• Dr Michael Oehley

Your coronavirus questions answered by a travel doctor

The current situation with the novel coronavirus spreading globally is causing travellers considerable anxiety, for obvious reasons. Here is a travel doctor's take on what you need to know, where to find credible sources of information, and whether to proceed with your travels or not.

At the time of writing there are approximately 90,000 cases globally with 3,000 deaths; New Zealand has 1 confirmed case, and Australia has 1 confirmed death from COVID-19 (also called SARS-Cov-2). While this sounds terrible it is always worth having some perspective, and remembering that the world records 55,000,000 deaths (approx.) per year from all causes, and literally 000,000,000s (billions) of illnesses of all kinds.

My goal here is to answer some commonly asked questions:

1. Where do I find good information on the coronavirus?

There is plenty of misinformation on social media and less trustworthy news sites, so I recommend using the World Health Organisation, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and the New Zealand Ministry of Health. Please try not to read too many news articles about the coronavirus. The news media is, in my view, being very irresponsible by showing images of empty supermarket shelves and trying to drum up fear and anxiety to sell newspapers or increase the number of clicks on their pages.

2. How do I protect myself against the coronavirus?

This is relatively important information and a good list of advice can be found on the Ministry of Health site - click here. The key messages are wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with people who are sick - especially those who have recently travelled.

3. Where should I AVOID travelling to?

At this point in time, the W.H.O. does not specifically advise international travellers against travel to any destination, but you need to be aware that the New Zealand government is likely to ask you to self-isolate for 14 days if you return from any areas with known outbreaks (currently including China, Iran, northern Italy, South Korea and, in all likelihood, more places will be added to these lists soon). So think carefully about whether or not you can afford 2 weeks of unpaid leave upon returning from your travels.

4. Should I cancel my travel plans?

At this stage, my answer is no. For millions of international travellers to cancel their plans due to fear and uncertainty is only going to cause more disruption, not less. The effects of a global economic recession could be much worse than the effects of the coronavirus, if we as a global community give in to fear. The current advice for travellers from the C.D.C. is travel anywhere in the world you wish but avoid non-essential travel to Iran and China, South Korea and Italy. Those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing travel to Japan or Hong Kong. Otherwise, the rest of the world is safe to travel to - at the time of writing.

If you have more questions or want expert advice from a travel doctor, book now to see Dr Michael Oehley at the Waikato Travel Clinic. I hope you have found the above information useful.


Waikato Travel Clinic at Avalon Medical

6 Avalon Drive, Hamilton



T: 027 TRAVELS (872 8357)



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