A third of global population is on lockdown today – travel restrictions are in force, national & international flights are cancelled, local transportation is limited or not available. While many of us are at home, others are stranded on the way. During Covid-19 or beyond, we might face such challenges. How do we handle such a situation or what we do while making our way to our destination? Remember, being responsible traveller, we take care of ourselves, others around us and mother earth. Recently, I planned to travel to Thailand, but ended up reaching India (from Yangon) – here is how I managed it in the midst of Covid-19 and a guide that might be useful to others.
Different countries have different procedures for issuing travel authorisation to tourists and it might change in change from time to time, especially with the change at the level of risks of infections (or other). Check for such restriction before you travel to your destination – this might save you from frustration, harassment or deportation. For instance, I planned my travel to Bangkok a month before the date of the travel. While everything was set, I wanted to double-check if there was any recent restriction imposed by the Thai government. I found several media headlines reporting the cancellation of Visa on Arrival for 18 countries (including India). I was happy, not for the cancellation, but for checking it before going to the airport and being able to avoid the harassment.
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Your country of origin, or the country you are travelling to, might have issued health/travel advisory from time to time. The advisory might be revised from time to time depending on the level of risks (health or other risks). Being a responsible traveller we need must review the advisories beforehand and act accordingly. These advisories might require a range of actions starting simply to be cautious while travelling to the new country, particular medical attention, surveillance to restricting travel. The advisories, hence the travel requirements might change frequently during disease outbreak – check those frequently and prepare yourself accordingly.
With increased connectivity, the world becomes a village, i.e., global village. This absolute mobility increases the possibility of importing or exporting disease/viruses from one country/region to another. Hence, different countries/regions require travellers to get vaccinated to travel. By being a responsible traveller and getting the vaccine/s in due time, we help to – prevent the international spread of diseases, protect ourselves from the exposure of the infections.
At the time of disease outbreak, a particular medicine and personal protective equipment might be scarce in the market. Additional demand by the tourists at a tourist destination might stimulate price hike affecting people, especially the poor at that location. Check and add those medicines or Personal Protective Equipment at your travel medical kit. At the time of COVID-19, mask, hand sanitizer, some of the medicines to care the symptoms of COVID-19 become scarce and price went up by many folds.
Medical checkups before travel might sound precautious measures to some of us, it might be a requirement for others. While the traveller checks fitness to travel, any health risk in the travel destination and get suggested medication or vaccine, it might a requirement put by the destination country. For instance, in light of the COVID-19, the Thai government introduced health checkup and a medical certificate for general passengers. By failing to produce the medical certificate, passengers were denied to board a plane or denied entry to the country.
While you are making your way through the ports (international or even national), you might get screened or tested for any infection, virus or disease, especially if you are travelling during an outbreak. The authorities are trying their best to – stop the spread of the infection to other persons in the country or internationally, and help the one with the infection by providing necessary medical support and measures (quarantine etc.). Being a responsible traveller, one must cooperate with the authority for measures. Be mentally prepared for follow-up actions; getting isolated, further checkups, quarantine or even deportation; if you are carrying the infection. If you observe any symptoms (of such infection) before starting your journey, do not travel; if you develop symptoms while you are in another location or travelling, seem medical assistance as soon as possible.
If the screening/tests confirm the infection in you, the authority might isolate you from others and they might quarantine or deport you. Whatever the follow-up action is, one must remain calm, cooperate and act as guided by the authorities. Be mentally prepared for such actions – so that it does not bring you a shock. During the time of COVID-19, quarantine for 14 days was one of the fear spread amongst the people who were travelling. There was the report of persons flee from the quarantine centre.
Many of the countries make it mandatory for travellers to have insurance to enter into those countries. During the time of the disease outbreak, health insurance might be a mandatory document to travel. Please check for the requirement before you travel and get the appropriate insurance. During COVID-19, the Thai government introduced a special requirement for foreign passengers requiring them to have health insurance with at least US$100,000 worth of medical coverage of COVID-19 in Thailand.
In the time of crisis, especially health emergency, the right information is precious and lifesaving. Identify reliable and credible sources of information and follow those. Avoid information that is not from reliable sources – it might be misinformation or a rumour. Being a responsible citizen on the global community and a responsible traveller, keep yourself away from such misinformation or rumour, to not spread it and if possible, report it to the respective actors.
Maintain the best possible level of hygiene all the time during your travel. This will protect you and others around you. During Coronavirus outbreak, practising frequent hand-washing or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser; not touching your mouth, nose, eyes; covering nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing could protect you and other people from getting the infection. Discarding used tissue paper and other garbage in the right way can keep your environment clean and reduce the spread of the virus.
Text by Khairul Sheikh, Feature image by CDC