Is Coronavirus a Health Threat for Digital Nomads?


The outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, Central China, has impacted travel to the country and the surrounding states. Wuhan is a major transportation hub, both local and international, and China has had to quarantine the city to contain the virus.

While Wuhan itself is not a tourist city, travelers to Asia should be concerned because cases have been reported in Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, Macau, Australia, and South Korea.

Important: This article is not medical advice. For detailed information about COVID-19, please read the official CDC website.

What You Need to Know About Coronavirus?

The Wuhan coronavirus has been labeled the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). It was first reported in December 2019, and its origins are traced to a live animal market in the city. A growing number of reports have identified patients who have not visited the market and proven human to human transmission

The coronavirus family includes many viruses that target the respiratory tract. In addition to illnesses like pneumonia and the common cold, the viruses can result in severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which infected thousands and killed over 700 people in China in 2003.

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of coronavirus are very similar to those of other respiratory diseases. WHO has linked the virus to a dry cough, sore throat, fatigue, and fever. These symptoms can take six to ten days to manifest, and reports have shown that asymptomatic people can spread the virus as well.

Treatment will typically involve organ support to prevent organ failure. The virus is especially deadly in older people or those with an already compromised health system.

Is it Safe to Travel to China and Asia?

Digital nomads do a lot of global traveling, which means that they need to be very vigilant in the context of disease outbreaks. Most travelers from Wuhan head to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo, and movements to these areas should be undertaken with caution.

If you are traveling from China, you should expect airport screenings in Japan, India, Malaysia, Singapore, the US, UK, and South Korea. Some nations are using health forms, while  others are relying on ear thermometers.

In the US, screening stations have been set up in O’Hare in Chicago, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, John. F Kennedy, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Screening involves a symptom and temperature check, and people who test positive will be quarantined for subsequent examinations.

The US and UK have cautioned travelers against non-essential travel to Wuhan, and the greater Hubei Province. China has not only quarantined Wuhan but surrounding cities as well. As it stands, the outbreak is only an emergency in China, as WHO is yet to declare it an international one.

How Should Digital Nomads Protect Themselves from Coronavirus?

While the global coronavirus threat is currently low, it is still advisable for digital nomads to protect themselves. Some practices to consider include:

  1. Health experts have stressed the importance of frequent handwashing. Use soap and water to physically scrub your hands of germs or an alcohol-based rub if it is more convenient. The frequency of handwashing should increase if you are dealing with a sick person or handling animals. Ensure you do not touch your mouth, nose, or eyes with unwashed hands.
  2. Wear a mask in high-risk areas. Images broadcasted from China are filled with people donned in preventative masks. While they will not provide 100% protection, they will minimize the risk. Thicker ones are better, but ensure that you wear whichever mask you get well for maximum efficacy. You can also wear gloves when using public transported to avoid touching contaminated surfaces.
  3.  It would help if you additionally avoided people who display signs of respiratory illnesses like coughs. If you can, avoid crowded areas like public transport systems.
  4. Travelers who visited China in December and January and feel sick should seek medical guidance. It is advisable to call the medical institution ahead and inform them of your travel history. The center will be able to make arrangements to treat you or refer you to another hospital if need be.
  5. Avoid live animal markets if you go to China. Coronavirus, like SARS, has been associated with live animals, and the outbreak has even been traced to a live animal market in Wuhan. Cook any meat and eggs thoroughly before consumption as well.
  6. Sanitize Your Surrounding may help to an extent. Airplanes are especially riddled with germs, and you can bring your own seat cover and wipe surfaces like the tray table.

Should You Visit China?

You should definitely change your plans if you were to travel through Wuhan and surrounding cities. If your itinerary involves other areas of China, it is advisable to wait and see how the issue unfolds. Cases in other parts of Asia are mainly isolated and seem safe to travel through.

If you had planned to visit Wuhan, you might be able to escape cancellation fees from some airlines. Air China, for example, is waiving cancellation and change fees for tickets bought by Jan 31. For travel by March 29.

Additional airlines that have loosened their regulations include Cathay Pacific, China Eastern, and China Southern. Some hotel chains have also introduced waivers on cancellation and changes in Wuhan and other parts of China, including Hilton, Hyatt, and Accor.

It is advisable to get all the flu vaccinations recommended by the CDC for any destination in Asia. If you get sick, it will be easy for health professionals to rule out these risks.

Travel Risk-Free: Insurance for Digital Nomads

In addition to exciting adventures, digital nomads can carry unfortunate souvenirs from their destinations, like illnesses. The spread of coronavirus to other places in China, Asia, and the world has shown how quickly travelers can spread a disease from one place to another.

While most digital nomads typically overlook medical insurance, it has become more vital than ever. You need a comprehensive travel health insurance to cover every country you visit. The best policies will also insure evacuation, search and rescue, stolen luggage, emergency accommodation, and delays.


Travelers are understandably on high alert following the Wuhan Coronavirus in China. If you are planning to visit China anytime soon, you can opt to go if your itinerary does not include Hubei Province.

For nomads who would rather cancel their plans, check to see if your airline has waived cancellation and change fees. Those traveling to the rest of Asia should maintain cautionary measures like frequent handwashing and avoiding sick persons.

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