Health and wellness

Measles outbreak in Japan puts travel plans for some Hong Kong tour groups on hold

Travel agent cancels trips to Japanese region where highly infectious disease has spread, but it is business as usual for other tour groups

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 April, 2018, 11:04am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 April, 2018, 4:38pm

A measles outbreak in southern Japan has prompted one Hong Kong travel agent to cancel several trips it had planned to the area.

Nearly 70 people in the popular tourist destination of Okinawa have contracted the highly infectious disease, local government officials said.

However, a leading city doctor has said he is “not too worried” about the outbreak, and some 270 travellers were still scheduled to leave Hong Kong for the region before the end of April.

According to the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, 13 tour groups still plan on flying to the Japanese prefecture, known for its many islands. On Monday, Alice Chan Cheung Lok-yee, the council’s executive director, said there were nine groups already in Okinawa.

She said the 180 travellers in Okinawa would return to Hong Kong before Saturday, after finishing their tours.

“I advise those who have signed up for package tours to discuss [the situation] directly with their travel agents if they are concerned,” Chan said.

Travel agent WWPKG has pre-empted those discussions, cancelling the trips of eight tour groups, who were supposed to leave for Japan between April 26 and May 19.

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Some 150 travellers have been affected by the move, and all would be offered the opportunity to visit other destinations in Japan, or opt for a refund, the company said.

“We contacted travellers who signed up for tour groups to Okinawa to arrange changing destinations to Kyushu, Osaka and other places. Travellers may also choose the full refund,” WWPKG’s chief executive, Yuen Chun-ning, said.

The travel agent would monitor the outbreak to decide whether tour groups could return after May 19, Yuen added.

According to Okinawa’s local government, the outbreak originated with a male traveller from Taipei, Taiwan.

The man, who is in his 30s, arrived in Okinawa on March 17 and had been sightseeing for two days before getting a rash. 

He tested positive for measles on March 20. 

The local government said the man reported having a fever before travelling to the country.

The Hong Kong government’s Centre for Health Protection said it was closely monitoring the situation and urged travellers to remain vigilant, reiterating that vaccination was the most effective way of preventing the disease, which has a 21-day incubation period.

Parents are advised not to take children to areas known to have an outbreak of measles, which can be deadly to the young. Such is the disease’s virulence, children receive two doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella Vaccine at the ages of one and six.

Angus Chan Ming-wai, president of the College of Family Physicians, said he was not worried about people travelling from Hong Kong to Okinawa. 

However, he said that anyone with a newborn child, or those with impaired immunity, should probably avoid the area.