We may know that international travel is off the table for some time, but that does not stop us dreaming of the day that the pandemic is over and we can jet off to new places, go on exciting adventures, visit sunnier lands and generally feed our travel-hungry souls. Although many countries are still facing high infection rates, new waves of virus spread and restrictions are still in place, the discovery of several effective vaccinations, which are being rolled out across the globe, is a promising glimmer of hope, that one day life will resume as normal. When we do travel again however, what will that look like?
Many vaccination programs are initially being offered to the most vulnerable, elderly, and healthcare workers, working down the list from highest-risk to the lowest until everyone has been offered a vaccination. With billions of people in each country, this will take some time, however vaccination programs are being rolled out with speed. Some experts predict that COVID mortality figures will begin to show reductions in March and by summer 2021, international travel will begin to see a small and perhaps slow revival. Early figures for various travel agent websites has shown that holiday makers are searching for holidays in July, no doubt hoping, as many are, that it will be safe to travel by then.
Speaking to The Independent, and on the UK and Europe’s vaccination program in particular, Jonny Bealby, founder of tour operator Wild Frontiers stated: “with vaccine rollout continuing apace, by March we will see a reduction in Covid-related mortality figures, along with lower infection rates and much less pressure on the NHS, and as a result international travel will start to slowly reopen. We are looking at western European destinations opening first, which for us means Greece, Spain and Italy, to be followed by wider Europe and such destinations as Poland, Slovakia, Georgia and the Caucasus.
From there, as more of the UK population receives both jabs, we’d expect to see a gradual return of some long-haul destinations from mid-summer through to the end of the year. A lot will depend on testing procedures, vaccine production and supply, and our own government’s appetite to get the industry going, but with a bit of luck I think we will be full steam ahead from early next year.”
However, it is still likely to early to tell when, exactly, it will be safe to travel internationally. Of course, there will be no blanket rule for all. Restrictions will vary from country to country, as although we are battling COVID-19 on a global front, countries will have different rates of transmission, different vaccine rollout programs and different regulations as to which countries their borders are open to, if any. It may therefore be possible to travel to one country, yet others may still be off limits in the early recovery of the pandemic.
Whilst vaccinations may help to ease border restrictions, when we do travel, social distancing procedures may be here to stay. We may have to continue wearing masks on public transport – including planes, boats, trains and so forth. Tightly packed transport may be a thing of the past as we keep a ‘social’ distance from one another. And frequently washing hands and avoiding touching your face will be in everyone’s best practice (this should be done for hygiene and infection prevention purposes anyway). TimeOut magazine writes: ‘It will take months and possibly years for the vaccines to be distributed sufficiently to allow for a full return to normality.
But beyond the huge logistical task of rolling them out, questions still remain over their effectiveness in preventing transmission. All the major, globally approved vaccines (from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford) have been shown to limit the worst effects of Covid-19, but it’s unclear whether they actually make you immune, rather than simply reducing symptoms.’
There is also talk of ‘health passports’ which would allow those who have been vaccinated to travel more freely. Although this idea has been disputed on both ethical grounds and practical grounds – as again, we do not yet know how long a vaccination will immunize a person for, and whether it stops them from carrying the infection. Currently, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many countries have their borders shut, places like the UK only will let persons in, if they have tested negative for COVID-19. It may be possible in future that some countries will want to protect their populations by letting in those with a certificate of inoculation.