The spread of COVID-19 has us all full of questions–especially when it comes to travel plans.
Should you avoid travelling abroad? Is it safe to stay in a hotel or is it safer to rent a holiday home or Airbnb? Are buses and trains okay?
While there is no way to make travel 100% safe during a global pandemic, there are ways to make it safer.
A good analogy might be that every time you get in the car to drive somewhere, there’s risk involved, but there is a big difference between driving the speed limit with your seat belt on and driving blindfolded, 60 kilometres an hour through the middle of town.
Here we highlight what to consider and how to minimise your risks.
Should I Get On an Airplane?
Back in May, a whopping 76.3% of voters in an Irish Mirror poll said they would not fly this summer. While this view of airplanes as a soaring petri dish is unlikely to have changed, how dangerous are they?
Airplanes are confined spaces and the primary concern with flying is that you’ll end up within six feet of an infected person.
While there’s still much that isn’t known about COVID-19, the virus is believed to spread primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
That’s why most major airlines now require passengers and employees to wear masks. They can protect you from spraying your fellow passengers with droplets if you cough or sneeze and can also protect your mouth and nose from the droplets of others.
If you’re still worried about “recirculated air” the good news is that modern airplanes have hospital-grade HEPA filtering systems that entirely recirculate the air in the cabin every three minutes.
The bad news is that you’ll need to exercise more concern about touching frequently-trafficked surfaces such as lavatory door handles, tray tables, and armrests.
It’s an occasion for medical-grade hand sanitiser.
Is Other Public Transport Safe?
The easing of lockdown restrictions has increased passenger demand for public transport. It’s also left many wondering how safe trains and buses are now, and if they’re better off driving.
A lot of the potential risk of infection on trains and buses depends on how crowded they are, and so how far away you can keep from other people.
Ventilation also plays an important role as fresh air can help droplets containing the virus dissipate faster, so being able to open a window can be an advantage.
It’s worth pointing out that public transport services like Iarnród Éireann have made additional buses and trains available to services where there is greater demand, addressing physical distancing issues.
The best advice? Travel at off-peak times and take a less busy route where possible. The idea is that taking these precautions allows you to keep two metres away from people “where possible.”
Should I Stay in a Hotel or Rent a Holiday Home?
There have been reports that holiday homes are in huge demand among “safety-first” holidaymakers. But is it that much safer to rent a holiday home?
Many hotels and hotel chains are coming out with new cleaning standards. Marriott’s includes using electrostatic spraying technology to spread disinfectants that broadly kill germs in rooms.
Closer to home Fáilte Ireland has consulted the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) to create a set of detailed and practical guidelines for hotels and guesthouses, including use of hand sanitiser dispensers and face masks for staff.
Not one to be left behind, Airbnb’s new standards launched this month follow CDC guidelines and include using masks and gloves when cleaning. It also involves building in a 24-hour waiting period between guests. Hosts who follow them will be identified in Airbnb listings.
The takeaway is that every place offering overnight accommodation––including holiday homes and hotels–is going to have to win back the confidence of travellers and encourage them to step outside of their zones of control.
One way to do that is for them to clean like a hospital. If you’re in doubt, you can always consult with the specific hotel or rental property to confirm what measures they’ve taken.
General Considerations for Travel
Personal protective measures like face coverings, regular use of hand sanitiser and keeping social distance all help to reduce the transmission rate of the virus — but these measures don't eliminate risk entirely.
If you’re considering travelling, you start with a self-assessment that takes into consideration your medical background, your age, and whether or not you have risk factors for severe complications. You’ll also want to take stock of just how important the trip is and what your tolerance for risk and inconvenience is.
If you still plan to travel, then we recommend maximising your use of the protective measures outlined above.