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This blog was originally posted on 12 March 2020, then updated on 13, 14, 16 and 20 March, with more major updates on 21 and 25 March 2020. It was updated again on 28 March 2020. We plan to continue updating regularly.
Please also visit the South African government’s Covid-19 portal for further pandemic updates in South Africa. The South African government requires us to put this link on our website, and we agree it’s a good idea to help spread awareness!
Birding Ecotours COVID-19 special offer
In these trying times of coronavirus lockdowns (this is not easy for any of us, you, the people we work with, or us) we want to make you an offer. If you book (with our usual 25% deposit) a 2021 tour by the end of April 2020, we’ll give you 10% off and will also reschedule the trip to a future year with no penalty in the (hopefully unlikely) case that the coronavirus still poses a real problem next year. Please quote “Birding Ecotours COVID-19 blog” when booking. This applies only to new bookings, not to existing ones.
The current status of the coronavirus pandemic
China and some other countries have now successfully managed to contain their COVID-19 outbreaks. But the epicenter of this pandemic has moved to the West. Countries such as Italy, Spain, and the USA are currently being hard hit with outbreaks. The new epicenter is actually now the USA (specifically New York).
These hard-hit countries are currently (28 March 2020) in the midst of stringent lockdowns, which will hopefully dramatically decrease transmission rates (like they did in China). Within a few weeks we’ll be able to assess the success of these measures.
Within the last week or two countries with only small numbers of COVID-19 cases have also practically closed down their borders to try “to nip possible outbreaks in the bud”, rather than to risk seeing a situation like what happened in the USA and some European countries, which delayed drastic measures and were then hit by big outbreaks of the virus. For example, when Bhutan discovered its first (and only) case of the virus it immediately canceled visas and closed its borders for a couple of weeks. Peru, India, South Africa, and Namibia are other examples of countries that have now also imposed decisive, dramatic lockdowns and regulations to try to keep their coronavirus cases very low.
25 March 2020 (statements still valid now on 28 March): The world is in “lockdown”! Let’s hope it works and that this pandemic gets contained. With the emergency measures being taken by so many countries in the world right now we truly hope that within three to six weeks from today’s date things will be looking brighter.
World Health Organization and government travel advice on the coronavirus outbreak:
The Centers for Disease Control give up-to-date advice for travelers. Please refer to https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel; we would be unwise to try and second-guess the advice given there.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is also (of course) a brilliant source of up-to-date travel advice for international travelers with respect to COVID-19, so we strongly recommend reading https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/travel-advice
And please continue to check your government’s travel advice which is, too, regularly updated. For example, here is the US government advice for visitors to Thailand, as just one example: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/thailand-travel-advisory.html.
Is your birding tour in jeopardy?
On 25 March, 2020, it was estimated that a third of the world’s population is in lockdown to try to minimize further transmission of COVID-19. Let’s hope these measures work effectively. In the mean time it’s going to be almost impossible for you, our valued clients, to be able to join any April or the first half of May 2020 tours you were booked onto. Hopefully because of these lockdowns trips later this year will still be OK. Currently for those trips we have to wait and see.
Thankfully Africa and South America haven’t been affected as much, but the peaks for these countries will likely simply be delayed until April or later. Overall, the pandemic could go either way, and we need to keep watching the news and checking the reliable websites (sadly there is a lot of hype as well as fake news about this disease). We’re positive that what governments are now currently doing will mean this pandemic gets contained within weeks.
Our cancellation policies, should you wish to cancel
We care deeply about small businesses that depend on ecotourism to survive. Many of these are threatened by the hype around this disease. International companies such as Birding Ecotours should in most cases be resilient to widespread cancellations this year, but as a company one of our policies is to still pay the ground operators/smaller companies and other service providers even if our clients cancel. If local companies in countries such as Uganda, Mozambique, Madagascar, etc., nations so far hardly affected by the coronavirus, go out of business, the local communities there will suffer a huge amount, as will long-term sustainable development. People now employed within the eco-tourism industry, will be forced to revert to hunting and cutting down trees to make their livings. Mainly for these reasons, we are sticking to our terms and conditions at https://www.birdingecotours.com/about-birding-ecotours/terms-conditions/, largely so that we can pay the local guides and other service providers even if you cancel. Basically, the 25% deposit is non-refundable, as is the 75% balance payment, but you only pay the latter two months before departure. We do as always insist on you getting travel insurance in case you opt to cancel, although it’s worth checking the fine print, as “pandemics” may not be covered (and we also understand that it must be very difficult for insurance companies at this time). Most travel insurance policies won’t pay in the case of this pandemic unless the insurance policy was purchased before it became a pandemic.
We do feel that it is important to try to minimize the damage already being caused by this global health emergency. People’s lives can be ruined not only by the disease itself but also indirectly by a loss of their livelihood.
These are just some of the main points we’ve been thinking about. Please watch this space for updates.
Please stay safe and heed the advice given by WHO, your government, etc.