As COVID cases rise as the Omicron variant spreads, lives across the world have been horrendously impacted.
Every day, I see patients suffering from the pandemic: whether from testing positive themselves, or from having to jump through new hoops to get to their next travel destination.
This is especially the case at the moment, as all evidence has shown that Omicron spreads quickly. Though it might be milder than other COVID variants, at least for vaccinated people, a positive test is a sure fire way of putting an stop to your daily life.
What do you do if you want to travel? First off, if you test positive, the solution is clear: stay away from other people for 10 days. But if you are negative, and plan to stay that way, the question then becomes: what particular precautions should you take?
First and foremost: make sure you read up on your destination’s specific visitation rules, as most require proof of vaccination and/or certification you’ve had a recent negative COVID test. There are many types of COVID tests, including molecular tests (like PCR and LAMP tests) and rapid tests (lateral flow or antigen). The test you will need to travel will often depend on your vaccination status.
Make sure to keep up to date with the latest requirements. Recheck your destination country’s requirements 48 hours in advance of travel, which should give you time to book a COVID test if the situation has changed.
Now to the nitty gritty: what to bring with you on the plane? Here are the new essentials everyone should pack before traveling:
Vaccine passport: Print yours out before you board, in case your phone dies mid-flight. Make sure it includes the date of last dose and the vaccine type, as countries have different mandates for different vaccines.
N95 mask: Take advantage of the exceptional availability of KN95 masks in Spain! These are what medical professionals use to prevent infection and, if correctly worn, are the best possible way for you to prevent infection. Further, several countries actually require either a KN95 or surgical mask to travel on plane or bus.
Travel-sized disinfectant wipes & hand sanitizer: While the biggest danger of infection is airborne, it is still certainly possible to get COVID through contact! Take extra care with what you touch, and sanitize the area around you when you sit – not just on the plane, but also in the airport.
Those are your physical essentials. Now, it is time to think about the community you are travelling to and the people you are travelling with:
Is your destination undergoing a surge of cases? Are their mask and vaccine mandates disproportionately lax? Do they have a very low vaccination rate? If yes, consider postponing your trip if it is not essential. There will be time to travel again if you can keep your health.
If the destination is fine, next think about who you are travelling with. Remember that travelling with unvaccinated people not only puts you and others at risk, it can completely ruin your trip.
Consider this: you travel with a group of five people, four of whom are vaccinated and boosted, one is not. Three of you test positive with COVID mid-trip, with the unvaccinated person extremely symptomatic. What do you do? You will have to extend your trip, sure, but how will you isolate? Who will care for the very ill person? What if they end up in hospital?
These are questions you don’t want to have to face. Make a plan before you go for how you’d quarantine and where you’d seek care. And reduce your risk by encouraging your group to be fully vaccinated.
Editorial note: Paula Anthony is a fully qualified doctor from the USA who has had her own practice (Clínica Santa Cecilia) in Nerja for many years.