Coronavirus Travel Advice: When should you travel again? The simple answer is, not until there is an affordable and accessible treatment and or vaccine available for a few months.
What is Corona Virus? There are many kinds of Corona Virus out there and when we get a cold and cough infection, about 20-30% of the time it could be some kind of Corona Virus. The one that is pandemic in the world right now has a new novel strain called SARS-Cov-2 and the disease it causes is called Covid19. Read the NYTimes article linked here to understand what it is and how bad it is. Although many people have recovered, (in fact a majority of people who got infected, recovered), Covid19 can be quite fatal for many people too.
How does it affect travel? Well because it is extremely contagious. Extremely. It spreads very easily through touch and through the air. If an infected person sneezes, he/she releases thousands of microscopic droplets called aerosols, which carry the virus. You can unwittingly breathe that air, thereby infecting yourself too. Or if an infected person touched her/his mouth or nose and then touched a surface, which you did too (like maybe an elevator button, or a door knob) and then touched your mouth, you could get infected as well. Soap kills the virus. Which is why the World Health Organisation has been advising to wash your hands frequently (for 20 seconds each time), not touch your face, and wash and sanitise anything that comes from outside.
This is an excellent article which talks about how long the Corona Virus will last on a surface. On plastic and steel, the virus can stay alive for as long as 3 days. Imagine your building door knobs, elevator buttons, UBER car handles, Swiggy packaging etc.
What happens when you get Corona Virus? Terrible things. Firstly, even if you are healthy and can survive the infection, you could pass it on to vulnerable people around you (your parents, elders, children, health care workers, your grocers, anyone you interact with). They may be in a high risk category, even if you aren’t. So for your own sake, as well of those around you, stay at home, wash your hands. Stay safe.
So what about travel? Public travel is out of the question right now. With the risk of infection so high would you really want to travel in closed spaces with many many other people? And possibly bring the infection home? Many people are asymptomatic carriers. Which means, they may not show any symptoms of the Corona Virus, but they may be infected with it and may pass on the infection to others. So it is best to avoid leisure travel by public transport.
What about travel in your own vehicle? Well, this may be slightly better, but is it really? You wake up really early morning to go for a road trip. You carry your own bottles of water since you want to avoid plastic and the interaction. You skip the elevator so you do not have to touch buttons and doors and take the steps. You go to your building parking lot and find the main gate locked and the only guard sleeping. You try waking up the guard, but softly, as you don’t want to startle him, plus it’s too early morning to disturb anyone else. He wakes up, but can’t understand what you are saying and tries coming closer straining to understand. He isn’t wearing a mask. He interacts everyday with many delivery people, building people, cleaners etc. He is at high risk of infection. You do not want him to get too close to you, especially without a mask.
Anyway, he opens the gate and you finally drive out. You realise your fuel tank is only half full, and with the uncertainty of finding fuel on the highway, you decide to fill it in the city. The fuel station attendant really wants to interact with you. “Diesel or Petrol. Premium of normal? How much? Cash or Card?” No he doesn’t accept Google Pay. Or manager who understands, isn’t here. Would you give him (a high risk person, because of many daily interactions) your card and put the card back in your pocket? Would you give him cash and count change back which he (and many others) have handled?
You get the fuel and drive out. You feel like taking a coffee and pee break. The highway stopover, even if open, has fewer support staff. Someone was spitting and coughing into the wash basin. Do you want to touch those taps? Toilets are closed spaces with very high risks of infections. Do you really want to risk it here. If on your drive, you get a flat tyre, do you know how to fix it yourself without interacting with someone. At toll booths, if you have FasTag, fine, else interact.
If you return back the same day, you still have to deal with the guard who wants to walk up to you with an innocent smile and hand you a package that arrived while you were away, then the elevator or walk up to your floor.
If not returning the same day, where will you stay?
Will you stay at a home stay or hotel, in a beautiful location. You do not know if anyone there is an asymptomatic carrier. You will have to interact by giving your identity documents, even if you paid the advance over the internet. You have to open the door knob and enter your room and use the toilet. Will you sanitise everything in the room? Door knobs and handles, taps, ensure you have freshly laundered linen (which hasn’t been touched by anyone who could be a carrier of Corona Virus)? You would have run out of of your home water by now. So you ask for bottled water. Will you remember to sanitise the bottle before using it, and then quickly washing your hands with soap in the recommended 20 second drill?
It is dinner time. You have to interact with someone to order the food. Then the person who brings it. The vessels. The crockery and cutlery. Will you trust their sanitisation? What if someone on that day didn’t do their job well. Next morning it’s time to leave. Another interaction. Paying up. Saying your thanks. Maybe someone parked a vehicle in a way that you cannot remove yours. More interactions. On your way back now. Pee breaks. Toll booths. Fuel stations. Home. Maybe the cops at a naka bandi want to know why you were out? More interactions.
As you can see, it is fraught with risk, to step out of your home, unless it is absolutely essential. Although we love travel, we understand it is not absolutely essential, not enough to risk your own and your loved ones’ lives.
Even if you decide to fly. You have to reach the airport and interact with security. You will use the toilets. You will sit in the lobby waiting for your flight. It is a closed space with many other people who could be sneezing, coughing, breathing out aerosols, some of which could be Corona Virus Positive. How will you know? They could be asymptomatic carriers. The same inside the flight. 2 hours of this. And then you land. More interactions. More toilet usage. You take a cab from the airport to your destination. More interaction in a shared closed space.
So when does it all end? When we have affordable and accessible treatments and vaccines for Corona Virus. Trust science. The good thing is, many institutes in the world are moving at a rapid speed towards developing a vaccine for the Corona Virus. You can use the RAPS website here, or the Milken Institute Corona Virus treatment and vaccine trackers. As I type, there are 223 treatments and 141 vaccines under development. These are all work in progress, but many of them are showing very positive early results. We can only hope and pray that a treatment and a vaccine is quickly made.
Till then we should stay at home, wash hands frequently and sanitise everything that comes from outside. Our trusted local Government notifications must be followed. We must not blindly believe what comes in our phone messaging platforms like WhatsApp. We should do everything to prevent getting infected. Not only does it protect yourselves and our loved ones, it also helps reduce the strain on our already stressed out healthcare systems.
So, stay at home, do not travel, until we have an affordable and easily accessible treatment and vaccine for Corona Virus.
If we are healthy and happy, we will quickly get over this and can always go for a big trip somewhere, later. Till then stay home, stay safe.