How to travel in COVID-19 (coronavirus) times
First of all, it is worth considering whether the trip is really necessary. Any trip or stay involving large groups of people — especially in countries affected by the pandemic — is a risk. However, we understand that there are trips that cannot be avoided or postponed. Therefore, after consulting doctors from China and Poland, we have created a list of basic rules to follow when traveling.
1. Check the place you’re flying to
The WHO website provides a map showing the situation in each country and the number of cases in recent days. Check it out before you travel — you may decide it’s best to change plans at the last minute: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/685d0ace521648f8a5beeeee1b9125cd
Remember that some countries have introduced travel restrictions or bans — e.g. the United States for Schengen nationals.
2. Check your medical insurance
Remember to have adequate travel insurance. Make sure that it covers the costs of any COVID-19 treatment. Some companies have suspended insurance sales, some report that “contingency protection” cannot cover COVID-19 because the risk of illness is known prior to traveling.
Ask your insurer about policies in your destination country — procedures, contact details and people who can help you. Take all necessary documents with you — if possible, also bring copies translated into the official language of the country you are traveling to.
3. Be ready for quarantine
Get acquainted with the rules of the country you are travelling to — currently 14-day post-arrival quarantine is standard in many countries, so keep this in mind. Before travelling, check who you should contact in case of health problems.
If you take medication regularly, take a supply with you for a possible quarantine period. If you want to work in isolation, prepare the necessary documents. Take books or games with you — something to keep you entertained.
4. Get ready for the trip
Pack a thermometer, antipyretic drugs (paracetamol is recommended) and necessary medical documents (e.g. medical record book). Take tissues soaked with hand sanitizer (at least 60% of alcohol), hand disinfectant and disposable wipes.
Check what behaviour is mandatory in the country where you are going to (e.g. wearing masks in the Czech Republic) and take the necessary equipment. It’s worth taking disposable gloves and face masks.
5. Remember to drink water
Doctors recommend hydrating your body properly and regularly — at least 2 litres of water a day. Currently, boarding procedures at airports can take a very long time, so always have a bottle of water and a small snack with you.
6. Wash your hands
As often as possible — at least once an hour and after each contact with objects touched by others. Hand hygiene includes washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or cleaning hands with an alcohol-based liquid (at least 60%). Rubbing hands with an alcohol-based fluid is preferred if the hands are not clearly soiled. In any other case, wash your hands with soap and water.
Try to avoid touching surfaces often touched by others – if you do, use a disposable tissue. Don’t shake hands to say hello and goodbye.
7. On the plane
Before departure, check the airline and hotel notifications. Some flights are postponed, there are additional requirements (there are airlines that require face masks) — keep up to date with this information.
When traveling by plane, it is imperative that you follow the instructions of the staff. On airplanes, the danger zone is about 2 meters (in practice it means 2 rows around the infected person) — therefore additional precautions must be taken in closed spaces:
- Activate the air vents and direct them at you. On planes, filters catch 99.9 percent of pollutants, including viruses
- Clean the table and armrests with a tissue soaked with hand sanitizer (at least 60% of alcohol)
- If someone is coughing or has a runny nose within two meters — change seats. It’s probably not going to be a problem but better to be safe
- Wash and disinfect your hands as often as possible
- If you feel ill and have taken a fever medication, inform flight attendants immediately
8. Upon arrival
Keep a distance of 1.5 meters from other people at all times. At the airport, it is imperative that you follow the up-to-date protocols and recommendations issued by staff. If you felt ill on the plane, inform the staff at the airport as well.
A face mask is not required if there are no symptoms of infection. However, in large groups of people, it is worth wearing them — just like gloves. They help you avoid touching your face, which is the WHO’s recommendation.
In some places — such as Asian countries — masks may be commonly worn. Stock them before you travel, as they may not be available on site. If you wear a mask, strictly follow best practices for putting it on and removing it as well as hand hygiene after you’ve taken it off.
If you’re coughing or sneezing, cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue. Throw it away right away and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, cover your face with an elbow bend.
Avoid crowded places such as restaurants and museums.
9. If you feel ill during or after travel
If you experience symptoms such as fever, coughing or breathing difficulties, contact your local health care provider immediately, preferably by telephone, and inform them of your symptoms and travel history.
Please note: if you are sick (not only with COVID-19), suffer from chronic diseases and illnesses — especially if you are in a high-risk group — you should completely avoid travelling to coronavirus-affected areas!
10. Upon return
When you return from the coronavirus-affected countries, you should monitor your symptoms for 14 days. Self-isolation is strongly recommended and often required by several countries at present.