Covid-19 (new coronavirus) - latest and advice for businesses

21 February 2020

Information for UK tourism businesses on the outbreak of coronavirus in China, including the current situation impact on travel to and from the UK and links to useful information and advice.The best source of information for any visitors with individual questions or health concerns is Public Health England.

This page will be updated regularly once new information is made available by the UK Government. 

The UK Government is working in close collaboration with international colleagues and the World Health Organization to monitor the situation in China and around the world and to limit the impact of the coronavirus with the health and safety of people rightly the priority. Whilst this is still a fast-moving situation and it is hard to predict this new virus, the UK Government’s hope is that China’s robust controls on movement and gatherings will result in the virus coming quickly under control. We know from the SARS outbreak in 2002-3, that although the initial impact was significant, the recovery was robust within months, with visitors re-booking their cancelled trips. 

Latest travel information and advice  

Following the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s continued advice against all but essential travel to mainland China,British Airways have cancelled their flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until 19 April 2020, they are offering refunds and postponements on flights to Hong Kong for travel booked up until 31 May 2020. Virgin Atlantic has suspended their London to Shanghai service from 1 February until 29 March. Both airlines are operating services to Hong Kong and there are still a number of airlines operating between the UK and China, so passengers do have other options to get to their destination.

The Home Office and UKVI have issued immigration guidance for individuals in the UK who are unable to return to China.

British people travelling and living overseas following the outbreak of novel coronavirus should check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice.

There has been a significant outbreak of COVID-19 in the South Korean cities of Daegu and Cheongdu. The Korean government has designated these cities areas of special concern. The UK Government is advising people that they should exercise caution before travelling to these cities and that they should continue to comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the Korean authorities.

Chinese authorities have ordered all their national travel agencies and online travel companies to temporarily suspend business, leisure, group travel and ‘ticket and hotel’ products effective immediately. Whilst individual travel has not been mentioned specifically, the authorities are keen to ensure that the disease is contained.

Latest advice for businesses

We also know that Chinese tourists affected will be very disappointed that they cannot go through with their travel plans and in line with requests from the Chinese Govenment, fair cancellation/rebooking policies are advised. We have seen some great examples of industry best practice such as accommodation providers as well as train operators offering free cancellations to Chinese guests affected, easing some of their worry and helping to support their future plans to visit Britain. We know that goodwill created now will stand the industry in good stead for when the suspension is over.

Measures in place at major ports of exit/entry

China has port-of-exit screening in place so people already exhibiting symptoms are not allowed to leave the country.

Meanwhile, flights to the UK from mainland China are continuing to provide health announcements to passengers and are providing a general declaration an hour out from landing. 

Health protection teams have been in place at Heathrow since 22nd January and in Gatwick and Manchester since 29th January. Enhanced monitoring at airports was extended at UK airports to cover direct flights from Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia. There are no direct flights from Macau.

Posters and leaflets have been sent by Public Health England electronically to all 28 UK international airports, all UK Eurostar terminals and Dover and key ferry ports. 

The Chinese Government is asking travel companies, operators and tourism businesses around the world to facilitate booking changes and cancellations to help reduce the movement of crowds and reduce the spread of the virus. At the moment, the Chinese Government is not offering any compensation to cancelled groups.

Latest advice for visitors

Health

See latest information and advice for the public on the outbreak of coronavirus from the Department of Health and Social Care. This covers the current situation in the UK and abroad and advice for visitors travelling to the UK from China, as well as Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Macua, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia.

Check the latest travel health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website.

The UK Government's public information campaign advises the public on how to slow the spread of the coronavirus and reduce the impacts on NHS services.

Visas

The Home Office and UKVI have issued immigration guidance for individuals in the UK who are unable to return to China.

Reassurance for visitors from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Macau:

“Visitors can be reassured that the UK Government along-with with international colleagues and the World Health Organization have been working in close collaboration to monitor the situation in China and around the world, to limit the impact of the coronavirus with the health and safety of people rightly the priority.

“The UK Government is closely monitoring the situation. The UK’s public health measures are world-leading and it is always well prepared for new diseases with its approach kept under continuous review.

“As of 6 February 2020 the UK’s Chief Medical Officers are advising anyone who has travelled to the UK from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days and is experiencing cough or fever or shortness of breath, to stay indoors and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild. “These areas have been identified because of the volume of air travel from affected areas, understanding of other travel routes and number of reported cases. This list will be kept under review. The advice for travellers from Wuhan and Hubei Province remains unchanged.

“Health protection teams have been in place at Heathrow since 22 January and in Gatwick and Manchester since 29 January. Posters and leaflets have been sent by Public Health England electronically to all 28 UK international airports and all UK Eurostar terminals. This is a fast moving situation and the best source of information for any visitors with individual questions or concerns is Public Health England.”