As we move into the festive period, many people have made plans to travel and visit friends and families. Although some COVID-19-related global travel restrictions have eased over the last year, new ones continue to emerge, particularly with the recent emergence of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant. People travelling during this period should always carefully consider the risks involved, accounting for the ongoing impact of COVID-19. Along with COVID-19, perennial security risks are also a growing concern; the resumption of international travel means criminal activity such as petty theft and terrorism is now on the rise.
“With the year-end slowdown and holidays coming up, vacation travel and large-scale social gatherings are likely to happen. Coupled with as-yet insufficient vaccination in the country, these could potentially turn into super-spreader events. It is essential that employers continue to provide credible updated information on precautions to ensure safety of their employees and dependents. It is crucial is that COVID-19 fatigue does not lead to decreased adherence to masking and social distancing. All eligible should get their second dose of vaccination before traveling or participating in social events,” informed Dr Vikram Vora, Medical Director at International SOS (India).
Top Tips for Safe Festive Travel
· Get vaccinated against COVID-19 – as soon as you are eligible and have your booster when offered. An annual flu jab will help protect you from circulating influenza viruses. Don’t forget to wear masks wherever required, avoid large crowds if you can, social distance whenever possible and keep washing your hands.
· Maintain flexible itineraries – It is good practice to keep departure and return times/routes as flexible as possible. Contingency plans are more important than ever, as travel restrictions may be imposed at short notice or you may need to self-isolate.
· Stay on top of the latest Travel Restrictions – It is important to check which specific restrictions may impact you, particularly as this can vary based on vaccination status and nationality. Understand if pre- or post-departure COVID-19 tests are necessary, if there are any self-isolation or mask requirements or whether you have to download a digital health pass to verify your vaccination status.
· Timing is everything – Build in additional travel time to reach your destination due to additional and changing travel requirements and procedures. For international travel, there might be new forms to complete or extra health checks. It is also likely that transit hubs and roads will be more congested due to the increased volume in travel during the festive season.
· Be Crowd Safe – When we travel, we can frequently encounter queues and crowds. This is often the case as passengers have to go through additional COVID-19 checks. Once at your destination, you may also experience large crowds at festive events like markets or religious services. It is important to be crowd safe: stay vigilant, keep valuables secure or out of sight, also identify your closest points of exit and abide by local directives, if an incident does occur.
· Eat, drink and be jolly informed – With numerous restrictions still in place, the key to travelling successfully this holiday season is to keep informed of the most up-to-date information and any emerging developments. This is particularly important for international travel, as restrictions still vary greatly from country to country and can be imposed with little notice.