Is it safe to Travel during COVID-19 ?
In late 2019, a new type of coronavirus disease began spreading around the world. The disease is caused by “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2″(SARS‑CoV‑2). This disease, often called “COVID-19”, has since spread rapidly around the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared this outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020. On March 11, 2020, WHO declared it a pandemic.
The disease spreads between people when they are in close proximity. It spreads easily, primarily via contaminated droplets produced during normal human activities such as breathing, coughing, sneezing, and talking.
Scientists, medical experts, and public health agencies now recommend a number of best practices to “stop the spread” of COVID-19. Recommended practices include frequent hand washing and sanitizing, covering the mouth when coughing, “social distancing”, wearing a face covering when in public, disinfecting surfaces, ventilating and air-filtering enclosed spaces, and monitoring and self-isolation for people who suspect they may be infected. They also recommend avoiding crowds and unnecessary travels.
Here are some measures that you can adopt to “stop the spread” of this disease:
In this article, we are going to present you with some information to help you decide if it is safe to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Government measures to address COVID-19
Authorities around the world have implemented measures to slow the spread of the disease. These include travel restrictions, business lock downs, workplace hazard controls, and facility closures. Public Health Agencies have introduced various infection testing capacity and “contact tracing” measures to detect infected people and to slow the spread of the disease. Schools have introduced “distance learning” to allow young people to stay home while attending school “online” using the Internet.
Despite all of these measures, COVID-19 continues to sicken and kill people at a tragic pace. According to WHO, as of 13 October 2020, more than 37 million cases have been reported around the world, resulting in more than 1,079,000 deaths.
COVID-19 Impact on Travelling
COVID-19 has had a dramatic and negative impact on travelling. In the spring and summer of 2020, governments imposed severe restrictions on virtually all forms of travel.
Countries around the world imposed entry bans on virtually everybody except returning citizens or essential workers. Many governments imposed 14 day quarantines on everybody entering the country, to prevent “importing” the disease. Public transportation systems were closed down or limited to essential travel only.
Additionally, authorities ordered the closure of many tourist services and attractions. This included hotels, restaurants, beaches, museums, and sightseeing tours. The vast majority of public events and gatherings were cancelled, including festivals, sporting events, and concerts.
As a result of all of these restrictions, travel for business and leisure is down significantly. The travel and tourism industries were hit very hard, with severe job losses and many businesses closing. Governments were affected too, as the travel industry generates a significant amount of income in many countries.
By the autumn of 2020, some governments had relaxed some travel restrictions in order to reopen their tourism industries. The first to reopen were those countries where COVID-19 was less prevalent and where the tourism industry represented a significant part of the economy. Non-essential travellers, including tourists, would be allowed to enter those countries. Hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions were re-opened, usually with some capacity reductions and COVID-19 mitigation rules such as mask wearing and enhanced cleaning.
Here are some examples of measures adopted:
- travel bans for non-essential visitors, including tourists
- “green lanes” or “travel corridors” which allow visitors from certain countries or regions to enter the country
- mandatory COVID-19 testing prior to departure; upon arrival, each visitor must present the results of a recent test and the results must show that the traveller is not infected
- mandatory COVID-19 testing on arrival; in this case the test is administered and patients that are found to be infected are placed in quarantine
- mandatory quarantine on arrival
- mandatory health insurance for visitors
These measures are intended to “re-open” the local tourism industry and to keep the local population and tourists as safe as possible, but it is too early to tell if these measures will be successful.
Current Travel Restrictions
COVID-19 travel restrictions vary from country to country, and they change frequently.
Before considering travel, we recommend that you determine the latest travel restrictions for the places that you want to visit. There are a number of organizations that do an excellent job of monitoring these restrictions and making the information available to everybody. These are:
Before you make the decision to travel, you also should determine if your home country is applying any travel restrictions that would apply to you on your return home. Typically, this means a mandatory stay-at-home quarantine, but there may be other measures as well.
The best way to do this is to follow the recommendations provided by your government and your local Public Health agencies. They should make this information available to you, and they are best equipped to understand the situation where you live.
Is it possible to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic?
So is it possible to travel safely during this pandemic? Of course, we can’t answer that question for you. It’s ultimately up to you, your family, public health officials, and your fellow travellers to make that decision.
Should you choose to travel, there are steps that you can take before you go and while you are travelling to help keep you safe. We’ll provide some suggestions here.
Precautions to take before you go
Before you book your travel, check to see if the place you are travelling to has reopened the places you want to visit.
Many restaurants, venues, museums, and shopping areas are still closed. The United Nations World Travel Organization (UNWTO) has dedicated a portion of their website to providing this information. Click here to visit the UNWTO website.
If a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, get vaccinated before you travel.
A vaccine will potentially protect you in case you come into contact with COVID-19.
Determine if the government or airline includes COVID-19 health insurance.
You may prefer to travel to a country that offers free or low cost health insurance to visitors. You need to check the country’s visitor website to see if insurance is available.
Additionally, some airlines are including COVID-19 health insurance at no additional charge. Click on these links to see details of these programs:
Purchase health insurance that covers COVID-19.
Some insurance companies offer health insurance that specifically covers COVID-19 testing, treatment, and even hospitalization. You may want to purchase this type of insurance before you leave.
Don’t travel if you are sick.
Finally, if you get COVID-19 just before you are scheduled to travel, you shouldn’t travel at all. Postpone your trip until you are well enough to be certain that you won’t be spreading the disease. We are all in this together and we must think of each other at this difficult time.
Ways to stay safe while travelling
Here are some suggestions to stay safe while travelling.
Follow all of the COVID-19 rules.
If you are flying, follow all of the rules imposed by the airports and airlines. IATA has developed some rules for staying healthy when flying. Click here to visit the IATA “Air Travel and COVID-19” website.
When using local transportation such as taxis, ride share services, trains, buses, and subways, follow all of the rules that they impose. Information and rules should be provided to travellers locally.
Wherever you go, follow the “best practices” advice given by competent authorities such as WHO and CDC.
Get tested if you suspect that you have been exposed.
If you are travelling and suspect that you have been exposed to COVID-19, get tested at the earliest opportunity, and self-isolate until you get the test results. You can find out how to do this at the local public health office or medical clinic wherever you are staying.
Participate in Contact Tracing.
“Contact Tracing” is a system of tracking people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. If there are “contact tracing” measures available, you should participate, in order to help the local authorities detect and manage the spread of COVID-19. This may involve installing a contact tracing “app” (application) on your smartphone, or simply providing your name and contact information when asked.
Keep others safe when you return home
Finally, when you return home, keep others safe by following all COVID-19 safety measures. This ma y include a mandatory stay-at-home quarantine or testing.
Is it safe to travel during the COVID-19 Pandemic?
As we stated earlier, we can’t advise you if it is safe to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s up to each individual traveller to determine if it is safe to travel. The information provided in this article is simply intended to help you make that determination.
Let’s all do our best to stop the spread of COVID-19 so that “everybody can travel” safely some day. And please stay safe no matter where you are!