Coronavirus is now a global epidemic, having been detected in 32 countries worldwide. Though it initially began in Wuhan, China, it has since spread to nations across the world including France, Germany and the UK. Furthermore, confirmed cases have been located in holiday hotspots including Spain, the USA, Australia, Egypt, Thailand and Italy.
With multiple airlines cancelling flights to affected regions, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office warning against travel to affected areas, it can be worrying for those with holidays planned. Furthermore, as the Easter holidays fast approach, many Britons are likely to be gearing up for a vacation, but fear of the deadly virus could be cause for concern.
The good news is that the World Health Organisation maintains that it is still safe to travel.
Appearing on a Coronavirus update video, Dr Carmen Dolea, Head, IHR Secretariat at the World Health Organisation said: “If you have to travel you have to go to the airport.”
“If you want to reduce your risk of being infected it's true that staying away from people which may be suspected cases may help you to reduce your risk.”
Meanwhile, speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Dr Richard Dawood, a Travel Medicine Specialist from Fleet Street Clinic, also urged travellers not to cancel holiday plans, and instead says exercising good hygiene practises and having a good travel insurance policy should be more than enough to keep you safe.
He said: “Do make sure you have good insurance cover that could kick in at short notice if government advice changes. Keep a careful watch on the FCO, PHE and TravelHealthPro websites for the latest information on risks and restrictions.”
Dr Dawood added that the virus is spread “by airborne droplets carried in exhaled air, coughs, and sneezes, from a person suffering from infection. Hard surfaces can become contaminated by falling droplets, or by direct or indirect contact with nasal secretions, which can, in turn, contaminate the hands of others.”
This is why washing hands or using hand sanitiser regularly is vital. Dr Dawood adds that travellers should maintain a “social distance of at least 1 metre where possible.”
Dr Dawood instils further confidence in prospective travellers, saying: “For now, the number of cases outside China is very small. Planes with a functioning air filtration system are very safe.”
Furthermore, even if travellers are concerned about jetting off to affected regions, the good news is there are plenty of much-loved holiday destinations across the globe that remain unaffected.
With the help of travel expert Nicky Kelvin, Director of Content at The Points Guy UK, express.co.uk has listed thee short-haul and three long-haul stops which, at time of writing, remain free from coronavirus and could be your ideal escape.
Rapidly growing in popularity in recent years, Poland was named one of lastminute.com’s destinations of the year thanks to its mix of art, history and culture.
Furthermore, airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair frequently boast low-cost tickets to the European hotspot perfect for a budget holiday.
The latest Travel Trends Report from ABTA, offers an array of city break options, proving that urban travel is now on the rise for all ages of Britons, and there is something for everyone in the country to enjoy.
Nicky spoke to express.co.uk and revealed that although Krakow is a favourite holiday hotspot amongst UK holidaymakers, there are some slightly lesser-known regions which offer a unique experience. He said: “[There are] some lovely city breaks to enjoy such as Wroclaw. A small but hip city in southwest Poland, known by most Germans as Breslau, the city’s name when the Silesian region of Poland was German-controlled.
“Through its thousand-year history, it has also been claimed as Prussian, Soviet, Hungarian, Bohemian and Habsburg territory, giving it a colourful and varied central European lineage. Those who think European cities are not multicultural just haven’t discovered Wrocław yet.”
Roughly 2 and a half hours direct from Heathrow, Hungary is home to an array of coastal and metropolitan holiday options.
One of its most popular destinations is Budapest, situated on the banks of the Danube River.
Much like with Poland, lastminute.com highlighted the growing popularity of Budapest in its holiday destination round-up at the end of last year.
Whether you want to explore the old city by day or dance the night away in the Budapest ruin bars, the city offers a little bit of everything.
Ideal for both a weekend mini break or a longer holiday, you could spend weeks in Budapest and only scratch the surface of the things on offer. While the best views are probably to be found from the hillier Buda, particularly from the Fishermen’s Bastion, this is a city full of history, wonderful architecture, not to mention great shopping, eating and drinking.
However, there is far more to Hungary than just its capital city.
“After a few days in the capital of Budapest, where you can post up at the Mystery Hotel Budapest, drive just 18 miles to the unassuming town of Etyek, which yields some of the country’s finest Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Pinots and sparkling wines,”gushes Nicky.
“Stop for tastings at Rókusfalvy Birtok, Halmi Pince, and Anonym Pince, which has a state-of-the-art tasting room with sweeping views of the countryside. Afterward, fend off the impending hangover with dinner and a stroll along Etyek’s so-called “Gastro Walkway,” a cobblestone street lined with restaurants.”
For those hoping for a sun-kissed beach holiday without the long-haul flight time, Turkey is the ideal destination.
This is perhaps why ABTA Members listed it as one of their favourite holiday destinations for winter sun.
Coupled with the Post Office Travel Money report revealing Britons can benefit from more travel money for their pounds. When it comes to travel money sterling is worth 19 per cent more against the Turkish lira than a year ago and tourists buying their currency now will get around £80 more in lira on a £500 transaction.
The most recent Post Office cost of living barometer found Turkey is also home to one of the cheapest resorts out of 42 destinations surveyed.
Of the resorts on offer, the Post Office found Marmaris offers the most bang for your buck. Meanwhile, Nicky explains there is far more to do than simply sunbathing.
“No city in the world compares to Istanbul,” he says.
“Sprawled across two continents and bisected by the Bosphorus Strait (a body of water as likely to teem with covert submarines as leaping dolphins), Istanbul is the cultural heart of Turkey. The birthplace of empires contains layers and layers of history.
“Also try Selçuk. The city of Izmir might be the axis of Turkey’s mid-Aegean region, but the nearby town of Selçuk has all the charm without the city crowds. Selçuk has wide boulevards lined with orange trees and ancient ruins sprinkled throughout the town centre.”
The Caribbean remains a holiday hotspot for travellers worldwide and was listed by ABTA members as one of their favourite long-haul winter sun destinations.
Situated in the Indian Ocean, the eastern Caribbean destination offers white sands, tropical waters and friendly locals to boot.
It’s an exotic safe haven from the epidemic sweeping the globe and could be the perfect opportunity to unwind with a cocktail in hand. Nicky explains: “Barbados isn’t just an island with gorgeous beaches and fantastic sunsets.
“You have far more options here than just sunbathing and enjoying the sea. The island is large enough (169 square miles) and with enough of a population (277,821 as of the 2010 census) to have a distinct vibe and rich culture.”
Offering a similarly tropical vibe, and endless hours of golden sunshine, Jamaica is another destination which remains popular amongst holidaymakers.
Nestled in the Caribbean sea, travellers can expect more than just a beach holiday, however with a flight time of 9 hours and 11 minutes from Heathrow, being comfortable with long journeys is a must.
“When visiting the island of Jamaica, most people stick to Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril,” says Nicky.
“But there is so much more this beautiful country has to offer, like rafting down the Rio Grande.”
Although the USA has detected 35 cases of coronavirus at the time of writing, South America remains free of the virus and could provide the ultimate holiday destination for those hoping to reach the Americas.
“There is so much more to Mexico than just its coastline,” comments Nicky.
“There are inland destinations that offer colonial charm, amazing food and immersion in Mexican cultures that go deeper than your lost shaker of salt. For example, Miguel de Allende, in Guanajuato province, is a colourful colonial gem and for that reason is also a vibrant artist colony.
“The city of 140,000 is walkable, easy to navigate and family-friendly.
“San Miguel de Allende is an expat retirement hot spot, so English is widely spoken. If you’re looking for an easy entry into Mexico’s interior, San Miguel is your place.”
How can you protect yourself travelling?
Regardless of whether you are travelling to a country which is home to coronavirus patients or not, you may still have some concerns about the spread of disease in busy airports and on transport systems.
Dr Dawood emphasises the importance of protecting yourself, especially with good hand hygiene.
This is backed up by The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which adds: “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.”
“Facemasks are of limited value: surgical masks offer no protection to the wearer though they may protect others if you are infected yourself. High filtration masks are protective but difficult to wear and use safely.
“Outside a medical setting, the only situation where I would really consider using them would be during a long delay on the ground in a plane with its air circulation system turned off,” says Dr Dawood.
He adds: “Have a flu jab - it won’t protect you against coronavirus but will protect you from having an illness that could easily be confused with it.”
Meanwhile, Nicky recommends carrying “disinfecting wipes, Naomi Campbell-style” to “sanitise the aeroplane seat”.
With experts around the world monitoring the developing situation closely, Dawood adds that travellers should “keep a close watch on official recommendations and advice, and follow expert guidance.”
However, one thing they should not do is miss out on exploring all of the beauty the world has to offer.