Coronavirus: English UK praises reaction of agents and language centres
7 February 2020

Latest on Coronavirus: English UK praises reaction of agents and language centres

English UK is carefully monitoring the coronavirus situation and attending meetings of the Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group (TIER) to ensure we are as well-informed as possible in a fast-moving situation. 

The UK is taking the virus seriously, isolating the very small number of people who have been confirmed to have the infection in specialist hospitals and quarantining UK nationals who have been flown back from Wuhan.

Direct flights from the region have been halted and a team of public health experts located at airports which have direct flights from other regions in China. 

The latest advice from the UK's Chief Medical Officers is for anyone who has travelled to the UK from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days and is experiencing cough or fever or shortness of breath, to stay indoors and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild.

Please note, this advice only relates to recent travellers from these countries who are experiencing symptoms, NOT every traveller from these regions to the UK.

All tourism sales in China are banned, some planned group visits to the UK are being cancelled or postponed and local businesses have to give full refunds for cancelled trips. Some hotel chains in the UK have given full refunds for tours cancelled before 4 February. 

We are grateful to both educators and agents who have acted to support infection control and continuing goodwill by cancelling or delaying bookings and extending credit or refunds. These actions should help the industry return to normal more quickly once the immediate crisis is over. 

Coronavirus and cancellations

Huan Japes, English UK's membership director, who has attended the TIER meetings, said: "We have a very strong message that while small businesses such as language schools may have certain sunk costs which make refunds more difficult, everyone is strongly encouraged to start by offering credit and moving to a refund if necessary. 

"It's important for the members of all tourism associations, including English UK, show compassion, goodwill and understanding and consider everyone's long-term as well as short-term interests. We should all remember that Chinese business is relationship-based and it has taken a long time and a great deal of hard work to get us to this point."

He said it was particularly important for English UK members choosing to cancel booked Chinese students to explain the reasoning clearly and with sensitivity and provide a refund. 

While coronavirus is likely to come under the category of force majeure in terms and conditions, we strongly encourage our members to be as flexible as possible to maintain goodwill with trusted agents by offering credits or refunds on cancelled bookings.

Should ELT centres take any action on coronavirus?

As well as striving to offer refunds or credits for cancelled groups, it's a good idea to check regularly for updates on government websites about the outbreak so that you can reassure students, agents, host families and others. 

Public health information about the virus (updated daily at 14:00)

Travel advice for China

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to many colds and flu which circulate at this time of year. If you are concerned about a student's health, carry out a risk assessment, considering:

  • Do any students have a fever, difficulty breathing, or a cough?
  • Have they travelled to the UK from China or Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days?
  • Have they travelled from Wuhan within the last 14 days?

If you have any concerns, ring 111 for advice, explaining the student's travel history.

English UK is monitoring the situation and receiving regular information from TIER and we will update this advice on the English UK as necessary.


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