CDC warns against non-essential travel to South Korea

February 25, 2020
A Korean Air Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Korean Air.

Travelers have been warned by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid all non-essential travel to South Korea after an outbreak of COVID-19.

The US CDC raised the travel warning to Level 3 on Tuesday as South Korea reported 60 additional cases of the virus to bring the total to 893.  The number of cases is second to China, which is also the subject of a Level 3 warning.

The news came as Reuters reported a Korean Air cabin crew has tested positive for the coronavirus and the airline had shut its office near Seoul’s Incheon International Airport.

All Nippon Airways also expanded its route suspensions to include services to Shanghai from Tokyo Narita and Kansai and Beijing from Kansai.

The spread of the disease, which also has seen more than 200 infections and seven deaths in Italy, has caused turmoil in financial markets, airlines to cut capacity and sent governments scrambling to revise economic predictions.

The International Air Transport Association has predicted Asia-Pacific airlines face a $US28 billion revenue loss from the virus.

READ: Asia-Pacific airlines face massive revenue loss from virus.

Australia had already been warning people to exercise a high degree of caution if traveling to Korea or Japan, where there have been 850 infections including a cluster on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The CDC warns there is a “widespread, ongoing outbreak of respiratory illness”  in South Korea caused by COVD-19.

It advises those who must travel to South Korea to avoid contact with sick people or touching their eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

“Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60 percent –95 percent alcohol,’’ it says. “Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.

“It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.”

Those who have been to South Korea in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever or cough, or have difficulty breathing, are urged seek medical advice, avoid contact with others and refrain from traveling.

Other symptoms can be a sore throat and some patients have reported diarrhea without other symptoms.

“This new coronavirus has caused severe disease and death in patients who developed pneumonia,’’ it says.

“Risk factors for severe illness are not yet clear, although older adults and those with chronic medical conditions may be at higher risk for severe illness.”