Is It Safe To Travel Again?
With the partial lifting of travel restrictions in many countries, some of the world has become accessible again. Here is a look at how, when, where, and why we can travel while staying safe.
The European Commission Vice President announced recently that travel bans across Europe will be lifted gradually and in stages. Italy, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, and the Netherlands have opened their borders to other EU countries. Greece also added Australia to its list of permitted countries. Iceland, France, Belgium, and Switzerland opened their borders only to countries in the Schengen region. Travelers arriving from the UK would be subjected to a 14-day quarantine. In the Nordic region Norway, Denmark, and Finland opened their borders to countries in the EU except Sweden. This is because Sweden had a different approach for containing the spread of COVID-19. The European Commission is making plans to start allowing travelers and tourists from non-European countries from July 1. Only countries where the virus has been brought under control would be considered.
In Asia, most countries are still closed to tourists. Taiwan opened its borders to some types of business travelers on June 17 but insists on quarantining visitors. The Maldives, Turkey, and Japan have announced that their borders will open in July. Sri Lanka prepares to open borders to all countries in August. In North America, travel to the US is subject to many restrictions and quarantines. Canada is also quarantining incoming travelers for two weeks.
In South America Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Peru are off-limits to foreign travelers for now. Israel and Qatar in the Middle East are not open to travelers for now. However, Dubai plans to open its borders in July. Popular tourist destinations South Africa and Morocco have not relaxed border restrictions so far. Tanzania started welcoming tourists from all countries in May. It was the first country in Africa to reopen its borders.
Modes of travel
Compared to the sea and air, travel by land is considered safer. This is due to the smaller number of people that land vehicles can carry. Planes and ships carry more passengers than cars and buses and can accelerate the spread of infection en route. With this in mind, many countries have banned all flights and cruise ships to dock/land.
In Europe domestic flights are set to resume. The European Council urged its members to relax flight restrictions as soon as possible. Flights from non-EU countries are restricted until July. Individual EU countries may provide some exemptions to this. Denmark, Bulgaria, and Bosnia allow transit flights, diplomatic flights, and medical missions. In Croatia, only one airport is open to international flights. Denmark has allowed flights from other EU countries. However, tourist visits to Denmark must not exceed 6 days. In the US only domestic flights and flights from Canada are allowed. Most of Asia currently does not allow international flights. Japan has allowed flights only from Thailand and Vietnam.
Many airlines have managed to convince passengers that it is safe to fly again. These include Qatar, Lufthansa, and American. Several airlines have ramped up their cleaning and sanitation procedures. In Europe and the US airlines now leave the middle seats empty to allow for on-board social distancing. Airlines and airports mandate staff and passengers to wear face masks. In May the IATA drew plans to restart the aviation industry. It recommends contact-tracing and protective equipment for passengers and staff. Measures such as electronic customs procedures, self-service, and contactless check-in and baggage drop were advised. Airports in the US use AI to minimize human contact. Pittsburgh International airport uses robots with built-in ultraviolet light to sterilize floors, elevator buttons, and escalator handrails. Dallas airport uses lights and digital displays to indicate free stalls in restrooms.
With the sudden imposition of travel bans, many travelers were stuck in foreign countries. Migrants stranded in infected zones could not get back to their home countries. This was particularly true in Brazil, Italy, and the US. With travel restrictions being eased in some nations, migrants now prepare to go home. However, it is highly advised for migrants to send money online to their families back home before they travel. This is essential as traveling with cash could prolong customs procedures.
The world has much to learn about COVID-19. The U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says that person-to-person contact is the primary route of the transfer of the virus. Travel poses risks because it increases such contacts. It is vital to protect oneself while traveling. Avoid travel if possible but if you must, be sure to wear a face mask and maintain social distance.
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