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Special News: Coronavirus Update

March 24, 2020

Coronavirus Update – Stay at Home

Some of our fellow divers are still trying to get out of the country to go diving where, they believe, the risk of the corona virus is minimal. That’s awfully uninformed and selfish behaviour. After all, with a recorded gestation period of up to 37 days, the virus could be traveling right along with them, bringing havoc to where they travel.

But, if they wish to ignore the greater good and carry on anyway, they may end up being quarantined abroad for much longer than we care to even consider. The US State Department has warned American citizens not to travel abroad due to the Coronavirus pandemic, issuing the highest possible advisory: The Level 4: Do Not Travel advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of Covid-19.

Many countries are implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders and prohibiting non-citizens from entry or exit with little or no advance notice. Those stranded, thanks to travel restrictions and flight cancelations, can only be patient and self-isolate. Many are struggling to get support from the State Dept. as staffing levels are drawn down.

So, while being underwater is about the safest place one can be, getting there isn’t safe. For the greater good, stay home.

Putting Others at Risk?

Just a week ago, one of our long-time octogenarian subscribers wrote to us, saying that although he was healthy, life itself was a risk, and the virus going around certainly added to it. At his age, he was unwilling to put his life on hold and did all he could to get to PNG at the end of March. He figured the other divers on the boat would have been as careful as he was in avoiding the virus and thought the larger risk would be the airports and planes in transit. “Once there, we would be in a self-imposed 11-day quarantine.” He would pack an extra month of meds should his trip home be stalled. Thankfully, his boat cancelled.

But, it’s thinking like this that spreads the virus. First, the only was to be not carrying it is to have been practicing social distancing for several weeks – that goes for everyone on the boat. Second, PNG is a tiny country, with a limited healthcare system. Even if it had no infection already, carrying that virus into any county that has yet to be infected would also be a disaster, caused by divers who thought they could beat the virus, without considering that they could infect a nation and cause others to die.

We Must Cancel, but it Comes at A Price

Allanah Phillips from Nautilus Liveaboards wrote to, Julie Strassel, a friend of subscriber Randy Kettering (Evanston, IL), after she discovered the company was provisionally charging a whopping 60 percent for a cancelation and future rebooking, “We understand completely and as the situation is changing so rapidly, this is what we have set in place right now. If we are able to do more in the future, of course we will. We want to be able to offer trips in the future and if we were to give everyone a 100 percent credit, that may not be possible. If we are able to offer more at a later date, we will be sure to inform everyone that has had to cancel their trips.”

What’s happening at some destinations is that money for future trips is not held in account until that trip is taken but use to meet current expenses. That $5000 you sent to a resort or liveaboard for a July trip, can already be half spent. Business that operate that way, will be unable to give a full credit for a future trip because they have already spent much of your money.

Good Results from Wakatobi

When booking a trip to Wakatobi for May 2020, cancellation was the last thing on Jeanne Sleeper’s (Laguna Beach, CA) mind. However, they have allowed her to roll it on to 2021 without extra cost. She told Undercurrent, “EVA and United cancelled the flight and puts my points back. Hyatt put my nights in Bali back into my points. Dive Assure rolled my trip insurance forward to May 2021 same trip with no fee and a lot of graciousness.”

It was the same story for Mark Weber (Old Saybrook, CT). He was due to be in Wakatobi next week. “They are letting us re-schedule during the next two years.” Let's hope they can stay in business.

Our Man in Cozumel

Undercurrent’s contact in Cozumel tells us, “All diving here has stopped due to the virus even with no cases reported on the island so far (but two in Playa del Carmen). Cruise ships don't dock. There are fewer flights and ferry crossings are down by 80 percent. The last few days of diving have been superb, the quiet has brought out the sharks, the turtles and the spotted eagle rays. But many dive shops have simply shut up temporarily.”

Try producing a travel publication with your writers at Sea

One of our writers, lecturing on the Norwegian Jewel cruise liner before heading to the Galapagos to write a story for us, is still on that cruise ship, having spent two weeks looking for a place to dock, before Hawaii accepted the vessel. He’ll head home when he can, with the Galapagos trip perhaps another day. Another writer had her trip cut short in the Philippines, struggled to get out, and got lucky just hours before all flights to the US were cancelled. Two others have cancelled international travel plans.

Ben Davison, editor/publisher
Contact Ben


Note: Undercurrent is a registered 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization donating funds to help preserve coral reefs. Our travel writers never announce their purpose, are unknown to the destination, and receive no complimentary services or compensation from the dive operators or resort.

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