What to do if you need to travel during COVID-19 pandemic
Whether it’s a long-planned trip or there’s a sudden need to fly home, traveling in these times has become complex and uncertain. With hundreds of thousands of reported Coronavirus cases in more than 35 countries, you have to ask yourself difficult questions such as ‘is it worth the risk’, ‘what is going on at the borders’ and of course ‘what exactly do I need to know?’.
At SABEResPODER we empathize with these concerns and have put together a guide to help better inform you at this time.
Before we dive into the details there are a few overarching guidelines we want to share:
- Always check the latest travel notices - things are changing rapidly. You can do so here
- Consider your health and pre-existing conditions very carefully. If you are part of a particularly susceptible group you should think twice and perhaps consult a medical professional for advice. According to the CDC, “older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk”
- If you need to travel take precautions all along the journey (guide below)
- If you need to cancel or reschedule, figure out what your airline is doing asap.
Know more before you go
Before booking or leaving for a flight make sure to look up information regarding the destination and return countries. If your return is planned for much later, also attempt to find as much information as you can on the direction the government is planning to go. You can do so with digital resources such as USA.gov and the CDC site.
Here’s a few highlights of current information:
(as of March 2020)
> Today in the US, if you are returning from a high-risk country you are required to go through enhanced screening and to arrive through one the following 13 airports:
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
- Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
- Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
- Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan
- Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
- Miami International Airport (MIA)
> On the second week of March, the U.S. Government limited nonessential travel across its borders with Mexico and Canada and raised its global travel warning for Americans to the highest level - meaning avoid all international travel. This is part of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.
> Internationally, Colombia has closed its land, sea and air borders from March 19 until May 30. Guatemala has closed its doors to all non-citizens, and returning citizens will have to be quarantined. You can find more information here and a list of international destinations here.
> United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Jetblue Air France and KLM, among others, have posted details of their safety measures, change-fee waivers and more online. This may mean that if you need to move your flight, there could be free options to do so. Check your airline’s website!
Whatever the case may be, the common factor is to monitor updates and alerts for the current information in your destination.
What to do if you must travel
If you must travel you can begin by feeling reassured to a measure by the Airlines sanitation response. Across the board Airlines are working diligently to stem the virus' spread with more robust sanitation efforts. For instance Delta Air Lines started using a fogging technique in February "with a highly effective, EPA-registered disinfectant". Additionally all crew members receive hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for international flights.
WIth all that said, now more than ever, it’s critical to keep a close eye on hygiene: washing your hands with soap and water, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, and touching your mouth, eyes, and nose as little as possible.
Unless you are experiencing symptons, you do not need a medical mask. On the other hand, you might want to carry antiseptic wipes with you, to clean surfaces such as tray tables or armrests.
"Hand sanitizers are great. So are antiseptic hand wipes, which you can also use to wipe down armrests, remote controls at your seat and your tray table," said travel medicine specialist Dr. Richard Dawood.
Don’t worry too much about the recycled air in your cabin: The vast majority of planes are fitted with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which refresh the air entirely every two to three minutes.
Lastly, when you are planning on returning make sure to check a couple of days before what the current travel advisory and restrictions are. You don’t want to end up in a similar situation to the Americans returning home right after the European ban “Many returning travelers were met with long lines and confusion at airports where enhanced screening has been implemented”.
Should you buy travel insurance?
It depends on the airline and the policy they offer. As we mentioned above there are some airlines that are offering no-fee changes, the details depend on that particular airline.
Most travel insurance will give no more protection to the Coronavirus than travel booked on a credit card. The exception could be if you selected a “cancel for any reason” policy, which will generally reimburse up to 75% of your expenses. However these tend to cost as much as 40% more than regular insurance, so you have to consider the cost carefully before purchasing.
Stay Informed, Stay Safe
Whether you’re traveling for pleasure, medical reasons, family needs or for business, it’s crucial that you inform yourself on the latest news and that you protect yourself as best you can both physically and economically.
If you are unsure, don’t hesitate to reach out to SABEResPODER. We’re here to support you with any questions or challenges you may experience.