The holidays season has been greatly marred by the Covid 19 scare. Travel plans have been canceled due to the recent variant and many are apprehensive about traveling domestically and internationally. So, is it safe to travel?
The truth is that due to mass vaccinations and travel protocols that governments have put in place, travel can be relatively safe. Again, this depends a lot on where you are traveling to and the situation there at that current moment. But overall, if you want to travel and want to be relatively safe you can consider the tips in this article to help you.
The reports are showing that people are traveling in increasing numbers after the pandemic. This could be due to pandemic fatigue that has built up over the past 2 years. While Omicron spread is on the rise governments are putting together new travel protocols. While this article covers an assessment of the current situation and travel safety, please do note that as more information about the variant is understood, the advice may change.
Let's first answer some frequent questions, people have about their travel.
Should I get vaccinated?
If you have not gotten vaccinated. Regardless of the various mass opinion, prevalent theories and what you believe, the travel plan will be hampered if you are not vaccinated. The reason is that governments are really strict about not letting people without vaccination in. The vaccinations are not just for health but have now become a passport for travel. If you check the travel advisory and official websites for any country you will see that they are specifically looking to admit only fully vaccinated visitors. Some may let in unvaccinated travelers but then they would need to show their COVID negative test taken not earlier than 24 hrs before travel. This can be disconcerting and a hassle for travelers as the multiple tests and waiting for test results can be a quite troublesome affair. The vaccine boosters are now available.
Should I avoid large and small gatherings?
If you are going to attend a wedding or party with your friends maybe it is better to avoid it for now as the spread of the virus is primarily through these gatherings. Should you cancel all your trips Well, it is not as simple as that. Being with friends and family can be a good thing especially after so many months of isolation but it is good to be mindful of the situation and really assess the decision so that you travel if it is really necessary and also take necessary precautions before traveling. Large gatherings on the other hand can be avoided. The CDC (Centres of disease control and prevention USA) has suggested that vaccinated people can meet up with family and travel for holidays as long as they follow the precautions. Rapid antigen tests can be obtained from retailers and can be used before smaller gatherings just as a precaution
How can I be safe while traveling?
The first step is to ensure that your nose and mouth are covered whenever you are in all public places or in any public transport vehicle. This includes airports, bus stations, planes, buses, and boats, in short, wherever you will be exposed to a lot of people. The next step is to check the destination and assess the Covid 19 situation. The spread of the virus and various restrictions needs to be understood before you book your tickets or even start making travel plans. The common rules such as keeping a distance of 6 ft from others, sanitizing your hands frequently, and getting tested before and after travel, are good to follow. If you are sick or exposed to COVID 19 then defer travel till you are tested and confirm you are fine with a negative test report. You should also check with the airlines on the protocols to follow.
Is it safe to travel as a family?
Fully vaccinated people can now travel but what about kids? The experts say that nonessential travel for unvaccinated individuals should be avoided. Vaccines for children below 5 years are available yet, they will be soon but non-essential travel can be avoided especially if you have kids in tow. So again, traveling with family is something to be done with adequate consideration and a great deal of caution. If you are traveling ensure that kids above 5 have gotten their vaccines and all above 18 have gotten their booster shots. If you are traveling by plane or bus or any public transportation, ensure that you have masks and all family members keep them on during the travel. Traveling by car might be safer during these times to lower the risk of spread as this will limit the contact and reduce exposure to large crowds. You could also carry your own food and make sure you wash hands at rest stops. If you are traveling by plane or bus you can opt for short trips rather than long trips. Also, ensure that you pack extra sanitizers and masks. Also, consider testing yourself before travel so that you can avoid indoor gatherings if you are infected.
Can I travel if I am unvaccinated?
It is better to get vaccinated before travel as many public places and destinations will require that you produce the vaccination proof. In case you do not have the proof of vaccination you will need to do the COVID test and show the proof of negative result during entry or exit. These tests are not valid for more than 24 hours and you will have to repeat that at each point of entry or exit. You should also be tested after the trip to ensure that you are free of any infection.
When should I avoid travel?
If you are 60 years and above or if you are unvaccinated or have underlying risk factors then it is better to postpone the travel to places where the community spread of the virus is high.
What mask should I be wearing while traveling?
With the new Omicron variant, the experts are suggesting that high-quality masks such as N-95 masks would be more effective in providing protection. Make sure you avoid cheap and simple masks and thin cloth masks. Also, limit the time you are maskless, which is usually when you are drinking and eating something.
Domestic travel would be a safer bet as the trips would be shorter and the entry requirements would be less strict and you are better aware of the level of COVID spread in those areas. Try to go by road in your car if it is possible and the distance permits it. This will expose you less to crowds and could be safer.
Travel rules are now requiring all international travelers, regardless of destination, to show a negative COVID test report at least 24 hours before the travel. It is necessary to check the situation of the country you are visiting and the spread here before travel. Check the news and reports of COVID spread in the countries before you make your travel plans. Due to the current omicron spread, some countries have banned the entry of foreigners altogether.
While it is not fully safe to travel, if you take precautions such as getting the shot, wearing masks, avoiding large crowds, and making travel decisions after assessing the destinations and the spread in the areas you are traveling to, it should be relatively safe. If we consider someone who has not seen family for a long time, they may actually consider the risk associated with travel worth taking. So, if it is important to you, then travel while taking the necessary precautions. Let’s be open and ready to change, adapt and do what the situation requires.