I am sure thoughts of how the Coronavirus might affect the September Retreats we are offering have crept into your thoughts. As always, the health, safety, and well-being of our guests are of paramount concern.
At first, I thought people were simply overreacting. I was thinking too much fuss was being made about the Coronavirus and that the media was trying to set the fear of God in all of us. I, like many others, was in the ‘it’s just the flu’ camp and, despite having read up on the matter, I was less concerned about catching COVID-19 than about being struck by lightning.
However, I have been monitoring this quickly evolving situation in the States as well as in the countries we will be visiting this September and am now taking precautions for my own health.
Yesterday The World Health Organization advised that within the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled. In the days and weeks ahead, they are expecting to see the number of cases, deaths, and affected countries climb even higher. WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and they are concerned both by the spread and severity and have characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic.
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions.
Yesterday President Trump imposed a 30-day ban on foreigners who have been in the 26 countries that make up the European Union’s Schengen Area in the previous two weeks. The limits take effect Friday at midnight and will exempt American citizens and permanent legal residents and their families, although they could be funneled to certain airports for enhanced screening.
The Italian Government has enacted tough measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 disease. Entering and leaving the country as well as internal traveling is restricted to cases of demonstrated needs. Further restrictions regard temporary closure of schools and universities, museums, cinemas, theaters and a ban on public gatherings in order to protect citizens and visitors. In Sicily, there is no autonomous hotbed of coronavirus. All patients testing positive are in isolation with local health authorities monitoring the situation closely.
Portugal has moved into the ‘delay/mitigation’ phase of disease control in a bid to slow down the rate of infection so that they can better control the effects and impact. This basically means many schools and universities are already closed, as are public offices, museums, tourist offices, and some public transports. The advice for people in Portugal, along with the hygiene recommendations we have all heard by now, is to steer clear of crowded places and minimize social contact.
I have received notifications from several airlines (TAP, United, American. and Delta) stating if tickets are purchased by March 31st for travel to Europe the cancellation and change fees will be waived. Just as a sidebar, I purchased my flights last week.
At this point in time, we believe it is too early to make a decision for September. If the need arises, we will postpone these trips until a time when the threat has lessened.
In the meantime we want everybody to be aware of how we will be handling our September Retreat offerings. Should travel to Sicily and Portugal become impossible because of either country having issued lock-down notices, the US State Department issued travel advisory/restrictions, this pandemic is not contained, we will postpone the retreats until next year and your reservation and monies paid will be carried to the new date.
This current crisis will pass, but we need to do whatever we can to influence the impact of the disease and save lives.
I’m sure you know the drill by now – but here goes again:
Wet your hands, lather them with soap; scrub them for 20 seconds paying attention to your palm, fingers, and forehand; rinse; dry with a clean towel. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, discard and wash your hands. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable. And most of all, do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth until your hands are clean.