Barely a year ago, most of the world’s airports were still buzzing with activity as multiple planes
arrived and departed from different parts of the world. People were traveling all over the globe with no concern until the coronavirus pandemic struck. From March of 2020 till the present, there has been an inexorable fall in air traffic and the once bubbly airports have become islands of desolation and now look like ghost towns. From what is known now, most of these same airports undoubtedly became the hubs from which coronavirus was spread to various countries.
As a result of the virtual collapse in air travel with some routes suffering reductions of up to 90% in
traffic, many airlines have drastically reduced their fleets with inevitably dire financial consequences, just as for other industries. What with a plethora of lockdowns and travel restrictions across nearly all jurisdictions, hardly anyone is traveling these days. The few who opt to brave the hazards of travel in the new COVID-19 dispensation for work, leisure or family reasons, now have to contend with mandated quarantine and self-isolation dictates of up to 14 days, depending on the country they travel to. The extra days now have to be factored into any travel plans. A visit to any airport today reveals a picture not only of anemic passenger numbers but also everyone must wear a mask and maintain social distancing and to prevent infection. Many procedures at airports have also changed, with temperature screening and a negative COVID-19 PCR test result often a prerequisite for travel through them.
All the observations above bring home to me, how much I miss travel. Prior to the advent of the
raging pandemic and its terrible impositions, I traveled internationally at least a couple of times a
year. Even last year, I had four trips scheduled and had purchased two tickets which had to be
canceled. Fortunately, I received refunds for the two tickets purchased but this was little consolation for the loss of freedom to travel. Needless to say, I have been largely stuck in the confines of my home, practicing telemedicine from my study. I hardly go out unless it’s necessary. With most of my groceries and goods being delivered, I can only be grateful for online shopping. Still, I have permitted myself a little excited about the upcoming summer, with its promise of
improved conditions for travel. I would really love to travel. More so now, knowing that there are
ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as masking, social distancing, and the hygiene regime.
Above all, I have been fortunate enough to have my vaccinations, and no doubt a passporting system will soon be in place to facilitate safe travel. This will be a shot in the arm to the travel and hospitality industries, currently in some jeopardy. I am encouraged to travel having spoken to people who have traveled long distances successfully. As I prepare to discard my cabin fever, I am deeply conscious of the new travel protocols. The main emphasis is now on how you can travel safely, and how safe air travel is. Also, is it possible to travel by any other means, such as your motor vehicle or train, if the distance is manageable by these alternative means? If you must travel by air, here are a few tips to make it safe.
1. Obtain official travel information about your destination regarding the infection rate of COVID-19, any changes in visa processing time, and any testing requirements.
- Get an official travel advisory from the state department or relevant embassy. For example, in
the US, the CDC conveys risk ratings for every country on a scale of 0 to 4 while the US State
Department also provides risk advisories for your destination on a scale ranging from 1 to 4,
with 4 being the riskiest. No doubt other countries offer such services too.
- Certain countries will not admit people who have visited countries that are considered high
risk within a certain period of time. For example, the US will not admit visitors who have
visited countries such as the UK, France, Italy, and some other European countries; Brazil,
South Africa, China, and a few others in the past two weeks. It is useful for a person who
purchases a ticket routed through any of these countries, to be aware they will not be
allowed into the US unless they are US citizens, permanent residents, or some immediate
- On arrival in some countries, you are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken
within 72 hours of arrival. Other countries require a negative COVID-19 test obtained within
the previous 7 days prior to arrival. Certain airlines offer to test just before you get on board.
- Some countries actually screen for physical symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as taking
your temperature upon arrival.6. Despite a negative COVID-19 test, some countries will insist upon quarantining for 7 to 14 days. They will quarantine you or expect you to do so upon arrival. Some have special hotels, which you will have to pay for, in the exercise. If you don’t follow the stipulated protocols, you may be fined by the local authorities. In preparation for these additional costs of travel, ensure you carry extra money when you travel, and make sure you have adequate time for your visit bearing in mind any quarantine requirements before you can mix with the general public.
- Certain airlines, such as Delta, are able to help you eliminate the quarantine time by offering
COVID-free flights. After obtaining a negative PCR test result, the airlines will test for antigens
before boarding and upon arrival at your destination. Certain airlines also block middle seats
- Make sure you travel light and avoid touching too many surfaces any of which might be
infected. Dump that bulky hand luggage if it’s going to make you struggle.
- Don’t forget to observe social distancing at the airport and double up on your masks. Also,
manage your fluid intake so that you don’t have to walk up and down the airplane to
squeeze yourself into that tiny bathroom.
- Choose your travel time wisely. Avoid peak periods for your flights. Pick your airline
connection and make sure you will not have any problems getting to your final destination.
Ask about their refund and cancellation policies, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance just
in case things change.
- Be sure to carry extra funds as you might have to quarantine in a hotel at your own expense.
You might be asked to undergo more COVID-19 tests. Some countries might also choose to
lock their borders, and you might be left stranded.
- Check-in with your hotel prior to arrival, as many hotels have changed their policies due to
the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have contactless check-ins, and some have stopped bar and
buffet services to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Some hotels also offer to test on-site.
- Be cautious about arrangements to stay with family or friends. Many people are concerned
about letting others into their bubble, as some might have family members with high risks to
COVID-19 and don’t know how to politely say no. Also, avoid large gatherings and highly
populated areas like nightclubs, parties, large funerals, and markets, and avoid public
transportation wherever possible, as that might expose you to COVID-19.
- Boost your immunity. Take your vitamins and avoid stress. Sleep well, and don’t forget to
take your medication for any underlying problems. Make sure your travel insurance covers
health care too; Some countries like Aruba require you to produce proof of travel healthcare
- Plan well. Dot your t’s and cross your i’s. Recently, a good friend of mine and his wife took a
trip from Nigeria to visit their children at school in the US. They had a layover in the UK, but
when it was time to continue on to the US, they were prevented from boarding the plane.
They were stopped because their PCR results had expired merely by a few hours and as they
were not US citizens or permanent residents. They had to fly to Qatar to quarantine for 14
days before they could catch a connecting flight to the US and repeat another COVID test.
Imagine what would have been their situation if they didn’t have extra funds.
It is part of the human condition that we crave the touch of other humans. Most of us are
tired of communicating with loved ones over the internet with the human touch missing. If
you are able to travel to restore this balanced plan well, take that trip, and enjoy yourself.
Above all don’t “travel shame” anyone who is fortunate enough to be able to travel. Let
them enjoy the adventure of travel in these sober times.
Travel rules for the USA, CANADA, NIGERIA, GHANA, UK, SOUTH AFRICA, AND UAE as
of 20 February 2021.USA Travel Rules and Travel Advisory.
Travelers banned from USA
Risk assessment levels for Covid-19 by country.
Department of State, travel advisory.
UK Travel Rules
Canada Travel Rules
Nigeria Travel Rules
Ghana Travel Rules
South Africa Travel Rules
UAE Travel Rules
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