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The other day, we had a picnic with extended family and conversation turned to Coronavirus scare. When I mentioned that we are planning to go to Japan in the early summer, my husband’s cousin (who happens to be a registered nurse), turned to me with a horrified look on her face and said that she would cancel. It wasn’t so much medical advice, but reflected the overall state of unease with going to Asia in a near future.
So I figured I should write a post with my own thoughts on the matter. In no way is it meant to be taken as advice, but rather my personal (unqualified) opinion. But first let me address the obvious. This whole matter is incredibly trivial compared to what folks are having to go through in the hardest hit region of China. People are dying and families are terrified, unable to leave Hubei province. They don’t have a choice, unlike me. Whether we end up going to Japan or not is of no consequence in the grand scheme of things.
Another thing. As it usually happens in this type of situations, many people (a term used loosely) crawl out of internet gutter and unleash xenophobia on the masses. This time is no exception. So, if you are ethnic Chinese and are disgusted by what you have read lately, as a white person, I’m right there with you.
Separating hysteria from facts (is hard)
The biggest issue with this virus is that we still don’t know enough about it. I’m sure that will change as the time goes by, but right now internet is filled with conspiracy theories. Reddit is full of doomsday preppers, and Twitter warriors with no first-hand knowledge keep sharing links to dubious news articles. It’s crazy.
Looking for actual facts is very difficult because WHO organization has no choice but to release statistics given to them by China. I have zero interest in turning this into anything remotely political, but it doesn’t take a genius to be a bit skeptical of the numbers. For example, I saw one official report where China claimed they had only several hundred deaths from regular flu last year. In a country of billions.
It’s a bit harder for them to control the Coronavirus narrative, as there are so many leaked reports (from people who are actually there) indicating the situation is much worse than it is reported. People are saying neighbors are dying in their homes before getting tested for the new virus. Others are turned away when trying to get admitted to the hospital. If you don’t get tested, you don’t get counted toward the official total of those who are infected.
What are the true numbers? Hard to say, but the quarantine on Diamond Princess IMO provides a good clue. Out of 3200 passengers, 120 (so far) have been confirmed to have the virus or about 3.8%. All of it from just one infected passenger! A 3.8% of 11 million in Wuhan amounts to 456K people. Obviously, controlled environment of a cruise ship will be a bit different from a city. Still, considering the density of the population, it’s not crazy to assume that the real numbers of infected are much higher than reported. Once again, I haven’t studied biology beyond high school, but I can do simple math. BTW, I’m seriously rethinking ever going again on a cruise, though a good deal will probably change my mind.
The long-winded point I’m trying to make is that this is a serious problem that may not go away for a long time. Despite containment efforts, it will likely spill over to other regions of the country. I almost booked a detour to China after our trip to Japan. I really wanted to stop in Beijing, but decided it would be too much to tackle at this particular time. I’m very glad because I would absolutely be canceling it right now. There is no doubt in my mind.
Even though we are planning to go in early summer, I would not be comfortable taking that chance. Yes, many experts are saying that the virus should be gone in the spring. But again, no one knows. It could also mutate and become an even bigger headache.
I guess one of the reasons I feel this way is because I have a first-hand experience with virus that turned into pneumonia. When I was twelve, that’s exactly what happened to me. I have vivid memories of collapsing in our living room and waking up in the hospital with an oxygen mask over my face. I was a healthy child with no pre-existing conditions. Fortunately, I got better and ended up getting released after three weeks. Years later, while looking at my scan, an American doctor mentioned that he could see permanent damage from pneumonia in my lungs.
I’m not trying to compare the two situations or sound like a scaremonger. Bottom line: there is no way I would personally feel comfortable taking my family to a place that recently went through a scary epidemic. I don’t care if officials say it’s contained, which I hope happens very soon for the sake of all those poor people.
I consider myself a reasonable person. I realize I can’t control all the risks associated with travel or life in general. But I also don’t see a point in a vacation where I feel nervous the entire time.
Why I still plan on going to Japan (for now)
At the moment, I don’t have plans to cancel our trip, though that may obviously change in the future. There is no guarantee that we will be safe from the new virus there, but our chances are much better than they would be in mainland China. Who knows what the situation will be like in a few months, but I am not super concerned right now. And hopefully, the virus is seasonal in nature, and will be gone by May.
Based on reports, I believe it’s safe to conclude that it’s not like Ebola that kills 50% of those infected. Even if current 2% mortality rate holds true (I actually suspect it’s lower based on Diamond Princess situation), the odds would be overwhelmingly in our favor. Even with my damaged lungs, I would likely recover. At least I hope so!
Honestly, if this thing turns into a worldwide pandemic, travel will probably be the least of our worries anyway.
Readers, are you canceling your Asia trip this year?
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.