web Musings of The Global Traveller

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Swine flu update #6

I previously blogged on the impacts of H1N1 (swine flu) on travel, what to do about the potential impacts and how savvy travellers can benefit.This is an update on how the potential impacts are developing.

A reminder that for medical advice or up to the minute information on the spread of swine flu, check out the World Health Organization (WHO) website. Note they call it H1N1 Influenza A instead of swine flu.

Current swine flu status

Transmission rates and death rates are similar to or lower than normal seasonal influenza levels. At the time of writing over 100 countries have reported confirmed H1N1 cases and 13 countries have reported H1N1 deaths - it has spread everywhere, just like normal flu.

Current impacts on travel

Many countries have changed their approach to dealing with H1N1 as they accept it is now no longer contained. In general this means less hassles for travellers, although this is not yet the case everywhere. As previously reported, China still is taking a highly precautionary approach of putting into quarantine all arrivals who show a temperature, or seated nearby to someone with a temperature on a plane, or in a neighbouring cabin/room on a boat or in a hotel.

Mark Ashley of Upgrade: Travel Better has blogged about health authorities in Bali/Indonesia going one step further over the top by taking blood tests of all arriving visitors.

Other than in these few countries still taking a hard line, the only travellers significantly impacted by swine flu now should be those who actually contract it. Generally they are required to be quarantined for 3 or 7 days, and in some cases are hospitalised. The risk of this is low.

I've travelled to several countries since swine flu broke out, and in most (but not all) a health form is required for all arriving travellers (and in some cases also transit passengers) as well as a request to self-proclaim if feeling unwell. Thermal cameras in countries which had been using them only the past couple of months has been discontinued, but generally not in Asia where they have been in place for some years.

There are still some reports that China is slow to issue visas to Mexicans, Americans and Australians.


With many countries easing restrictions and their reactions to swine flu I think it is a great time to be travelling. The sales this year have been the best in a decade or more on some routes - this can't last. I expect airlines will keep slashing capacity if passenger numbers don't bounce back. Hotels don't have the luxury of altering supply so we should still see more good deals for the rest of the year at least. I'm wary of booking any non-refundable accommodation in the interim.

I'm keeping an eye on China and Indonesia as their actions are getting further and further out of step with other countries. Fortunately I have no upcoming travel to either planned in the short term.

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