Octoberfest Cancelled

Due to coronavirus, Germany has canceled Octoberfest. The event would have taken place from mid September to early October. It was a “difficult decision,” Munich Mayor Markus Soeder said, but it had to be done.

“The risk is just too high. You can neither keep your distance there nor wear a face mask. Living with [coronavirus] means living cautiously until there is a vaccine or medication.”

Germany has nearly 150,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus now, and Octoberfest brought over 6 million visitors to Germany in 2019.

While new coronavirus cases have approached zero in some countries that have flattened the curve successfully, like China and Korea, and will likely do so in much of the world during the summer, there is concern that another outbreak could take place in the fall and winter.

Patrick Rincon, a contributor to BombsDollars.com, collaborator with me in my travels, and sometimes co-author along with me of travel articles (see our work in Roads and Kingdoms), was planning on going to Octoberfest this year.

He talks with me on YouTube and shows off his German accent:

Coronavirus updates: Trains to Wuhan resume, schools to open soon

  • China has issued a temporary block on any non-Chinese citizen from entering China. Visas appear to still be valid when the block is lifted.
  • China closed movie theatres across the country after briefly reopening them.
  • Primary and secondary schools are scheduled to reopen in early April.
  • The first trains from outside have arrived in Wuhan, according to CGTN. Wuhan’s quarantine will be completely lifted on April 8.

Outside China

  • U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled he is considering implementing quarantines on the hardest-hit regions, such as New York.
  • This comes after he withdrew from a considered $1 billion deal to produce ventilators.
  • Travelers report they are stuck in the airport in Malaysia for 2 weeks after trying to travel to Thailand despite a travel ban and being sent back to Malaysia, which also has a travel ban in place.
  • All beaches in Phuket province of Thailand have been closed.

Washington and New York have more coronavirus cases than China

U.S. has more coronavirus cases than 24 of China’s provinces

Italy has half as many cases as Hubei

As coronavirus continues to increase around the world, I was interested in looking at the severity of the spread of the virus in different regions. As I was living and reporting from Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, at the time, I realized that some people I talked to assumed the spread of disease was uniformly terrible across China.

At the beginning no other country had it, so Nanjing having any cases made it worse than other places in the world.

Jiangsu ended up having a total of 631 cases (0 deaths) in a population of 80.4 million. In terms of cumulative cases, that puts it behind Canada and just ahead of Japan. Overall, most of China’s provinces were worse than countries in Southeast Asia like Thailand and Viet Nam.

Case data comes from Johns Hopkins’ online dashboard.

(The chart is missing Chongqing municipality, an oversight. Chongqing had 576 cases in a population of 30.5 million, which made it a little bit more severe, at 18.9 per million, than where the U.S. is currently.)

Vietnam Tourism Shuts Down

Last week, I wrote about how travel regulations in Vietnam were tightening up even though tour agencies catering to backpackers continued to reassure backpackers that everything was fine.

Now the awaited travel restrictions are fully in place. Hotels were closed. Now new visas are not being issued to anyone from any country. And anyone from multiple regions, including the U.S. and ASEAN, will be required to be quarantined upon arrival. Saigon, home to the best nightlife in the land, is completely empty.

Here are some tweets from veteran Vietnam reporter Michael Tatarski:

Restrictions on travel in Vietnam increasing

Yesterday over at the long-form blog, I wrote about Việt Nam and the catch-22 of tourism promotion: how the Southeast Asian country was seemingly facing a contradiction between its government wanting to protect its citizens from coronavirus yet also its travel industry wanting to reassure foreigner visitors to keep them coming.

Now, it seems, the imperative to protect public health is winning out decisively. Ever since Patient #17 arrived and spread the virus, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc announced a second phase of war.

According to posts on by travelers currently in Hà Nội and elsewhere in the country, many travelers said they were told their hotels or hostels were going to be closed down soon. One said that the scenic areas around Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park are shutting down. Hạ Long Bay is shut down, as reported, and boat operators in Tràng An are suspending business.

Individual people’s observations cannot be independently confirmed, but there have been news articles reporting on increasing barriers to travel and life.

According to the Straits Times, 25 Dutch tourists in Hội An are quarantined after someone on their flight tested positive. Schools in Saïgon and Hà Nội remain closed until at least the end of March. Entire alleyways surrounding communities and homes are locked down if someone tests positive. British are now banned from entering Việt Nam. Bus companies are cutting trips.

Think twice between backpacking now, especially when knowing you could inadvertently spread the virus to local people. But if you do travel, be aware you might face quarantine.

Update: Many hotels have been closing their doors, as reported.