Coronavirus: when can we start travelling again?
The coronavirus pandemic has brought about an unprecedented halt to global travel, with restrictions and travel bans being put in place all over the world. One of the questions being asked is when it will be safe to travel again. In this article we’ll explain what needs to happen before borders can open, how long that might take, and what measures might be put in place in order to facilitate travel.
When will we be able to travel again?
Unfortunately there is no simple answer as to when we will be able to travel again. A number of important milestones need to be reached in order for borders to open up. In the short term, once the peak of the current wave of infection has passed, countries will have to find a way to limit the number of new cases to a low level.
Will we have to wait until there is a coronavirus vaccine to start travelling again?
There is a general consensus that the world cannot return to normal until there is a vaccine for coronavirus, but that is estimated to be 12-18 months away. According to Jonas Nilsen, MD and co-founder of Practio, “you do not have to wait until everyone is vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to travel”. The vaccine will take time to develop and distribute, and by that point many people will already have developed a natural immunity to the virus.
Nilsen states that antibody tests could provide a solution. Antibody tests check blood samples to tell us if a person has previously been infected with coronavirus, making them immune.
What are antibodies?
Antibodies are a type of blood protein used by the body to fight infection. If antibodies for coronavirus are detected in a person’s blood, it means they have already had coronavirus and their body has created the antibodies to fight it. This should mean the person is immune to coronavirus.
Antibody tests could allow people to travel again
At the moment, one of the barriers for international travel is that many countries ask recent arrivals to self-isolate for up to 14 days after arriving from abroad.
"Once reliable antibody tests have been developed, countries could ask travellers to take antibody tests upon arrival”. If the tests are positive, showing immunity, this will stop people from having to self-isolate.
Coronavirus travel restrictions need to be lifted
What everyone needs to bear in mind is that individual governments must first formulate plans and implement them before people can travel again. Once the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus is low enough that it is considered manageable, governments will issue guidance on travel, so it is important that you check what current restrictions are in place before booking any holidays.
Can I book holidays for later in 2020?
This is a difficult question to answer, though it is possible that some travel will be allowed towards the end of 2020. “It’s impossible to say when exactly you can travel again” Nilsen says, “so the safest choice is to wait for a clear sign from your local government and national health officials before you book your next trip”.
Many parts of the travel industry will not be able to survive the pandemic, predicts Mads Mikkelsen, CEO and co-founder of Practio.
"This will most likely lead to fewer travel options, as smaller destinations won’t be as accessible”. Travel in 2020 will also be moulded by current coronavirus restrictions, with “big cities that used to be overcrowded probably seeing fewer tourists, at least for the near future, while people will most likely prefer the more remote and less crowded destinations”.
This could lead to an increase in demand for small boutique hotels and villas in more secluded areas, rather than big hotels which might have been popular before the pandemic.
Travel after coronavirus
It is likely that travel will look very different after the coronavirus pandemic. Once it is safe to travel, there will likely be a boom in international travel, says Mikkelsen, as people will want to reconnect with the world after months spent in isolation. Local travel will increase too, particularly for people who feel safer staying closer to home.
Countries which rely heavily on tourism will probably introduce extra measures to entice travellers back after the pandemic has passed, “offering discounts to encourage people to return to travel and help them recover from the damage that coronavirus has caused”.
Immunity certificates for coronavirus
Another measure that may become a feature in international travel is immunity certificates for coronavirus, which may come in a few different types. Once a vaccine for coronavirus is available, you may need a vaccination certificate to travel, in the way that you currently need a yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter certain countries. Before the vaccine is developed, countries might also require proof of immunity, either as an antibody test certificate, or proof of non-infection to allow entry to the country. “People will either need to prove they have previously been infected with coronavirus and have now recovered, or that they have tested negative just before they started their trip” according to Mikkelsen.
Which will be the best countries to travel to?
Some countries have managed to limit the spread of coronavirus more significantly than others, so much so that countries such as Denmark and Norway have already taken steps to open up again.
“Considering the positive development in these countries, amongst others, I can imagine they will be ready to open their borders for travellers earlier than others, though there will certainly be some restrictions to this” Nilsen says. It is also likely that the most popular travel destinations will open up earlier than others because people will still perceive them as being safer.
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