a mortality rate at least 10x and possibly 60x higher than flu, and is an illness that lasts significantly longer so is likely to have a far higher impact on hospitals.

In short this is a very different disease.

Posted by
2297 posts

acraven, thanks so much. Of course, I will be disappointed if we don't go. My husband is convinced that the meeting won't be cancelled, but I think he's doing the ostrich thing. He thinks the coronavirus thing is much ado about nothing.

Posted by
2 posts

Hi. We are due to travel to Manchester and London 3/6. Our airlines (virgin) and hotel is not willing to offer a refund so it looks like we are going for now...

Posted by
633 posts

I just canceled. While getting sick is obviously of some concern, I just know I won't enjoy the trip worrying that at any minute they could close stuff (as happened in Paris two days ago), disrupt transportation or quarantine. I'm going to NYC instead so obviously my concern is not about risk of getting sick. And while I was really looking forward to this trip, I've been to London lots of times, it was not a 'once in a life time' or even a particularly special trip. I feel so bad for those of you who have planned and saved for years and have to cancel. I just hope things calm down by summer.

Frankly I think the world has got to get a grip and do one of two things:

One - Close absolutely everything for two weeks - no flights, no school, no public transportation, no restaurants, no nothing - everywhere in the world - and then people who are sick quarantined either at home or in hospital and everyone else can go back to business as usual. Anything sort of that is going to accomplish not a hell of a lot. But of course, that isn't going to happen.

Or two- accept that this is a nasty flu and everyone, especially high risk groups, should take extra precautions - but forget about the half-assed measures that are currently in place. For example, the US can cancel flights to Milan, but they haven't canceled flights to London, and London hasn't canceled flights to Milan so any American who wants can still travel to Milan.

Posted by
3118 posts

Well, the world isn’t going to close for two weeks. I am sorry to hear that you canceled your trip. You are now coming here to New York and I don’t think being in a crowded subway is any different regarding coronavirus (or any communicable virus) than commuting via the Tube, bus, or anywhere in the UK. This is a great time to be here as a tourist mobs won’t start coming until Easter. Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
1 posts

My issue is that I have the second payment for a RS tour due next week. Getting sick on any tour is always a possibility - proven out from our last tour when a nasty cold went through have the bus over the course of 14 days. But in this current reality , with people coming on a tour from all over the US (and of course traveling ) the chances of someone being infected goes up considerably- and then what , two days out on the tour and someone is sick, is the whole bus quarantined for 14 days +? Then trying to unravel how to get home, does the insurance cover any of the costs, does RS prorate part of the tour or none of it ....

Posted by
3904 posts

Because of the new nature of covid 19 much is unknown, but it appears that the virus is more virulent than flu, likely has a mortality rate at least 10x and possibly 60x higher than flu, and is an illness that lasts significantly longer so is likely to have a far higher impact on hospitals.

I don't know where those figures are from but The World Health Organization's Dr Tedros had said last week that the mortality rate of COVID-19 can differ, ranging from 0.7% to up to 4%, depending on the quality of the health-care system where it’s treated. At the epicentre of the outbreak in Hunan the mortality rate was 2.9% yet elsewhere in China the rate dropped to 0.4%. You also need to take into account the ages and health conditions of those who have died, the vast majority have been elderly and with pre-existing medical conditions.

However.....

"W.H.O. officials later clarified that Dr. Tedros’s figure was a crude “snapshot” based on incomplete data and heavily skewed by the intensity of the outbreak in Wuhan, China.

The true death rate could turn out to be similar to that of a severe seasonal flu, below 1 percent, according to an editorial published in the journal by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. H. Clifford Lane, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

Posted by
193 posts

Typical mortality rate for seasonal flu is around 0.05%. Current deaths for this "season" in the US are around 20,000 out of 34,000,000 cases so nearer 0.06% (Figures from CDC if you wish to check them)

So at least 10x would be 0.5% , 60x would be 3% - so my figures are not too far from those you are quoting
Latest figures from Italy suggest a mortality rate at nearly 6% of confirmed cases. This is probably a combination of very mild infections not being reported, and the high number of elderly people in Italy.

Posted by
3904 posts

This is from The Guardian regarding mortality rates of Covid-19:

What is the mortality rate of the new coronavirus?

It is probably about or a bit less than 1%. Much higher figures have been flying about, but the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, is one of those who believes it will prove to be 1% or lower. The World Health Organization’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, talked of 3.4%, but his figure was calculated by dividing the number of deaths by the number of officially confirmed cases. We know there are many more mild cases that do not get to hospital and are not being counted, which would bring the mortality rate significantly down.

Deaths are highest in the elderly, with very low rates among younger people, although medical staff who treat patients and get exposed to a lot of virus are thought to be more at risk. But even among the over-80s, 90% will recover.

Posted by
5308 posts

I just hope that in 6 weeks time things have calmed down.

So sad to read these words (posted on 2/26) now—a little more than three weeks later—with the benefit of hindsight.

What a terrible terrible mess we are in.