The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, but while it is still causing great suffering in many places, widespread vaccination is allowing hope in parts of the globe. It is of course true that the virus does not respect geographical boundaries, so increased travel brings with it the risk of contagion, but it is also fair to assume that vaccination will gradually help towards the resumption of travel.

Vaccination reduces the risk of contracting COVID-19, and may make it less severe if you do catch it. If you are thinking of travelling, we strongly advise that you do so once fully vaccinated (two doses for most vaccines, and at least two weeks after the second dose before protection is optimised), and travel will be safest in areas of high vaccine coverage.

Even once vaccinated, you should continue taking precautions to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19. Older people, and those of any age who have some medical conditions including chronic kidney disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Down’s syndrome, serious heart problems, a weakened immune system, type 2 diabetes, and sickle cell disease, as well as those who are obese, who smoke or who are pregnant, are at increased risk from a severe illness from COVID-19.

When deciding whether it is safe to travel, we also advise that you think about the increased risk to anyone you live with who may be affected by these conditions and who you may therefore endanger by your decision.
But travel is an important part of many people’s lives, whether for work or for pleasure and we want to help you travel safely:

  • check the general COVID-19 situation and all requirements and restrictions where you plan to travel
  • take into consideration that, for many destinations, you need to be tested
    before you travel, especially if you are not vaccinated
  • take into consideration that in certain destinations you will need to
    quarantine on arrival at your own expense, and/or when you return
  • make sure your hotel or other accommodation complies with COVID-19 safety recommendations
  • remember to pack face masks, tissues, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes for surfaces, a thermometer and all the medicines
    you may need.

And once on your journey, there are general ways to help keep yourself and others safe:

  • stay 2 metres away from others
  • wear a face mask, and try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth
  • don’t eat, drink or smoke on public transport, so that you do not need to remove your mask
  • limit contact with surfaces, such as handrails or lift buttons
  • wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds, as often
    as you can, or, if this is not possible, use hand sanitiser with at least 60%
    alcohol: carry a small bottle with you at all times, cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they are dry, especially before eating or after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
  • cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue where possible, or by bending your arm and using it to cover your nose and mouth
  • avoid contact with anyone who has any symptoms of COVID-19.

Some special tips for air travel:

wear a mask at all times, in the airport and during the flight wash your hands before and after screening where possible, place boarding passes (paper or electronic) directly on the scanner and then hold them up for inspection, instead of handing them over place personal items such as keys, wallets and phones in carry-on bags, so that they do not have to be handled during screening.

Before deciding to travel, and when choosing where to go, remember that travelling increases the risk of contracting COVID-19. Vaccination can decrease this risk and decreases the risk of contracting severe forms of COVID-19.

Travelling will be safest in regions with high vaccination coverage. Check the local situation, find out the regulations at your destination, both on arrival as well as on your return home, and take advice from your doctor about your planned trip. These are challenging times. Stay safe, and enjoy.

Dr Fernando Macário
Chief Medical Officer

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