Everyone’s talking about it. The Coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, is the virus that has spread across the world, and is now affecting people in several countries. With an avalanche of information everywhere, it’s hard to filter through what to believe, and if you’re traveling during COVID-19, or have got travel plans within this year or in the near future, you might be wondering what to do.
So before you panic or drastically change any of your travel plans for the coming year, read these frequently asked questions about traveling during times of COVID-19 to help put your mind at ease.
The first and foremost question on every traveler’s mind: Is it safe to travel? The answer would be it depends… on your destination. Check credible websites like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to see the risk assessment level for COVID-19 in the country or destination you plan to travel to.
DO research government health websites, embassy and consulate pages of the place you’re going to double check their announcements and protocols. Right now, traveling from or transiting through specific countries has been more restricted than others (see below).
If the city you’re going to is in a country that has a high risk assessment level (e.g. widespread and sustained transmission), we would suggest, you postpone your trip for now. Remember, that your safety should rightly be your #1 priority.
According to the CDC, China, Iran, South Korea, Italy and Japan are countries with a relatively high risk assessment of COVID-19. China, however, does not include Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan. As of the publication of this article, it would be best to avoid travel to these six destinations so long as the warnings are in place.
Yes, it’s never easy to cancel a trip, especially when there’s money on the line. So as soon as you’ve made up your mind to cancel your travel plans, get in touch with the airline you booked your tickets through. Different airlines will have different policies regarding refunds, especially in light of COVID-19, so there isn’t a catch all answer for this one.
On another note, you may also want to follow the airlines you frequently use on social media to be in the know and keep updated on cancelled and rerouted flights in the future.
You might think that being suspended in a small space filled with people might be a melting pot for disease and the spread of COVID-19. But according to the CDC, the fact of the matter is that circulation and filtration of air in airplanes make it difficult for viruses and germs to spread.
That’s not to say that it’s impossible for you to get the virus (which it isn’t) and that you shouldn’t be cautious either. It’s always best to avoid contact with people who are sick and pack a travel-sized bottle of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer which you should use frequently. And wear a mask if you’ve got one!
Speaking of packing, yes, there are a couple of things you can pack as good practice to help keep you safe. Because it may be difficult to wash your hands while traveling, things like hand sanitizer (preferably with an alcohol content between 60-95% – the higher the percentage the better!), rubbing alcohol, baby wipes, and tissues are all a must while traveling.
Masks on the other hand, contrary to popular belief, are not necessary. According to the WHO, not only is their effectiveness lacking in terms of preventing you from contracting COVID-19, but you may also be preventing access to the people who really need them (like health care professionals and those who are sick). So unless you have a cough or are prone to allergies and sneezing, there’s no need to hoard masks. Save them for the people who need them!
While this is entirely up to you, travel insurance is never a bad idea. At least with insurance, you’ll get some semblance of security. You might want to check with your insurance provider the terms and conditions regarding COVID-19 before you make that decision.
Some health insurance companies put together special pricing and promotions due to the coronavirus; in Hong Kong, FWD introduced a hospitalization cash benefit of HK$5,000 per week if the insured is diagnosed with Novel Coronavirus and requires hospitalization.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry (or in this case, sick!), and there are some basic practices relayed from the World Health Organization that we can practice while traveling to help be on the safer side:
A) Avoid contact with people who are sick. If you spot someone coughing or sneezing within your vicinity, take some steps to keep a safe distance between the two of you.
B) Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth. COVID-19 can be easily transmitted through these three specific areas, so make it a practice to avoid touching them, especially if your hands aren’t sanitized.
C) Wash your hands often with soap and water. They say that you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (you can do this by singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice), but if finding a sink and soap is difficult while traveling, having a travel-sized hand sanitizer or some rubbing alcohol (again with a 60-95% alcohol content) is a good enough substitute.
D) Use tissue when you cough or sneeze. Not only is this good hygiene, but it also helps prevent the spread of germs and other bacteria from person to person. Don’t forget to throw your used tissues in the bin afterwards!
E) Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects. Objects like your phone, wallet, even hotel keys and chargers are all objects you frequently hold in your hands. Make it a practice to wipe them down with baby wipes or a tissue dampened with alcohol every night or even throughout the day, just to help keep the germs and bacteria at bay.
Let’s say (knock on wood) that you get sick or feel a bit under the weather during your travels, what should you do then? Firstly, stay indoors. If you can isolate yourself in your hotel room to help minimize the spread of your symptoms, even better.
If you experience symptoms like fever, tiredness, and dry cough, it may be best for you to call for a local doctor (you can ask staff members for some recommendations) and get checked out. But if your symptoms aren’t too severe, best to nurse at home as health facilities tend to be oversaturated these days and you might actually catch something worse at the public hospital or clinic.
Got any more travel questions for us? Hit us up in the comments section and we’ll do our best to answer them!
In times like these, remember that your safety should be your #1 priority. So if you think you should postpone or cancel your travel plans to keep safe, go ahead and do it. You’ll get another chance to travel and see the world. Just you wait.