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Published on Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Asia specialists look to reassure customers

Asia specialists InsideJapan and InsideAsia are trying to allay fears about the coronavirus outbreak among their clients.

They say some clients have chosen to cancel or postpone trips to countries which are actually safe to visit.

"Enquiries for new bookings have also slowed down considerably in what should be the peak booking period," said PR and partnerships manager James Mundy.

"Thankfully, we have had a very strong January and bookings for spring and cherry blossom are as busy as ever."

The operators are posting up-to-date advice for Japan and for other Asian destinations for concerned consumers on their websites.

"Hopefully this will combat some of the media coverage which often builds these things out of proportion. Of course, we are concerned about the situation as everyone is, but we want to add some realism from the ground," said Mundy.

The InsideJapan website points out to consumers that there have been a low number of cases in Japan (26) with no new cases since before the weekend.

But fears about Japan have been exacerbated by widespread media coverage of the quarantined ship, Diamond Princess, which is still in Yokohama Bay in Japanese coastal waters.

The number of cases has risen to 135, while the remaining 3,700 passengers and crew are not allowed to leave the ship until at least February 19.

"Those affected have been taken to hospitals in Japan where they are being treated in secure conditions," says InsideJapan's website update.

"This has certainly put Japan much more in the public eye but in our opinion these should not be considered Japan cases and in actual fact the World Health Organisation is no longer classifying these as Japan but instead 'International conveyance'. There are other cruise ships affected in other locations."

The websites tell customers it is very unlikely their trips to Asia will be affected at all by coronavirus.

"As at airports around the world, there are extra precautions being taken at airports and other transport hubs," the advice says.

"When in destination you will see more people than normal wearing face masks. In Asia face masks are worn as a matter of course when an individual feels like they might have even a mild cold. And in spring and summer people who suffer from hay fever tend to wear masks out of a courtesy to their friends, colleagues and those around them.

"This can be a little disconcerting for visitors from western countries where there is no culture of wearing masks. However, this is much better understood than it used to be and~ if you see people wearing masks it really is nothing to worry about."

The latest figures from Healix International show there have been 43,103 cases confirmed, with all but 395 in China. So far there have been 1,017 deaths, all in China except for one in the Philippines and another in Hong Kong.

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