Latest information about coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Introduction 

A new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) causing respiratory symptoms was first identified in December 2019 in China. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic on the 11 March 2020, this means COVID-19 has spread worldwide and all travellers are potentially at risk of infection.

The WHO produce a daily situation report listing countries affected and the number of confirmed cases in each country:

The content of this page changes as more information about the new virus becomes available.

Recommendations for All Travellers

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a number of Exceptional Travel Advisory Notices:

  • British people are advised against all non-essential travel worldwide. This applies for an indefinite period due to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions.
  • British people travelling abroad are advised to return to the UK now, if commercial flights are still available.

Full details of the FCO Exceptional Travel Advisory Notices can be found here: FCO website

Pre Travel Advice

  • Check the FCO for the latest country specific outbreak advice including:
    • Travel restrictions: The FCO advises if there are any travel restrictions to a country, including if you are advised to avoid all travel to a country. This advice is updated regularly and can change from booking/planning a trip to your departure date. You must regularly check for the latest country specific advice here: FCO website
    • Entry requirements set by the destination country in response to COVID-19.
    • Reports of COVID-19 at the destination and measures the country is taking in response to the outbreak.
    • Cruise Travel: On the 12 March 2020 the FCO advised against cruise ship travel for all British Nationals aged 70 and over and those with pre-existing health conditions, full details available via this link: FCO press release
  • Be prepared before you travel, seek advice from your healthcare practitioner to ensure that you receive any necessary health advice and vaccinations. Do this well in advance if possible (at least 4 weeks) as courses of vaccines may take time.
    • There is currently no vaccine available to protect against COVID-19.
  • Always ensure you have travel health insurance cover, travel insurance is essential and must cover medical evacuation and repatriation in the event that you become unwell and have to be transported home.
    • Be aware that if the FCO advise against travel to a country and you continue with your trip, your travel insurance may be invalid.
    • Even with good travel insurance, individuals with symptoms may need to self isolate and return home can be delayed.
    • If you have travel insurance and the FCO subsequently advise against travel to a country, you may be entitled to a full refund.
  • Consider taking a first aid kit, this should include some means of checking body temperature.
  • If travelling with medication, ensure you take adequate supplies for duration of trip and include extra for unforeseen delays, damage or loss.

During Travel

The outbreak situation of your destination may change and if it does you should follow local public health advice, including on the face coverings.

To try and prevent coronavirus infection during your trip you must:

  • Wash your hands. Frequent and careful hand washing with soap for at least 20 seconds is one of the most important ways of preventing the spread of infection. This must be done before eating, after visiting the toilet and before touching your face. If soap, clean water and towels are not available, alcohol hand rub (containing at least 60% alcohol) can be used.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean.
  • Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and their personal items

If you become unwell during your trip:

  • Promptly seek out medical advice.
  • Call your travel health insurer for advice on healthcare cover.
  • Postpone any further travel until you are well again.
  • Follow good hygiene practices: cover your nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing, use tissues only once, disposing of them promptly and carefully, wash hands frequently.​

On Returning Home

On you return to the UK, if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 you should follow advice on the following websites:

  • Travellers to Scotland should check the NHS inform 
  • Travellers to other parts of the UK should check NHS.UK 

Overview of the Disease

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause a range of illnesses, from the common cold to more severe infections like MERS-CoV and SARS.

In January 2020 China discovered a new coronavirus when it was investigating cases of pneumonia (from December 2019) in people in Wuhan city, Hubei province, China.

  • This new infection is called COVID-19 and the virus causing it is called SARS-CoV-2.

The virus can spread from person to person but this is not yet fully understood. However, like similar viruses, it is thought that it is spread through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

  • If you are near the person when they cough or sneeze (within 2m) these droplets might land in your eyes, nose or mouth and cause infection.
  • Infected droplets also land on surfaces and objects such as handles, tables, telephones.
    • If your hands touch these surfaces or objects the virus passes onto your hands.
    • When your hands come into contact with your face the virus can cause infection through your mouth, nose, eyes. 

The Illness

Symptoms of a coronavirus infection (COVID-19) usually start up to 14 days after catching the virus.

The symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • a new continuous cough
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia).

Most people with COVID-19 have a mild illness and fully recover. A minority develop severe illness which can be fatal. 

Severe illness is more likely in people who:

·         are aged over 60 years or frail

·         have weakened immune systems including cancer 

·         have long term medical conditions that affect their heart or lungs

·         are diabetic.

Treatment and Testing

There is no specific treatment. Antibiotics do not work because it is a viral infection.

Testing

Guidance on testing, including who can be tested and the different tests available can be accessed via this link:

Further Information

Further information on COVID-19 is available from:

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