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Information on how to stay safe and healthy abroad. About us.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)


A new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) causing respiratory symptoms was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan city, Hubei Province, China. It has since spread internationally.

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

Recommendations for Travellers

Prior to Departure

  • Check travel advice including advisories (restrictions) - outbreak and additional information will be highlighted under the 'Notice Board' tab and 'News' tab on the specific destination pages of fitfortravel and information on any travel restrictions can be found on the foreign and commonwealth office website.
  • 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 no vaccine available at present to protect against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). 
  • Always ensure you have heath 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. Check the impact this outbreak may have on your travel insurance coverage before you travel.
  • Consider taking a first aid kit - this should include a small, basic first aid kit, including some means of checking body temperature, either a thermometer or strips to place on the forehead and alcohol-based rub for hand hygiene.

During Travel

  • Hand washing. Frequent and careful hand washing is one of the most important ways of preventing the spread of infection. If soap, clean water and towels are not available, alcohol hand rub can be used. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean.
  • There is currently insufficient evidence to support the use of facemasks as a useful preventative measure for the general public
  • Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and their personal items.
  • Avoid contact with animals, poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, quail) or wild birds, and the places where they are present, for example, bird/animal markets, commercial or backyard farms. Also avoid contact with sick or dead animals or birds.
  • Do not eat uncooked or undercooked poultry or meat. All meat and poultry, including eggs must be thoroughly cooked.
  • If you become unwell with a fever, cough or difficulty with breathing, promptly seek out medical attention. The British Embassy can assist with contacting medical aid and relatives. Postpone any further travel until you are well again.
  • Do not attempt to bring live animals, poultry or poultry products back into the country.

On Returning Home

  • Pay attention to your health on return, particularly over the first 14 days.
  • If you develop symptoms (fever, a cough or problems breathing) or any other 'Flu like' or respiratory illness during this period, seek immediate medical attention. Contact one of the following:
    • NHS 111 (England): NHS111
    • 0300 200 7885 (Northern Ireland)
    • NHS 24 (Scotland): Call 111 or your General Practitioner
  • Do not visit a health-care setting (for example your health centre or a hospital), before seeking telephone advice as above, describe your symptoms and provide details of your recent travel history.
    • Follow the advice that you are given.
  • Do not travel while you are unwell and limit your contact with others as much as possible to prevent the spread of any infectious illness until you can be seen by a Doctor.
  • Follow good hygiene practices: cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, use tissues only once, disposing of them promptly and carefully, wash hands frequently.

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.

Some coronaviruses infect animals. Occasionally these viruses are transmitted from animals to humans. The first cases all worked at a large seafood market that also sold live animals. It is thought that the virus may initially have been caught from an animal, although this is not confirmed. The infection can be spread from person to person.

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 has been named SARS-CoV-2. 

The Illness

Symptoms of a coronavirus infection usually start up to 14 days after catching the infection.

Some people have been severely ill and there have been associated deaths.


There is no specific treatment yet and antibiotics will not work because it is a virus.


Further Information

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