How Coronavirus Affects Expats in Asia

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Coronavirus has affected people in Asia and all over the world in recent weeks – and the situation doesn’t seem to get better any time soon. Whether you live in Asia or not, the topic is constantly on the news and social media and people are wondering: What is it like for expats in Asia?

This post looks at the experiences of several expats currently living in Asia and explore how they are dealing with the COVID-19 situation.

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to provide any kind of medical or health advice. It only aims to showcase what life is like for expats in areas affected by Coronavirus.

Coronavirus Cases:






Symptoms of the Coronavirus

The Coronavirus typically brings about flu-like symptoms like feverfollowed by a dry cough. After a week, the virus can lead to shortness of breath, with about 20% of patients in need of hospital treatment.

Some patients – especially the elderly and people with other chronic health conditions – also develop pneumonia, chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

It is worth noting that the COVID-19 infection rarely seems to cause a runny nose, sneezing, or sore throat. Sore throat, sneezing, and stuffy nose are most often signs of a cold.

Incubation Period

The current official estimated incubation period of the novel Coronavirus is between 2 and 14 days. However, there has been a case with an incubation period of 27 days in Hubei Province, China and another one with 19 days. This means, the period of incubation of the Coronavirus can vary greatly from patient to patient.

Mortality Rate

According to the National Health Commission (NHC) of China, from where the virus started to spread, the hollowing formula is used to calculate the current mortality rate:

  • Cumulative current total deaths / current confirmed cases.

This leads to a percentage of 2.1% deaths of confirmed Coronavirus cases.

More numbers on mortality rate of the Coronavirus in China:

  • 97% of the country’s total deaths (414) were in the Hubei Province.
  • Mortality rate in Wuhan was 4.9%.
  • Mortality rate in the Hubei Province was 3.1%.
  • Mortality rate nationwide was 2.1%.
  • Fatality rate in other provinces was 0.16%.
  • Deaths in Wuhan were 313, accounting for 74% of China’s total.

Age of Coronavirus Deaths

Especially the elderly, people with a weak immune system and those with other chronic health issues are at higher risk. In general, relatively few cases are seen among children. However, there is a expected to be a very large number of “dormant” patients, who don’t have any symptoms while carrying and transmitting the virus to others.

confirmed cases
all cases
80+ years old
70-79 years old
60-69 years old
50-59 years old
40-49 years old
30-39 years old
20-29 years old
10-19 years old
0-9 years old
no fatalities

*Death Rate = (number of deaths / number of cases) = probability of dying if infected by the virus (%).

Which Countries are Affected?

Should You Cancel Your Trip Because Of Coronavirus?

Currently, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer to this question. However, the many recent travel restrictions in affected countries restricts travel of many people around the world. Everyday, there are new restrictions on people traveling from China, South Korea and beyond. It is important to check with local authorities (embassies, consulates, etc.) to make sure you will be able to enter the country you are planning to visit.

The following countries are currently banning tourists traveling from China and/or the Wuhan area:

  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • Philippines
  • Indonesia
  • New Zealand
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • South Korea (only Hubei Province ban)

The following countries are currently banning tourists traveling from South Korea and/or the Daegu/Cheongdo area:

  • Ban for travelers from Daegu/Cheongdo: the Maldives, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, Fiji and Malaysia
  • Ban for all regions in Korea: Sixty-two countries and two self-administration zones ― Hong Kong and Macao ― as well as eight provinces and one city of China.

The situation with the coronavirus is changing very quickly, and this page will be updated.

Questions you should ask before canceling your trip because of the coronavirus

  1. Is your destination affected by the coronavirus outbreak?
  2. Are you part of a group that is at risk of a coronavirus infection (older people or those with pre-existing medical conditions).
  3. Do you have travel insurance? If you cancel, will your travel insurance cover your costs?

For the time being, it is best to restrict travel to areas that haven’t been impacted by the Coronavirus – there are plenty.

What’s on the news?

How does the Coronavirus Affect Expats living in Asia?

I’m looking at the current Coronavirus situation with mixed feelings. When I moved to Korea in 2015, MERS was happening and I remember that the English academy where I worked was shut down for a couple of days (maybe two or three). While MERS has a mortality rate of 34% (!), I do not remember much hysteria or panic happen during the outbreak of the virus five years ago.

A huge problem for me is the fake news that has been flooding the Internet about the virus. The media is creating a lot of panic among people with their clickbait-driven articles – and it doesn’t make the situation clear for the citizens.

Luckily, I work from home and don’t have to worry too much about coming into contact with a lot of people. 99% of people wear masks outdoors and seem to be even more distant than usual. We get several emergency alerts about the virus to our phones everyday our apartment complex put up a banner warning about the virus and providing tips on how to protect yourself.

The virus affects my everyday life to a degree, as it is recommended to stay indoors, making the situation pretty boring. My gym classes also got canceled because of the virus and the new school year starts one week later than it was supposed to. Kindergartens and daycare centers are also closed.

I’m worried about how the virus might affect my upcoming travel plans. The tourism industry and overall business has already been hit hard by the recent outbreak.



I’m Sara from Finland and have been living in Guangzhou since 2010. We didn’t worry at first about the outbreak as it started thousand kilometers away in Wuhan, but when it got to the day before Chinese New Year, things got very real quickly. Soon we weren’t able to go out without a mask, companies and schools closed for longer than the planned holiday. Now after a month, the outbreak still affects our lives in many ways.

Right now we still need to wear masks at all public spaces, they are difficult to get, so we reuse our masks when possible. Schools and kindergartens are closed at least until April, they do provide online teaching, but not for our kindergarten aged daughter who has been on a holiday for 5 week already.

Where ever we go we get our temperature checked and at office buildings they also check a local health app registrations. When I drive back home after work, at the village gate they check the trunk of my car as well.

Me and my husband are both entrepreneurs and our business require people to come to us, so it’s been a big struggle to change part of our business online and making ends meet. It will probably affect our whole Spring.

But we try to still stay optimistic and make the best out of the bad situations, hoping things can get back to normal soon.


The coronavirus outbreak has been an odd experience while living in Vietnam. After the Tết Holiday (Lunar New Year), everyone panicked with the increase in the outbreaks around the world. The government shut down all of the schools until the end of the month (still pending if it’ll continue through March). Our apartment complex has a lockdown on non-residents using the elevators and accessing the public park. Residents cannot use the swimming pools for fear of spreading the virus.

There is also a huge demand for face masks. While it’s typical to see people wear masks outside due to pollution and dust, people now wear masks inside buildings and vehicles. Whenever a new mask shipment comes in at the pharmacy, people wait in long lines to grab a box.

We’ve seen tourism is getting affected by the virus. Travelers from selected countries are not granted visas and cannot come into the country. In Ho Chi Minh City, many of the attractions are not as crowded as usual.

We feel that traveling to Vietnam is perfectly safe. Now would be the best time to visit Vietnam since there is less traffic on the roads and fewer tourists. Vietnam says that they have the virus under control.

Knock on wood that we haven’t contracted the virus yet. For preventative measures, continue to wash your hands thoroughly, wear a mask outside, and avoid people who are ill.

Hi I’m Rachel, an American expat living in China for 4 years. I currently live in Beijing and have been in China the entire time since the coronavirus outbreak. Everyone in Beijing has been very cautious, of course. Many businesses and shops are closed, people wear masks everywhere and wash hands and clothes frequently, and there are rules about more than 3 people sitting together in restaurants or cafes. Most apartment buildings and neighborhood only allow their residents to enter – I now have a card I need to show to get into my hutong neighborhood. I’ve also been working from home for the past month because our company is being careful and do not want people working in the office.

But while the coronavirus outbreak is serious, Beijing is definitely not as severe as other cities in China with more strict quarantine rules. I have some friends who haven’t been able to leave their apartments for at least two weeks, and heavily rely on their schools or apartments to help them order groceries and packages. In Beijing I can still buy things at the grocery stores, walk around the city, and frequently meet with friends. We’ve all been trying to keep our spirits and moral up during this time, and just take the precautions that we can. It’s made me very grateful for the little things. I’m hoping the situation will get better soon. Zhongguo jiayou!

At first the coronavirus was seemingly the only thing that was on anybody’s mind, but now that time has gone on and on and on it seems like the patience is waning. Honestly, it seems like most people are becoming increasingly frustrated with feeling trapped to their house and people are beginning to risk the outside more and more. Be it with a midnight stroll or just a walk around the river – there are many many more people on the streets than there was as the outbreak broke out.
For myself I was actually moving house in the heart of the coronavirus outbreak and I have to admit I was nervous about being around so many movers whilst in the outdoors for such a long time while the virus was seemingly everywhere. But there wasn’t anything I could do, I had planned my move for such a long time so I just grinned and bared it.
The move was successful and I didn’t get sick, but it has meant that I have really needed to be getting things for my move and therefore I have needed to spend longer outside to actually find things nearby like a supermarket. Which in turn means I guess I am not quarantined inside my apartment like most, therefore more at risk than most. Yet, Im choosing to ignore that because I don’t have much of an option in my situation.
Positively that means I have yet to be frustrated like most of my friends, but negatively I do keep worrying about my health.

Not long ago, I wrote a post about how my temperature has kind of become like a “passport” here in Beijing, China, which sums up one of the major changes I’ve faced during this epidemic. Like everyone else here, I’ve become accustomed to having my temperature transform into a sort of “credential” that allows me to move in and out of the places I need to go on a daily basis.

It’s part of a sort of “new normal” we’re all getting used to as the novel coronavirus has sparked an array of changes in our lives — such as having the community closed to outsiders, always wearing masks out on the streets, keeping a distance from other people (from strangers to coworkers) and paying lots of attention to essential hygiene.

But unlike many people, I’m actually a lot busier at work and haven’t been on any extended holidays. That’s because I serve as an editor at a news organization here in Beijing. I even still go to the office (it’s a short walk from my home). Despite the heavier workload, I feel grateful to get a first look at much of the breaking news on the epidemic, which has allowed me to stay informed about important developments on the job.

One of the surprising positives of this outbreak is that it has served as motivation to get more creative in the kitchen. I’ve always loved cooking (evidenced by the many kitchen gadgets I’ve accumulated, from breadmaker to soymilk machine and pressure cooker), but now it stands out as one of my favorite pastimes after work and on weekends. I’ve made everything from US-style baked beans and vegan carrot cake to homemade hummus and tomato bruschetta on freshly baked bread.

Most of all, every day I continue to pray for those on the front line, especially the medics, as well as the patients and all those affected in some way by the coronavirus. I hope some day soon the whole world can finally declare victory in this battle.

What is your experience with the Coronavirus

How is the situation where you live? Does the virus affect you? I’d love to know about your experience, so please leave a comment below 🙂

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Linda has been living in Asia since 2012 and loves sharing her travel and life experiences on her website. She currently works remotely in Online Marketing and also teaches various English classes in South Korea.

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