With a rapid rise in the number of people affected by the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19, there have been questions on travel ranging from how to be safe when you travel to should you travel at all. Travel has taken a back step with the consideration of safety of not just the individual alone, but the community as well.
Since the first outbreak of the disease in China, it has been spread across the world, but there is no cure in sight. The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises everyone to avoid all travel, if possible. It is not traveling, as such, that poses the threat of spreading the disease, there are a variety of factors that lead up to it.
Why is travel becoming the centre of attention in combating and controlling COVID-19?
Logically, the most important among the factors to be considered is the destination of your travel. Check this – What is the quality of healthcare facilities available in the destination? Next, if you get the infection, will you be able to quarantine yourself? Are your plans flexible enough for that? The WHO has issued travel advisories since January (with regular updates) calling for careful management of the situation by taking precautionary measures like maintaining hygiene, practising coughing manners and social distancing.
For the Indian traveller
The disease is highly infectious, but it is not the air in the cabin you need to worry about, says the report published by WHO. Rather, watch where you keep your hands and what you touch, even unwittingly1. And remember to wash, clean or sanitise your hands before touching your face, eyes, nose and lips.
But many countries including India have implemented temporary measures to curb both international and domestic travel. Anyone who lands in India from foreign soil, especially if they have been to a place where the outbreak is ongoing, they are asked to self-isolate for 14 days by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Also, India has gradually restricted air travel and entry through land borders. In this scenario, it’s better to avoid non-essential travel2.
And if you must travel, be aware of the situation in the destination and take necessary precautions. Wash your hands regularly or sanitize them with an alcohol-based rub. Also, make sure to maintain a distance of 3-6 feet between you and other people, especially if they are sick3. The CDC advises to consider these questions even if you have to travel within the country4;
- Is a COVID-19 outbreak happening in the area where you are headed to?
- Will you be in close contact with others in the course of your journey?
- Are you or your travelling companion (if you are taking other people with you) prone to illness?
- If in case you get infected, do you have a place where you can stay back for a fortnight and go through quarantine?
- Do you share your home with old people (over 60 years) or people with chronic conditions who are more susceptible to COVID-19 infection?
- If you are returning home, is it spreading in your locality or community?
Why is this a cause for concern?
It is already known that the virus spreads rapidly in a mass making public transport and crowded areas a target for spreading communally. Similarly, as the virus is known to thrive anywhere from hours to days depending on the surface, so traveling in cabs is not safe either. So, it’s better you stay home and stay safe.
To check the travel advisories put out by the Government of India, check https://www.mygov.in/covid-19. Call the national helpline +91-11-23978046 if you need help or clarification. You can also make use of the WhatsApp chatbot created by the Government of India by sending a message to +91 9013151515 or mail in your queries to ncov2019[at]gmail[dot]com.
- Joint ICAO-WHO Statement on COVID-19 [Internet]. www.who.int. 2020 [cited 2020 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/articles-detail/joint-icao-who-statement-on-covid-19 \
- COVID-19 [Internet]. MyGov.in. Government of India; 2020 [cited 2020 Mar 22]. Available from: https://www.mygov.in/covid-19
- Canada PHA of. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Travel advice [Internet]. Government of Canada. 2020. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/latest-travel-health-advice.html
- CDC. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-in-the-us.html