Coronavirus: Travel advice for public

Hakim Hayat

As the death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China reportedly rose to 81 yesterday, and revelations that the virus can be contracted even before symptoms show, members of the public are urged to take precautionary hygienic measures and avoid travelling to affected countries.

To date, neighbouring countries Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have confirmed individuals contracting the virus, mainly from those from the Chinese city of Wuhan where the virus first originated.

Amid growing concerns back at home of the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak, the Ministry of Health (MoH) issued an advisory to the public to avoid or postpone non-essential trips to places where there are known cases of the coronavirus.

As precautionary measure, the public is advised to avoid coming into contact with sick livestock and poultry as well as consuming raw or improperly cooked meat.

Good habits should also be maintained, such as the regular washing of hands with water and soap; use masks during cold or flu; cover the mouth with tissue while coughing or sneezing; and dispose soiled tissues after use.

The public is urged to seek treatment if feeling unwell and to avoid direct contact with those who display symptoms.

Symptoms of the new coronavirus include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

These symptoms are similar to those caused by SARS, according to a recent study published in the journal The Lancet.

There is no vaccine for the new coronavirus but researchers at the US National Institutes of Health confirmed they were in preliminary stages of developing one. In addition, the drug company Regeneron announced that it is in the early stages of developing a treatment for this virus, according to AFP.

The MoH will continue to maintain high levels of preparedness and work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as other countries in the region, to control the situation.

Among the steps taken are to re-introduce the use of body temperature checks for passengers arriving in the country via Brunei International Airport, particularly cities in China, starting on January 21, 2020; improved implementation of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in government clinics and hospitals; and ongoing monitoring and risk assessment of the condition of the infection worldwide.