Tourism

Virtuoso CEO cancels Aussie trip amid coronavirus concerns as travel ban extended

Virtuoso’s CEO has cancelled a planned trip to Australia amid concerns over coronavirus.

Matthew Upchurch was set to speak at the upcoming MTA – Mobile Travel Agents national conference on the Gold Coast this weekend but informed attendees he would be unable to make it.

“I am sorry to have to let you know that I need to cancel my trip to Australia due to the unfolding global Coronavirus crisis,” Upchurch said.

“I do apologize sincerely for this late notice; however I feel that it’s imperative that I stay here in our corporate office to work with my team on how to navigate our response to this crisis in the best interest of all our members and partners.”

MTA said in a statement that while Upchurch would not be joining attendees, the company has a “huge couple of days planned… jam-packed with celebration and learning, to inspire your purpose and passion”.

This comes as the Australian government announced it would be enacting a pandemic response plan, including an extension on the travel ban for non-citizens travelling through China from entering Australia.

Deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly told ABC National that he expects the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare a pandemic “pretty soon”.

“I’m a bit surprised they haven’t done so already when you look at their own definition of what a pandemic is,” he said.

“It doesn’t actually bring in an issue of severity but rather spread and so they- their own definition says if it’s spreading on more than one country- in more than one country, in more than region of the world, then that’s when they start to move towards that definition.”

Prime minister Scott Morrison told a press conference at Parliament House that the travel ban for China would be continuing for another week.

“It sort of went without saying…” he said.

When asked if further travel bans would be considered, the prime minister said the government would continue to monitor travel arrangements on a weekly basis.

“But the advice we received today was that on the balance of risks further travel bans were not recommended,” he said.

Meanwhile,  Saudi Arabia has halted travel for foreigners to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites for Islamic people, to contain the spread of the virus just months before the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

More than 7.5 million people embarked on pilgrimages holy sites in the country in 2019, ABC News reported. 

According to Al Jazeera, the Middle East has so far recorded 220 cases and the decision indicates the level of concern about the outbreak.

“Saudi Arabia renews its support for all international measures to limit the spread of this virus and urges its citizens to exercise caution before travelling to countries experiencing coronavirus outbreaks,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We ask God Almighty to spare all humanity from all harm.”

Indonesia’s foreign minister has urged Saudi Arabia to reconsider the decision and allow its citizens to undertake their pilgrimage. Around one million Indonesians undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca each year.

Indonesia is home to the highest concentration of Muslim people in the world.

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