Coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel: The situation around the world is changing dramatically. Various governments have changed their travel warnings to restrict travel during this time. To understand how this may impact cover under your policy, please go to our FAQs and select your country of residence.
For the latest travel warnings and alerts around the world, read about lockdowns and border restrictions.
When something major happens on the world stage, be it an airline disaster, a terrorist attack, or the threat of disease, it's hard to know whether to continue traveling or not. It's always important to keep a healthy sense of perspective and take sensible precautions. But right now, it's also important to bear in mind that this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is not a typical threat.
The highly contagious 2019-Novel Coronavirus, or “Wuhan Coronavirus,” was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. On Wednesday 11 March, 2020 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
The good news is that the lessons learned from virtually all previous outbreaks (including SARS) and pandemics apply to COVID-19.
The bad news is that COVID-19 is more insidious than some of its predecessors, in that some believe it is aerosol. If this is proven, it could be transmitted by fine particles “hanging” in the air long after the cougher or sneezer has moved on. Keeping a distance of six feet is usually sufficient to protect against the droplets from coughs and sneezes.
Field testing for possible COVID-19 vaccinations is probably more than six months away. Public dissemination of tested vaccinations is probably a year away.
Most viruses are spread by infected “hosts” sneezing or coughing contaminated droplets into the air, or smearing droplets onto surfaces that others touch.
Routine handwashing, frequent application of hand sanitizer, and a good supply of hand wipes can effectively limit contact contamination. Good personal habits such as not rubbing or touching your face, eyes, nose, or mouth with unsanitized hands or fingers, can go a long way towards avoiding contagion. This is not easy.
You could try applying hot pepper oil or Capsaicin extract to your fingertips. Touching your eyes, mucous membranes, or lips, will cause a burning sensation – often quite painful. It’s a dramatic illustration of how viruses enter the body.
While traveling, be extremely careful about what you touch. Be aware of handgrips, handrails, and poles, in buses, elevators, escalators, shuttles, subways, taxis, trams, trolleys, and stairways.
Face away from strangers that are hacking, sniveling, or otherwise displaying signs of the cold or flu. Avoid touching counters at ticket stands, information booths, airport security corridors, seating areas, and lounges. Wash your hands for a long count to 20. Apply hand sanitizer often, and liberally. Avoid touching your nose, mouth, eyes – in fact, avoid touching your face entirely.
If you can’t do six feet, try to at least keep three feet of distance between yourself and strangers. Often this is simply not possible, but do what you can.
When seated or standing next to someone who is displaying cold or flu symptoms, try to move away.
Viruses are spread through the air you breathe, and the surfaces that you touch. Wearing a face mask, keeping a bit of distance, and frequent use of handy wipes or sanitizers can make all the difference.
Travelers travel – it’s what they do. But even if you personally are not in a high-risk category, and thus are likely to recover from the virus if infected, you have the potential to infect others. There is also an increasingly real likelihood of being stranded if a country closes its borders or cancels all international flights. Quarantine procedures help isolate recent arrivals from suspect urban centers and countries, and some destinations require negative COVID-19 tests for entry, but still.
If you must travel, personal sanitation and hygiene are essential, and cannot be stressed enough.
If your hotel room, cabin, cubicle, or assigned seating has a remote-control device, place it in a plastic bag – it will still work fine, and you won’t need to worry about whoever used it last.
Carry your own cutlery and try to drink out of your own reusable water bottle instead of using utensils provided. Wipe down trays, armrests, and counter surfaces.
Follow the WHO’s advice on using face masks, and keep in mind masks are most effective when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning.
Throwing money at travel accommodations through First Class, Business Class – even upgraded Economy, will increase your personal space. If you do travel Economy, do not despair. Many airlines are installing more effective air filtration and filtering systems, so if you can’t afford an upgrade, just apply lots of sanitizer, and put on a face mask. Exercise caution while removing and disposing of soiled face masks (use the elastic bands or strings and avoid touching the pleated front).
Do not pet or touch animals.
Avoid eating raw or undercooked food when abroad – and avoid “wet markets” where animals are slaughtered, dressed, or butchered. Avoid “finger food” in outside markets, unless you can sanitize your fingers, and reserve “family style” dining for family.
Meeting new people is a big part of travel. Shake hands with enthusiasm if you wish, but inconspicuously apply hand sanitizer before touching your face or food. Avoid kissing strangers (lips or cheeks or even hands) and avoid affectionate hugging. Embrace travel – not the latest outbreak.
Consult your doctor before traveling. Tamiflu attacks a specific molecule in the influenza virus, and is available by prescription. It can prevent or shorten the effects of many influenza viruses, but has not been proven effective against this latest coronavirus. However, other antiviral medications such as the antiretroviral Kaletra, seem to prevent people from catching COVID-19, and may speed recovery.
There are over-the-counter, anti-viral herbal remedies that may strengthen the immune system. These include echinacea, astralagus, dragon’s blood, and garlic, juniper, lemon balm, eucalyptus, and/or ginger enjoy wide followings.
While many herbal remedies have enjoyed popular acceptance in recent years, many within the medical community advise caution – be open-minded, but be smart about it.
And, while you are being smart about it, check your government’s travel advisory before booking a trip or taking off – its advice may affect your travel insurance coverage in the case of an outbreak or increase in risk to your safety.
In this episode, we address FAQs about the virus and how it affects your travel and tips to survive self-isolation.
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