The Vienna International Centre Medical Service shared the following update regarding the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) to Vienna-based staff members today. In light of your upcoming planned travel to Vienna, we are sharing this as there is some useful information and resources.

-CYG Task Force

VIC Medical Service: Update Nr 5 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and UN Specific Questions

The WHO’s latest situation report from 18 February2020 (

indicates 73 332 confirmed cases globally, of which 72 528 are in China. At the moment, 804 cases (454 on a cruise ship) of Novel Coronavirus (Named by WHO: COVID-19) have been confirmed in 25 countries outside China.

Until now, Austria has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, as all 170 suspected cases tested negative.

The main driver of COVID-19 infections seems to occur through cough droplets, contact and material such as bedding or clothing. Basic principles to reduce the general risk of transmission of acute respiratory infections include the following:

  • Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
  • Frequent handwashing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.
  • Avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.
  • If you have symptoms of acute respiratory infection, cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues or clothing and maintain a distance from others when coughing or sneezing. Wash your hands afterwards.
  • The WHO does not recommend any specific health measures for travellers. If symptoms of respiratory illness present either during or after travel, travellers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider.

Please see below the answers to some UN specific questions: ( )

Does the UN have any specific guidelines for meeting organizers and participants during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Meeting organizers and participants should read these FAQs on meetings from UN headquarters in New York (The VIC Medical Service offers a locally adapted version) during the 2019/2020 coronavirus outbreak. Organizers can also put up these simple posters or other visual information with instructions on covering coughs and using hand sanitizer effectively.

I plan to travel to / have a meeting taking place in China. Should I cancel this travel/meeting?

The WHO does not recommend and advises against any travel restrictions based on the information currently available on COVID-19.

The VIC Medical Service, in line with the Division of Healthcare Management and Occupational Safety and Health (DHMOSH), recommends that, all UN personnel should evaluate the importance of their travel and avoid any non-essential travel to China. It would be prudent to consider whether the travel can be postponed/cancelled, or whether any meetings can be conducted virtually or in an alternative location.

Please be aware that local authorities may begin to implement travel restrictions and health screening measures for travellers entering or exiting the country. All UN personnel who are planning to travel should check with the destination country’s embassy, consulate or Ministry of Health and keep up to date with local health advice before and during the travel. You should also comply with any screening measures put in place by local authorities.

As the outbreak evolves, it can be difficult to predict the situation globally and it would be prudent to make contingency arrangements should the need arise. Feel free to consult us further at [email protected] as needed.

I have just returned from travel to China. I am well and have no symptoms. Can I go back to the workplace?

For any UN personnel who are free of symptoms, and returning from China, managers are encouraged to exercise flexibility in terms of using remote working arrangements for staff who would like to limit their contact with others and work from home for 14 days post travel.

Individuals returning from areas with outbreaks should be advised to review our health advisory on this Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) page so that they have awareness about the disease. They should monitor themselves daily for at least 14 days for signs of fever, respiratory symptoms (e.g. breathing difficulties, cough) and know where to seek medical attention in case of any symptoms.

I am well and asymptomatic. Should I use a mask in public?

According to the WHO, for individuals without respiratory symptoms, a medical mask is not required, as no evidence is available on its usefulness to protect non-sick persons.

However, masks might be worn in some countries according to local cultural habits. If masks are used, best practice should be followed on how to wear, remove and dispose of them and on hand hygiene actions after removal. For more information, visit the WHO guidance on use of masks in the community.