Everything You Need To Know About Traveling During Covid-19
It’s been four months since I last traveled to Thailand. I am currently in my condo in Brooklyn, New York, staying with my parents. I had plans to travel around the world before I start my full-time job in July.
Then, the pandemic hit, and all my plans of spending months in Asia were suddenly crushed. I quickly found myself quarantined at home with my family, hoping it will all be over before summer comes. Now it’s June, and I have been wondering if I should just book my ticket to Asia for a summer vacation. How inconvenient would it be to go through hours of airport security, and then risk boarding a possible crowded plane to land in Tokyo, 14 hours later?
I know I am not the only one facing this dilemma. Many people are in the same position wondering whether they should book a flight and travel this summer. After intensive research, I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve learned that might help you make an informed decision.
Research where you are allowed to fly from and to
United States currently has the highest number of Covd-19 cases in the world, and the numbers are not stopping. President Trump has issued many travel bans on different countries coming into the United States. This raises the question where if you do travel to another country, are you able to come back to the United States?
You can find out Covid-19-related travel regulations in place for your destination on the website of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Center. Just click on any country to find all the necessary information about restrictions.
In addition to this, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs also keeps a color-coded map that shows the latest U.S. travel advisories for every country in the world, including Covid-19-related recommendations. You can also enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) — to receive the latest travel advisories and local safety and security information for your destination via email.
However, the general recommendation on international travel issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to avoid nonessential trips and the agency cities that many countries are implementing travel restrictions and closing borders with little advance notice. For domestic travel, the CDC advises to check your destination’s state health department for up-to-date guidance.
Do not rely on antibody test results to make a informed decision
While the risks of an international trip during a pandemic is high, many have pondered the convenience of the possibility of being immune to the new coronavirus.
At face value, a positive test result from an antibody test, would not guarantee a risk-free journey. There could be unforeseen errors that can lead to false positive or false negative, and even if the result is accurate, there is not enough evidence out that proves a positive result of an antibody test in humans truly prevents Covid-19 infections.
Boarding the plane is not as bad as you think
At first glance, a plane would seem like the perfect breeding place for Covid-19, with dozens of people sharing a small place with no opened windows.
However, it turns out that plane’s ventilation system makes air travel safer than spending time at home or at a office. The filters used on planes are called high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, are supposed to take out a large proportion, beyond 99%, of infectious pathogens.
Additionally, CDC states that most virus and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered. In fact, there are very few reports of respiratory infections in general proven to be acquired on planes.
Do your due diligence before and during the flight
Airlines are implementing new safety policies like making efforts to limit the number of people allowed on board and blocking middle seat bookings, loading planes back to front to limit contact among passengers, and ramping up cleaning procedures.
As a passenger you should do your due diligence and make sure you stay at least six feet apart from other people, use hand sanitizer after touching surfaces like luggage trays, carts, bathroom doors, and kiosks.
Airplane food are not at risk
Major airlines have developed protocols to minimize the risk of contamination of food by advising crew members to use strict hand hygiene, as they should.
According to CDC, there is no evidence to support the transmission of Covid-19 associated with food, so passengers should feel reasonably safe eating airplane food, as long as they remember to hand sanitize before and after the meal.
Be cautious when reaching your destination
As some countries are reopening and others are under lockdown for growing rates of infection, it is tricky to get the most updated recommendations for travelers about the precautions they should take at their destination. As a general rule, social distancing and hand sanitizing should be practiced everywhere in the world during this period of time.
Traveling in any form is not risk-free. Everyone that is considering to travel in light of the pandemic should assume some risk even if it can be mitigated, the possibilities cannot be completely eliminated.
In the moment, I have decided to wait a few more weeks and watch how the pandemic evolves around the world to book any trips.
If I do not travel this summer, it will be a while before I can travel again.