By Abria Cooper
COVID-19 has postponed or cancelled a great deal of Summer vacation plans this year as many countries have stopped all international travel since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic but are possibly planning to resume soon. To this end there are a number of things to consider.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that first priority should be given to essential travel for emergencies, humanitarian actions including emergency medical flights and medical evacuation, travel of essential personnel including emergency responders and providers of public health technical support, critical personnel in transport sector such as seafarers and diplomatic officers, and repatriation.
Cargo transport should also be prioritized for essential medical, food and energy supplies. Sick travellers and persons at risk including elderly travellers and people with chronic diseases or underlying health conditions, should delay or avoid travelling internationally to and from areas with community transmission.
Some state, local, and territorial governments have requirements, such as requiring people to wear masks and requiring those who recently traveled to stay home for up to 14 days. Check state, territorial, tribal and local public health websites for information before you travel. If you are traveling internationally, check the destination’s Office of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Health or the US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Country Information page external icon for details about entry requirements and restrictions for arriving travelers, such as mandatory testing or quarantine.
Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when in public settings. Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet which is about 2 arms’ length from anyone who is not from your household.
Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoid contact with anyone who is sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Airports, bus stations, train stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. These are also places where it can be hard to social distance. In general, the longer you are around a person with COVID-19, the more likely you are to get infected.
However, air travel may not be as risky as one would think. According to research due to the way air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses do not spread easily on flights. However, crowded flights make social distancing difficult.
Most major airlines in the U.S. require that crews and passengers wear cloth face coverings. To see what specific airports and airlines are doing to protect passengers, check their websites.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has increased cleaning and disinfecting equipment and surfaces at screening checkpoints. If you have not flown since the pandemic began, you’ll notice some changes:
TSA officers wearing masks and gloves, and practicing social distancing, officers change gloves after each pat-down.
Plastic shields at document checking podium, bag search and drop off locations. Fewer travelers and, as a result, fewer open screening lanes.
The TSA has also made a number of changes to the screening process.
Travelers may wear masks during screening. However, TSA employees may ask travelers to adjust masks for identification purposes.
Instead of handing boarding passes to TSA officers, travelers should place passes paper or electronic directly on the scanner and then hold them up for inspection.
Each traveler may have one container of hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces, which is about 350 milliliters in a carry-on bag. These containers will need to be taken out for screening.
Food items should be transported in a plastic bag and placed in a bin for screening. Separating food from carry-on bags lessens the likelihood that screeners will need to open bags for inspection.
Personal items such as keys, wallets and phones should be placed in carry-on bags instead of bins. This reduces the handling of these items during screening.
It is advised that persons pack food while travelling to prevent the need for food stops at public establishments. Also, restaurants and stores may be closed, therefore drive-through, take-out, and outdoor-dining options would not even be available.
When you need to get gas, use a disinfectant wipe on handles or buttons before you touch them. After fueling, use hand sanitizer. And when you reach your destination, use soap and water to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
Also consider how you get to and from the airport, as public transportation and ridesharing can increase your chances of being exposed to the virus.
Traveling on buses and trains for any length of time can involve sitting or standing within 6 feet of others, which may increase your risk of getting COVID-19.
Making stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks can put you in close contact with other people and frequently-touched surfaces.