International Travel in the New Era of Covid-19

As the world slowly eases its way out of the Covid-19 lock down, we’re on the verge of a new era in air travel.  We could soon encounter armies of robotic cleaners patrolling airport concourses, disinfecting check-in counters and ticket kiosks. We might see passengers moving slowly through security and baggage checkpoints without touching anything. Longer waits in security lines will be a new normal. Visiting Nepal.

Is it Safe to Travel?

Scientific studies and outbreak investigations have found that COVID-19 transmission in crowded, indoor spaces such as cruise ships, bar and restaurants, churches and factories can be explosive. Transmission of COVID-19 between passengers on airplanes is rare.

The IATA, International Civil Aviation Organization, World Health Organization, and the US Federal Aviation Association have all released guidelines for travel during the pandemic.  Many airlines have adapted them and introduced protective measures to keep crew and passengers safe. For example, many airlines have stopped giving passengers reusable items such as blankets, magazines and headphones and have increased layover times and time between flights to allow for more thorough cleaning of the cabins. Most, if not all, airlines have also installed high efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filtration systems which are better at cleaning the air than most systems used in hospital isolation rooms. Airlines provide information about their air filtration systems on their websites.

International Travel for Tourism

Lots of people have questions around International Travel for tourism. This will be a personal decision based of the your personal circumstances and level of risk you are willing to assume.  For adventure travel and trekking,  you have to consider your own personal risk and whether you are willing to tolerate that potential risk of getting infected. Then consider that you might bring it home to your family or community especially if you have older family members who are more susceptible to a virus.

Hygiene on Aircraft

You will need to be more diligent while on an airplane. This means you will have to manage hygiene when opening overhead stowage bins and navigating in flight entertainment screens and Bathrooms.  Everything could become touch-free over time. We may see some technological advances in the onboard experience. It is hard to know what the new normal will be. We will see more bio-metric gates and body scanners to which we’ve already become accustomed at airport terminals. One thing is for sure you will need to micromanage your risk level when boarding a plane.

Travelling Internationally

As governments worldwide ease lock down restrictions and lift bans on international travel, travelers will have lots of questions about how to proceed. We have lots of trekkers and climbers willing to consider a holiday in another country from September onward,  here is what you need to know. We will be looking for a negative COVID-19 test in the week before travel.

However, new measures are not perfect. Prospective travelers may test negative for COVID-19 days before their flight but can still be exposed to the virus between the time they go for testing and the time they board or even arrive in their destination.

Moreover, COVID-19 testing is not foolproof. Testing may not be done properly and even if it is, there can be false negatives which might allow contagious individuals to board a flight. You need to be aware of this and protect yourself at all times.

If you are Thinking About Traveling

Is COVID-19 spreading where you’re going?  Is COVID-19 spreading in your local community? Even if you don’t have symptoms, you can spread COVID-19 to others while traveling. Will you or those you are traveling with be within 6 feet of others during or after your trip? Being within 6 feet of others increases your chances of getting infected and infecting others.

Are you or those you are traveling with more likely to get very ill from COVID-19?
Individuals who have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should limit their travel. Do you live with someone who is more likely to get very ill from COVID-19?
If you get infected while traveling you can spread COVID-19 to loved ones when you return, even if you don’t have symptoms.  Does the state or local government where you live or at your destination require you to stay home for 14 days after traveling?
Some state and local governments may require people who have recently traveled to stay home for 14 days.

If You Travel

You need to protect yourself and others during your trip. These are all of the things you need to be doing on a very regular basis.

1). Clean your hands often.  Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, after touching surfaces frequently touched by others, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, and before touching your face or eating.

2). If soap and water are not available, bring and use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub your hands together until they feel dry.

3). Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Avoid very close contact with others. Keep 6 feet of physical distance from others.

4). Wear a cloth face covering in public. In tents and lodges you will need to wear a buff and face covering. Cover coughs and sneezes.

Considerations for Types of Travel

Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. We don’t know if one type of travel is safer than others; however, airports, bus stations, train stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. These are also places where it can be hard to social distance (keep 6 feet apart from other people). Consider the following risks for getting or spreading COVID-19, depending on how you travel.

Air Travel

Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and you may have to sit near others (within 6 feet), sometimes for hours. This may increase your risk for exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Bus or Train Travel

Traveling on buses and trains for any length of time can involve sitting or standing within 6 feet of others. We only run private bus transport for our groups around the world. If you are on a airport shuttle or on a bus between airport terminals make sure you keep your distance.

Car Travel

We do have airport pick ups by car in Kathmandu, Kilimanjaro and other locations where we operate. Please wear a face covering in the vehicle and use hand sanitizer before entering the vehicle.  We will not be making any stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks. This can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and surfaces.

Anticipate Travel Needs

Bring enough of your medicine to last you for the entire trip. Pack enough alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) and keep it within easy to reach. Bring a cloth face covering to wear in public places.  Prepare food and water for your trip. Pack non-perishable food in case restaurants and stores are closed. Take steps to protect yourself from COVID-19 when staying in accommodations or planning an overnight stay.

Pre-Trip Preparation

These three items are the first line of protection on any trip.

1). Travel Health Consultation: Check in with a health care provider before travel. Don’t travel if you are sick or recovering from surgery. Make sure your vaccines and  immunizations are up to date, and any chronic conditions are under good control.

2). Travel Protection Services Membership: Sign up with a travel services provider with a global reach that can provide you with local intel, health care resources and
telehealth access.

3). First Aid Kit: Blisters, minor soft tissue injuries (scrapes and cuts), orthopedic injuries (ankle sprains) and stomach ailments are the more frequently encountered issues that can be addressed with a commercial first aid kit.

Health Protection

These four items will safeguard against viruses and bacteria.

1). Soap and water: Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

2). Hand sanitizer: Use hand sanitizer immediately after you touch a surface. According to the CDC, effective hand sanitizer is at least 60% alcohol (70% isopropyl alcohol).

3). Disinfectant wipes: Remove the virus from surfaces by using bleach-based cleaners or hydrogen-peroxide based cleaners. Make your own travel packs by stacking wipes
into resealable plastic bags.

4). Masks: Wear a mask and carry a few spares. Make certain it covers your nose and mouth.

Destination Essentials

Depending on your destination, consider bringing these five travel essentials:

1). Over-the-counter medications: Ibuprofen or acetaminophen (pain reliever), Pepto Bismol (for upset stomach) and antihistamine (for allergic reactions and itching). Carry additional medications if appropriate: insect repellent, antibiotic cream, mild steroid cream and sunscreen.

2).  Prescription medications: Antibiotics for traveler’s diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Be sure to have an adequate supply of personal prescription medications, including enough to carry you through a week or so of unexpected travel delays, since many countries have restrictions on medications.

3). Coronavirus technology: COVID-19 symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, coughing and a sore throat. A travel thermometer will help you keep tabs on your
temperature and a digital pulse oximeter will track your real-time oxygen levels. We will be tracking your oxygen saturation morning and night on all our trips.

4). Travel laundry detergent: Soak your extra cloth mask(s) in a sink full of water and scrub with laundry detergent. Wring out excess water and hang dry.

5). Go-bag items: For trips to a remote destination, add more bandaging materials, including a Sam splint; iodine tabs for clean, treated water; a small emergency headlamp; duct tape and blister pads to your commercial first aid kit.

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