Monday 26 October, 2020

How to travel safely now that borders are opening

The pandemic has changed the way we will travel-- possibly forever. Airlines have cut flights and onboard amenities and measures are being taken throughout the travel industry to curb the spread of the virus, such as sanitization of surfaces and eliminating the use of middle seats.

And although many people are choosing to forgo travel during the crisis, many are continuing to fly. Here's what you can do to stay healthy if you board a plane.

First off, understand the risks

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, viruses are not easily spread on flights because of how air is circulated and filtered onboard. Air is circulated up to 6 times per hour and processed through HEPA filters which remove 99.97 percent of particles passing through them.
  • Airlines are increasing hygiene protocols to keep travelers safe.
  • The greatest risk of COVID-19 exposure comes from passing time in ticket lines, security queues, departure gates, jetways, and passenger seats—each of which potentially put you in close proximity with other people and frequently touched surfaces. 

What should you expect?

  • You will be expected to keep your face properly masked and covered at all times, except when TSA agents need to confirm you identity. 
  • There can be last minute changes in flight schedules, travel restrictions, airline recommendations and rules—including how they are enforced. Frequently check to ensure that nothing has changed.
  • You might be tested at the airport, depending on a country's COVID-19 protocols.
  • You may be asked questions while making a reservation or during check-in, including: Have you traveled out of the country in the last 14 days? Have you been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus? Have you had any of the following symptoms: fever, dry cough, or difficulty breathing?
  • Most airports have placed markers in areas where line-ups occur to reinforce physical distancing as travelers wait in line. Passengers are also scanning their boarding passes—both paper and electronic—rather than exchanging them with TSA officers.

Here's how to keep safe

From checking in, to going through security to boarding, you will be touching many surfaces. To minimize risk:

  • Bring hand wipes to disinfect surfaces such as your seat belt and your personal belongings, like your passport. If you cannot find hand wipes, bring a small washcloth soaked in a bleach solution in a zip bag.
  • Travelers should wash their hands regularly or use a minimum 60 percent alcohol-based (70 percent isopropyl alcohol) disinfectant before and after using the check-in kiosk, completing the security screening process, and showing your ticket at the gate. Note that soap and water are the most effective method of keeping hands clean.
  • Bring plastic zip bags for personal items that others may handle, such as your ID. Bring extra bags so you can put these things in a new bag after you get the chance to disinfect them.
  • Once you get to your seat, stay put.
  • Wear a mask. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with other travellers. Keep 6 feet of physical distance from others.
  • Avoid traveling if you are sick.
  • Make sure your health insurance is valid where you will be traveling. 

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