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December 2019 China Coronavirus Outbreak Advisory

January 31, 2020

Update: 31st January

ADVICE TO TRAVELLING PARTICIPANTS

Charity Challenge will continue to be directed by relevant government authorities regarding health and safety in connection to the coronavirus outbreak.  Currently, the only official UK government travel advisory (from the FCO) to avoid travel is to China and it is currently deemed safe to travel to all other Charity Challenge destinations.  Should that change, the groups and individuals affected will be contacted directly to discuss options and to make alternative arrangements.

All travelling participants, wherever they are going in the world, are requested to apply a high degree of awareness and common sense in the run up to, and during an expedition.   Charity Challenge is committed to not becoming a part of the problem!

Participants are requested to apply a high degree of self-regulation to avoid joining a trip as an infected individual and spreading it, and to avoid contracting or spreading it whilst overseas.  The following is advised:

Prior to Departure

Check the latest travel advisories in your home country and follow the guidelines carefully.  Authoritative advice for UK citizens can be found at NHS Scotland’s fitfortravel and Public Health England’s National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).  The advice and guidelines can sometimes be targeted at those travelling specifically to China but Charity Challenge considers these sensible precautions regardless of expedition destination.  

Limit your risk to exposure by avoiding people or places where risks of infection may be high.  Following your country’s official guidelines carefully will reduce your chances of unwittingly becoming a carrier. 

Do not join a trip if you feel ill or think you may have been exposed to the virus.   There are early reports that the virus can spread asymptomatically i.e. the virus may be transmitted to you via an infected individual who has no idea themselves that they are infected and who shows no signs or symptoms of being ill.  Please do not risk the health of your fellow expedition companions.

Ensure you have adequate health cover to ensure comprehensive cover should you fall ill prior to the trip and have to cancel or require medical support and /or evacuation on the trip itself.

Take extra hand cleansing products such as alcohol-based hand washes.  Currently there is insufficient evidence to support the use of face masks but that may change. If however, you feel more comfortable when transiting airports, you may consider wearing a face mask.

During the Expedition

Maintain extremely high hand and personal hygiene standards.  Hand washing with soap, water and clean towels regularly is the best and, where not available, use alcohol-based hand cleansers.  Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, use tissues only once, disposing of them promptly and carefully, wash hands frequently.

Avoid sharing personal items like drinking bottles

Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and their personal items

If you become unwell with a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, promptly seek medical attention through your Challenge Leader.  Follow all medical advice given.

On Return Home

Pay attention to your health on return, particularly over the first 14 days.

If you develop symptoms such as those mentioned above or any other ‘Flu like’ or respiratory illness during this period, follow your country’s guidelines carefully, which will likely suggest calling medical providers by telephone in the first instance for advice, to avoid inadvertently spreading the virus.  In England the advice is to call NHS 111 and explain your circumstances.

Inform Charity Challenge immediately if you develop symptoms so that others in the group can be informed, authorities contacted, and any control measures can swiftly be put into action.

Charity Challenge will continue to adhere to international guidelines and be directed by official government authorities.  Participants are advised to keep abreast of developments and apply caution.  Charity Challenge is confident that trips will be run safely and just request participants to play their part and help by following the guidelines carefully


Update: 29th January

The outbreak continues to spread with confirmed case numbers and fatalities increasing, although mostly still limited to China; numbers outside China are generally still low and mostly single digit.  There are four cases in Europe: three in France and one in Germany.  There have now been reports of the first cases of domestic infection outside of China, in Japan and Germany.  Currently patients commonly present with mild illness although roughly 20% of patients suffer severe symptoms; its widely believed to still predominantly be a risk for the elderly or those with compromised health.

In what is now very much a globally coordinated effort to halt the spread the disease, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has now advised against all but essential travel to mainland China

Furthermore, companies are independently responding, including suspending flights to China.  The global effort to address this emergency is phenomenal, particularly from China itself, and confidence in managing this epidemic is currently high.  The outlook is hard to predict but experts in China suggest that the epidemic could peak in as little as a week to 10 days.

Due to the new FCO advice against travel to China, Charity Challenge will be cancelling all trips to China that are due to depart over the next 2 months and remain confident that existing trips departing later in the year will remain unaffected. 

Groups and individuals whose challenges are affected by this cancellation are being contacted directly to discuss options and to make alternative arrangements.

This advisory will be updated regularly and should any developments in the situation seem likely to impact on challenges scheduled for later in the year, we will contact the relevant participants and groups immediately to discuss options.


Update: 27th January

The novel (new) coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, outbreak is spreading as predicted with the first reportedly officially recognised cases in Europe reported in France on Friday 24th January from patients who had all travelled from Wuhan; the key factor being these were not transmissions from human to human within Europe, as is happening in China, although it is widely accepted as just a matter of time before this changes.

The number of confirmed cases in mainland China has reportedly risen to almost 3,000, including 81 fatalities.  At this stage the majority of deaths are still linked to either the elderly or those with pre-existing respiratory problems.

As the outbreak progresses the WHO continues to prepare, coordinate and update on a global level, and governments are responding accordingly.  The FCO have increased the restrictions and now advise against all travel to Hubei Province.

Charity Challenge continues to monitor the situation closely.


Original Advisory: 23rd January

Overview

Charity Challenge has been monitoring the latest developments with the China coronavirus outbreak which was first detected in late December 2019 in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, a region which Charity Challenge groups do not visit.

As of 22 January there have been 440 cases and 9 fatalities officially reported, including 10 cases (but no fatalities) in Beijing, a city which does feature on Charity Challenge itineraries.  In addition, the virus has spread from infected individuals from Wuhan to Thailand (2 cases), Japan (1 case), the Republic of Korea (1 case), Taiwan (1 case) and the United States of America (1 case).  The virus is thought to be part of the wide family of diseases which includes the less severe common cold and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which people recall from 2003. Current unverified reports suggest most of the fatalities have been amongst the elderly or those suffering from other chronic diseases.

It is currently too early to assess the impact this will have in China, regionally in SE Asia and globally and most authorities are waiting for more information upon which to make judgements.  The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently only advise against all but essential travel to Wuhan itself, and Public Health England state the risks to travellers to Wuhan itself is moderate and advise travellers there to maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene.  The World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend any restrictions to travel or trade and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), Fit For Travel and the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China are monitoring the situation closely and providing updates regularly.

What Charity Challenge is doing

The response by Charity Challenge will be very much dictated by the advice and instructions from higher national and international authorities.  

As a precautionary measure however, Charity Challenge is re-screening the medical declarations of all participants who are due to travel to China and countries in south-eastern Asia over the next 6 months, who may be at greater risk to respiratory illnesses.

With such a quickly evolving and dynamic event happening, it is too early to predict the outcome of this outbreak and undoubtedly there will be much discussion and development over the next few weeks / months.  We continue to monitor the major sources of reliable information such as the FCO and the WHO.

The first Charity Challenge trips to the region are not departing until late March and currently there is no reason to cancel or find alternative options for these trips.  Charity Challenge, along with their Chinese in-country partners who are already in contact, will continue to monitor the situation closely and should anything change that may impact on the safe delivery of the challenge, any affected groups will be contacted directly.

Participants should direct any concerns to Charity Challenge who have dedicated staff responsible for safety and security.

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