When Can We Travel Again?

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Most of the world has been under variable COVID-19 lockdowns, entry, and travel bans from early March, as we have covered here on LoyaltyLobby.

PPE Hazmat

Many, myself included, must be wondering when we can get back to the same level of freedom when transiting and entering international borders like we did just four months ago?

Let me start saying that I am not an infectious disease expert or an epidemiologist, and I am not trying to play one (there are too many talking heads who assert to know everything while they don’t for that fact).

It is, however, challenging to see any other way out from this pandemic than:

1. Vaccine

or

2. Herd Immunity

The realistic time table to have a vaccine tested and readily available is sometime in the second half of 2021. There are many clinical trials underway that will take their time to go through the process to find out if they are effective and whether there are any side effects.

Herd immunity is achieved when a certain percentage of the population is immune either through vaccination or having survived it. It has been estimated that herd immunity is reached with COVID-19 when roughly 70% of the subject population have antibodies.

Obstacles

1. Some countries have this coronavirus quite well under control, such as Australia and New Zealand. If they open up their borders, there will inevitably be new imported cases, and the disease will flare up again.

2. Destination and home countries may both require 14-day quarantine, rendering most trips impractical.

3. Transit was banned quite fast at many of the hubs such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taipei. This may happen again with close to zero notice.

4. It is very bad optics for the governments if outbreaks occur due to foreign travel.

5. There are likely multiple waves much like the 1918-pandemic that had three or four iterations depending on the country and during which the second wave was the deadliest.

6. You may be required to carry very high-value travel insurance coverage to be admitted, including repatriation, in case of getting infected.

Travel Before Vaccine

1. Regional or travel between specific countries will open up earlier. I would expect intra-Schengen travel allowed again sometime this summer.

2. There will likely be requirements to wear masks and expect to have temperature checks a few times during each trip (the latter have been in place for years in some airports in Asia).

3. You should ensure you have maximum flexibility to be rerouted via alternate hubs or even to choose another destination in case of outbreaks or bans.

Travel After Functional Vaccine

1. You will likely need to carry proof that you have been vaccinated as is the case with yellow fever certificate when entering certain countries.

2. It will take a while for all the travel obstacles to be removed

Conclusion

Countries have taken very different approaches how to battle COVID-19 from Sweden, whose goal is to allow the virus to slowly go through the population, to that of Taiwan, which tries to completely eradicate it (and everything else in-between).

Unless Taiwan keeps its borders closed and quarantines all the arrivals for 14 days, including flight crews, the virus will find its way again into the country.

The mortality rate from COVID-19 based on the observations in the Nordic countries is around 0.2% of all infected. If you need 70% of the population to have antibodies before the virus disappears, you can count the approximate number of possible fatalities if you let it run through.

I would love to plan convoluted international trips for this fall, but it is difficult for me to see how they could work out. When I was more hopeful three weeks ago, I was in touch with a travel agent that I use to book my RTWs who strongly advised me against ticketing one for September, and I have to say that I agree with him now.

It doesn’t help that airlines are not making it easy to book anything in advance due to not correctly refunding eligible tickets and trying to force passengers to accept vouchers instead.

I hope that this nightmare is over soon.

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