As the current outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) continues to develop, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) have issued a joint statement, and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has backed it up.

DFAT emphasised yesterday that in the overwhelming majority of cases there is no need for anyone to reconsider or cancel travel plans.

DFAT advised:

There is an outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). COVID-19 is still affecting mostly people in mainland China, but some outbreaks have occurred in other countries around the world.

We are keeping all our travel advisories under close review in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer and our network of overseas embassies and consulates.

In most countries, we continue to advise Australians to ‘exercise normal safety precautions’.  For the coronavirus, this means taking sensible measures to minimise your risk of exposure such as practising good hand hygiene (see Health).  It does not mean reconsidering or cancelling your travel plans to these countries.

We have raised our advice level for three countries: China – to ‘do not travel’; South Korea – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ and Japan – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. We have also raised our advice levels for regions in northern Italy – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’.

For the full DFAT bulletin issued by, see here.

MEANWHILE, WHO and UNWTO have stated that they remain committed to working together in guiding the travel and tourism sectors’ response to COVID-19.

The WHO/UNWTO joint statement:

On 30 January 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and issued a set of Temporary Recommendations. WHO did not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available. WHO is working closely with global experts, governments and partners to rapidly expand scientific knowledge on this new virus, to track the spread and virulence of the virus, and to provide advice to countries and the global community on measures to protect health and prevent the spread of this outbreak.

Cooperation is key

The tourism sector is fully committed to putting people and their well-being first. International cooperation is vital for ensuring the sector can effectively contribute to the containment of COVID-19. UNWTO and WHO are working in close consultation and with other partners to assist States in ensuring that health measures be implemented in ways that minimize unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.

Tourism’s response needs to be measured and consistent, proportionate to the public health threat and based on local risk assessment, involving every part of the tourism value chain – public bodies, private companies and tourists, in line with WHO’s overall guidance and recommendations.

UNWTO and WHO stand ready to work closely with all those communities and countries affected by the current health emergency, to build for a better and more resilient future. Travel restrictions going beyond these may cause unnecessary interference with international traffic, including negative repercussions on the tourism sector.

At this challenging time, UNWTO and WHO join the international community in standing in solidarity with affected countries.

Edited by Peter Needham