It’s almost hard to remember the travel world before the pandemic, or why travel is so beneficial in light of COVID. But it is. And it can be safer and maybe even better than before. If we go informed, and more adaptive, flexible and patient.
By Deborah Sanborn | Outpost Travel Health
It’s almost hard to remember a travel world before the pandemic. Or to remember why travel is so beneficial to the world and the human community, when it’s been responsible for transporting a dangerous microbe across the planet that has left so much destruction and grief. (It’s almost incomprehensible how we can be so vulnerable to something so minute — but maybe that’s just human ego talking.)
We’ve written lots over the years about travel health and safety, including about the vaccines that have always been on the roster of good health and responsible travel.
But COVID has changed everything — and not just because it’s infected every country, every region and every tribe on the planet. But because it’s a potent reminder that these kinds of disease threats never really go away (collectively, that is; individually, they can), that new ones always pop up — especially the more humans gather or interact — that all people are vulnerable, and that different parts of the world are more vulnerable for different (and often unfair) reasons — like the lack of access to good health care, or to preventatives like vaccines.
But at this point, like me, you likely know all this by now — that’s not new information, or particularly insightful.
As 2022 launches, many in the travel industry have high hopes for a solid and consistent recovery this year (unlike the last) — that despite the threat of new COVID variants, maybe we’ve actually got a handle on how to pivot quickly and how to handle emerging situations more effectively so as to minimize the impact on the world community.
But that takes will, and willpower. As others have said, the pandemic has been a sobering reminder that this can happen any time, any place, anywhere, to anybody.
Thus far, more than 5,581,000 people have died from COVID in the world, according to the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center (as of this writing; but that number rises rapidly every day), and that’s in less than two years, and that’s the number we’ve only been able to confirm and not the number infected across the globe by far, which despite our sense of modern public health systems, will never be able to be accurately counted or confirmed.
The best, and really only, way out of COVID is through science and vaccines — and vaccines for all, right across the world (which sounds exactly right), and that’s exactly what UN Secretary General António Guterres stated last November at an international meeting in New York: “The only way out of a global pandemic — and out of this unjust and immoral situation — is through a global vaccination plan … Everyone, everywhere, must have access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatment.”
Which is not only the fairest and most humane strategy, but also the wisest. Both the enormity of the world population, and the ability to travel almost anywhere at any time in modern times, means these types of transmissible diseases are a bigger threat than ever. And not just to the traveller going, but, if you’re a responsible traveller, to the local people welcoming. (Like Australians, who welcome in tennis players.)
Though COVID vaccines have changed the game regarding travel safety (to a degree), there are (at this point in time) still real concerns about emerging variants, about vaccine viability in the face of that, and about how travellers are still transporting the microbes around the world.
The Omicron variant just emerged in South Africa in mid-November 2021 and became a global situation in a matter of weeks — and that’s after authorities there shared the information quickly and widely with the rest of the world (which by the way, really, really helps; take note, countries of the world: be decent, be competent, be transparent).
Yet at this point, the real weapons we have against COVID (and other infectious diseases) are in front of us right now: information, cooperation, generosity, and science — as Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization so accurately stated (which is not to say the WHO hasn’t misstepped in this pandemic): “The longer inequity continues, the higher the risks of this virus evolving in ways we can’t prevent or predict. If we end inequity, we end the pandemic.” In many ways, that’s the biggest takeaway of this pandemic, and for travellers.
These are the tools that are and always will be the best weapons — just as they have been in almost every communicable disease outbreak, epidemic or pandemic we’ve been able to either conquer or get a handle on through human history.
When it comes to how all this affects travel…well, some people may be prone to picking up where they left off. And maybe forget what’s happened, as time goes forth and we start to feel safer. Maybe others will be inexplicably defiant, or impulsively contrarian, in the face of the ask — as in, “any chance you could come vaccinated, or put on a mask?” Not doing so in either case, when lacking any valid personal medical reason, frankly just seems weird.
But we should be different when we travel, now. We should be more aware than ever of how our choices or behaviours can really affect others, even without malicious intent. We should be aware more than ever how lovely it is to get to travel — to any place, anywhere, at any time. We should understand more than ever the responsibilities involved with making it a positive experience, particularly for those who work in tourism and are eager to see foreign travellers again.
In light of all this, we’re launching a Travel Health Center at www.outpostmagazine.com to help you make more informed decisions about travel, as we cautiously (cautiously!) go forth with some confidence and hope. We’ll begin with issues relating to COVID and travel, as it’s still the priority, and still evolving.
But include other travel health and safety issues, talk to industry professionals for input on best practices and travel safety, and bring resource tools to the travel table, while trying to stay up-to-date on a clearly evolving situation. All so you can GoReadytoGo! ♦