Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on International Relocations
As we have all seen recently, the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19, has had significant health & economic impacts worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO, https://www.who.int/) as at 2 am (AEST) this morning (Monday 16th March 2020) there are 153,648 confirmed cases and 5746 deaths spread across 146 countries, areas & territories. No matter where we live, the spread of the virus has and will continue to impact all of us in some way or another over the coming weeks and months.
As well as the human impact of the virus directly, we have also seen the impacts locally with travel restrictions, an increased number of businesses implementing work from home policies as well as stock shortages due to wide-spread panic buying. In addition to this, we can also see the vast economic impact that ripples through world markets and will likely continue to do so as the situation develops and restrictions on international trade and movement are tightened. This has a significant impact on the movement of containerised goods abroad and as such a large impact on people relocating internationally. Although we are still seeing only a limited impact on our container shipments between Australia and New Zealand, we are very aware of the significant impact on our customers more broadly.
What is Coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO, https://www.who.int/), coronaviruses are a wide range of viruses that cause health impacts ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). First identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and later named COVID-19, this strain, which was previously unseen in humans, was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and has since spread worldwide. The symptoms of the virus can include fever, tiredness, shortness of breath and a dry cough and anyone experiencing these symptoms are advised to seek medical advice.
Who is susceptible to COVID-19
While it appears that everyone is susceptible to COVID-19, most people seem to recover from the virus without needing any special treatment, however, there are a number of patients that become significantly ill and have difficulty breathing. The people identified as being at high risk of developing serious illness are generally older and those with preexisting medical issues such as high blood pressure, asthma, heart problems or diabetes. The spread of the diseases poses a direct risk to the health of these people and as such we all need to make sure that we do everything we can to protect the at-risk people and reduce the spread. Another significant risk with a disease like this is the speed at which it spreads which places significant, immediate pressure on our health system. By taking precautionary steps now we can slow the spread and ease this pressure however this relies on everyone getting on board with these measures.
Image Source: World Health Organisation (WHO, https://www.who.int/)
How can you help prevent the spread of COVID-19
While there is no known cure at this stage, the suggestions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 include regular and thorough washing of hands, covering of the mouth when sneezing or coughing as well as avoiding unnecessary contact especially with those displaying symptoms such as sneezing or coughing. Individual governments have also introduced measures to prevent the spread of the virus including travel restrictions (and in some cases bans) as well as self-isolation requirements for those experiencing symptoms or travelling from abroad. Advice from the Smart Traveller website (www.smartraveller.gov.au) is to “reconsider the need for overseas travel at this time.”
Impacts of travel in Australia & New Zealand
As of 12pm today (AEST, Monday 16th March 2020), according to the Australian Department of Health website (www.health.gov.au), there have been 298 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia with 5 confirmed deaths. In New Zealand, according to the Ministry of Health website (www.health.govt.nz), there have been 8 confirmed cases and no deaths to date (as at 8am NZ Time, 15th March 2020). In an effort to slow the spread of the virus and limit its impact, over the weekend, both the Australian and New Zealand governments have introduced a 14-day self-isolation requirement for everyone travelling into their respective countries from overseas as well as bans on cruise ships. This is for ALL people travelling including New Zealand & Australian citizens with an exception in New Zealand for travellers from the Pacific.
Moving from Australia to New Zealand
New Zealand was the first to implement the self-isolation requirements which came into effect as of 11.59 pm yesterday (NZ time, Sunday, 15th March 2020) with a ban of international cruise ships until at least 30th June 2020. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has advised that anyone that is travelling to New Zealand will be required to self isolate for 14 days regardless of whether they are displaying symptoms or not. This obviously has a significant impact on people planning to holiday in or relocating to New Zealand however will help to stop the spread of the virus in our ever more connected world. A number of airlines and other operators are responding to this by allowing customers to delay or even cancel their flights without penalty.
In addition to the travel restrictions, there has also been a wide impact on the shipping industry with supply chains affected due to decreased numbers of seaborne vessels with limitations for companies transporting goods from China to the rest of the world. This will impact many industries including ours with the limited demand for container transport. Countries are also increasing the requirements for ships entering ports worldwide.
We expect the current restrictions to impact our customers for a number of months to come and we expect to see more developments in this space with potentially more restrictions to come. At this stage we are still seeing only limited impact on our shipments between Australia & New Zeland however the situation with COVID-19 is constantly evolving and we are getting new information on a daily basis. We know this is a tough time for many and raises a lot of questions and uncertainties around travel and what you should do with pre-existing plans. We here at ShipinBoxes want to assure all our customers that we will continue to monitor the situation and are here to help anyone that needs to make changes or needs to discuss their relocation plans.
We suggest that you continue to monitor the relevant websites (www.health.gov.au, www.health.govt.nz, www.who.int, www.smartraveller.gov.au) for more information as it becomes available. Remember to stay vigilant and take all necessary precautions to help protect your family and friends. We extend our thoughts to all those impacted by this wish you all the best.