In light of the widespread coverage of the Wuhan coronavirus, I’ve received several questions from readers asking if I’d still recommend traveling to or through China.
It goes without saying that I’m not a doctor, world health expert, or anything else. I’m just a guy who travels a lot, and over time have put significant thought into some of the “issues” that may put people off traveling to certain regions.
Therefore I’ll instead answer the question of whether I’d be willing to travel to China (and specifically Wuhan) right now. I’m headed to mainland China (though not Wuhan) this week, so let me share how I rationalize the situation.
The basics of the Wuhan coronavirus
The first case of the Wuhan coronavirus was identified in Wuhan in mid-December, and since then there have been over 450 confirmed cases, and nine deaths.
This has been transmitted by animals and people, and was linked to a market in Wuhan that was selling seafood and live animals.
So far most of the deaths have involved elderly people with other conditions. This has even spread internationally, as yesterday the US CDC revealed there was one confirmed case in the US, of someone who had arrived from Wuhan.
The challenge is that no one knows how many people really have this, and also how much worse it will get. When it comes to traveling, one particular concern is that the Chinese New Year is this weekend, which means a lot of people will be traveling, further increasing the risk of this virus spreading.
I have no qualms traveling to mainland China
I’m scheduled to spend a night in Beijing later this week, while enroute to Taipei. My dad knows about this trip, so not surprisingly he called me yesterday, saying “you’re not traveling to China, are you?!” I don’t blame him for his concern, based on how this is being covered in the news here in the US.
Does the prospect of this becoming something like MERS or SARS concern me? 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 overnight there were ten thousand new cases of this discovered, but short of that, I wouldn’t change plans.
I probably wouldn’t travel through Wuhan
As mentioned above, I’m traveling through Beijing, and not Wuhan, though. The cities are nearly 700 miles apart, so it would be like reconsidering travel to San Francisco because of something primarily going on in Seattle.
Would I travel to Wuhan right now? No, probably not.
Not because I necessarily think it’s that risky (in my opinion the statistics simply don’t support that in a city of over ten million people), but rather because of the stress it would cause my family, who for all the right or wrong reasons would be very concerned about me.
Furthermore, it just seems like if you can avoid directly subjecting yourself to everything surrounding that (including additional screening at airports and beyond), it’s probably for the better.
When it comes to situations like the Wuhan coronavirus, everyone has to decide for themselves what they’re comfortable with. In my opinion it’s never worth traveling if you’re in a situation where you feel like you’re putting yourself at risk, whether that’s rational or not.
Over the years I’ve developed pretty consistent guidelines when it comes to what I am and am not comfortable with when traveling. For example, I’ll fly any airline without considering their safety record. Why? Because even on the least “safe” airlines, you’re still safer than in a car. When I get in an Uber, I don’t in great detail look up the safety ratings of that car, interview the driver about their driving skills, etc.
Of course I’m not totally consistent in my logic either, because chair lifts still scare the hell out of me. 😉
We’ll have to see how the Wuhan coronavirus develops. If this turns into something where there are suddenly tens of thousands of new cases in a short period of time, then I’d definitely avoid any area with a lot of reported cases.
However, for the time being the statistics just don’t support that.
I’m curious to hear how you guys feel about this, as I truly don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, with everyone having different comfort levels.
Would you feel comfortable traveling to Wuhan right now? What about to mainland China in general?