COVID-19 travel advice for those wanting to avoid coronavirus travel health risks
In 2020, global travel almost came to complete standstill because of the serious health risks associated with contracting COVID-19 and spreading the coronavirus.
Over the course of the year, countries implemented – and altered as required – their own various forms of quarantine and COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers upon entry, resulting in a reduction of flights and frequent travel cancellations.
The approval of three vaccines so far, and the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test prior to travel to some countries, begins the pathway to international borders re-opening. While new variants of the COVID-19 virus (such as the U.K., Brazilian and South African variants, which have been named after the country in which they were first discovered with genomic testing) have proven to be more infectious, current evidence suggests that the vaccine will still be effective.
To help travellers avoid coronavirus travel health risks in 2021 and beyond, here are our expert tips on how to protect yourself from the coronavirus when travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tip #1. Understand how COVID-19 creates travel health risks
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus, proven by its ability to quickly spread across the world in 2020, infecting every single continent on earth, including Antarctica. While the intricacies of how the virus is transmitted are continuing to be studied, what we do know is that human-to-human contact is one of the driving forces behind its spread.
“When a patient infected with the coronavirus coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets are dispersed into the air,” explains Dr Stephen Rashford, World Travel Protection’s Chief Medical Officer. “These can transmit onto nearby people or surfaces, which helps the spread of the virus.
“It’s also believed this variant of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can be transmitted from hard surfaces for up to 48 hours, which means it poses a risk to others beyond that initial sneeze or cough. This is why social distancing, good hand hygiene and the wearing of masks are crucial in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, travellers are at a high risk of infection because of the difficulties in maintaining social distancing when travelling in large groups in airports, on airplanes and on other forms of public transport used pre-, during and post-travel.
The closer you are to others, the higher the chance you’ll come into contact with infectious respiratory droplets.
Hotels and other forms of accommodation can also pose a risk to travellers if they linger for longer periods of time in public spaces, thanks to the flow of various people who may have coughed or sneezed on surfaces while passing through.
Given it’s unlikely you’ll be able to avoid airports or hotels during your next trip away from home, it’s essential to know how coronavirus spreads among humans to protect yourself from coronavirus while travelling.
“If you are a vulnerable person because of your age – especially those over 70 years – or because of underlying health problems, you should either avoid unnecessary travel in order to prevent becoming infected or, at a minimum, discuss your travel needs with your family doctor,” Dr Rashford advises.
Tip #2. Look out for the symptoms of COVID-19
If you are increasing your risk of becoming infected with coronavirus through frequent travel, it’s vital you are completely aware of the potential COVID-19 symptoms.
“COVID-19 has a wide range of symptoms, but the most common are cold and flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature and a cough,” says Dr Rashford.
“However, this viral infection may present with other symptoms such as gastrointestinal upset, lethargy, and loss of taste or smell.”
If you notice any symptoms while travelling, Dr Rashford advises you immediately isolate and get tested for COVID-19. You must then remain isolated while awaiting the test result, depending on local public health guidelines in your location.
For further support, business travellers should contact their travel risk management company, while leisure travellers should seek the help of their travel insurance provider.
Tip #3. Follow stringent hygiene, PPE, and social distancing protocols
When travelling during the coronavirus pandemic, you’ll need to take necessary precautions to help keep yourself safe and lower your risk of becoming infected or infecting others. Thankfully, airports worldwide have already put in place numerous procedures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 for travellers.
“Airports and the airlines have changed their cleaning routines as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and travellers may notice airline staff wear PPE to further reduce the travel health risks of COVID-19,” says Dr Rashford. It is likely you will have to wear a facial mask when moving about the airport or aircraft cabin, too.
“Accommodation providers have also implemented stricter cleaning routines to ensure surfaces are frequently cleaned and rooms are deep cleaned between guests.”
There are steps you can also take personally to further protect yourself while travelling during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The best form of defence is to follow stringent hygiene procedures, which includes regular hand washing, maintaining social distancing, and wearing a face mask if you cannot social distance or if local guidelines require you to do so,” advises Dr Rashford.
For more information on the pandemic rules at your destinations – such as numbers allowed for social gatherings or the opening hours of certain local amenities – seek out government or public health websites.
Additional COVID-19 travel advice from Dr Rashford:
- Avoid travelling through known COVID-19 hotspots
- Use personal or taxi transport to and from the airport instead of public transport
- Practice social distancing wherever possible
- Wear a mask in transit and in crowded spaces
- Wash your hands regularly
- Carry alcohol hand sanitiser always and use it whenever running water and soap isn’t available
- Avoid touching your face
Tip #4. Stay up to date with COVID-19 outbreaks via trusted sources
The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions are constantly evolving, which often makes it difficult to stay on top of the latest news and COVID-19 travel advice. However, remaining in-the-know is important if you’re travelling both domestically and internationally.
Thanks to world-class technology and exclusive access to global intelligence, the COVID-19 dashboard available via our World Travel Protection Travel Assist Portal allows our corporate clients to access new information from reliable sources, and warnings and travel advice about coronavirus outbreaks around the world daily.
The COVID-19 travel risk map feature provides business travellers and their risk managers with the ability to quickly assess the COVID-19 risk level in individual countries pre- and during travel, which can help them make informed travel decisions.
Additionally, our World Travel Protection Travel Assist App provides travellers on the ground with COVID-19 travel alerts, intel, restrictions and other information specific to their location, helping reduce coronavirus travel health risks in real-time.
Tip #5. Be aware of the mental health risks COVID-19 poses
It’s not only your physical health that may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, “your mental health may also be challenged whilst travelling,” notes Dr Rashford.
“If travellers are faced with separation from family or familiar social support during the coronavirus pandemic as a result of changing restrictions or travel plans, they are more likely to feel stressed or anxious.
“Physical distancing and self-isolation requirements in countries all over the world have resulted in changes in national behavioural patterns and shutdowns of usual day-to-day functioning, further increasing the health risks of vulnerable travellers.
“These various challenges culminate to stress in those with existing mental illness, as well as those confronted by these novel challenges to the normal paradigm.”
If you’re travelling during the coronavirus pandemic for business or other essential reasons and are struggling from undue stress, it might be worth speaking with a counsellor virtually to help you navigate the situation.
At World Travel Protection, we provide our client’s travellers with access to trauma counselling services to help support their mental health. The traveller can speak to a team of qualified and accredited psychologists and social workers, who can provide onsite or telephonic trauma counselling in times of need.
Mitigate coronavirus travel risks for your travellers
If you or the employees and students you’re responsible for need to continue travelling during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important you’re not only aware of the latest risks and coronavirus travel advice that may affect your itineraries but have expert assistance when and where you need it.
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