Summer holidays in Western countries may well be possible for some people this year after all, even if under very different circumstances.
The coronavirus hasn’t simply disappeared, but the number of new infections is decreasing in many countries previously under strict lockdown, leading them to partially open up their borders again.
Travel medicine experts says it’s all the more important now to remain cautious, as there is still a real risk you will end up in isolation on your holidays or be forced to quarantine when you return.
So what can we do to enjoy our holidays without increasing the risk to ourselves and others?
Number one, bring a mask – or several. Covering your mouth and nose will remain necessary while travelling in the coming months. Most airlines will probably make wearing a mask mandatory during flights.
You’ll likely also need it when shopping or going out for food in your travel destination.
But remember to bring more than one mask. “The mask has to be changed once a day, otherwise it will quickly become unhygienic, ” Tomas Jelinek, a Berlin physician specialising in travel medicine says.
“You have to take a sufficient number of masks with you or else wash them regularly.”
Number two is social distancing. “The most important thing when travelling is keeping a distance, ” the expert advises. “Try to avoid events which could turn you into a super-spreader.”
Experts use this term to describe anyone who infects much more people than normal by coming into close contact with lots of people.
On your holidays, this can happen at bars, clubs and festivals, or anywhere where many people sing, shout or talk loudly in a confined space.
“A beach party is not a good idea, ” Jelinek says. Even though being outside reduces the risk of transmission, a lot of people in one place always means a higher risk of infection.
Number three: bringing your own disinfectant.
Jelinek advises against disinfecting each door handle at the hotel yourself. “You have to trust that hotels and restaurants will do what’s necessary to prevent being shut down again.”
Disinfectant is makes most sense in places like train station bathrooms and airplanes, he says. Viroligists have also cautioned that the main source of infection is other people and not from surfaces.
A small bottle of disinfectant is probably enough for a two-week vacation, Jelinek says. You can also keep a second bottle in your carry-on bag, to make sure you always have one handy while travelling.
Be careful not to overdose, however. “If you use too much disinfectant on your hands, the skin flora will be damaged after some time and forms eczemas, ” the physician warns. Plastic gloves can even make things worse.
Does it make sense to bring your own towels? “That’s a bit over the top, ” Jelinek says, adding that it will only take up space in your suitcase. “In a decent hotel, everything is washed properly – even more often than at home.”
Should you stay away from the buffet? Not necessarily. “The infection risk isn’t as high there, as people usually don’t shout or sing over their breakfast, ” Jelinek says.
“This means they don’t emit much pharyngeal flora, even if they don’t wear masks.” Meanwhile hotels will be paying attention that tables stay at a distance from each other.
“The risk of infection on a holiday trip will never be zero, ” the physician stresses. “If you don’t want to take any risks, you have to lock yourself up at home.” – dpa