As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, now more than 150 countries are suffering from its impact. Many of the COVID-19 hit cities are popular business and travel destinations, such as Hokkaido (Sapporo), Seoul, Milan, London and New York. Many countries already acted to ban inbound travel, while anyone entering Hong Kong by air will be subject to 14 days of compulsory quarantine. These leave us wonder: is air travel such a danger? Indeed, here are five things to consider before you book your flight.
1. Sick and estranged
There is a good chance that you may contract the disease if you visit an epicentre. Even though many travel insurance policies will cover the medical expenses overseas, the fact that you are alone in a foreign country and not fluent in the local language is sure to make the treatment doubly wearisome, or worse, delay the treatment.
Some of the Hongkongers stranded in the Diamond Princess cruise ship found difficulty to communicate with the Japanese medical staff because they don’t speak Japanese, and their English is limited. As a result, they were in low spirits, which inevitably had a negative impact to their recovery.
2. Risky flight
Flying in an aircraft is risky. You must take off your mask when you eat and doing so in a crowded place naturally raises the chance of contracting the virus. On top of that, you may need to use the toilet during the many hours of flight, which runs additional risks. Besides the possibility of contracting the virus on board, just having someone sitting near you being diagnosed positive, you will already be required to go into quarantine because of being labelled as close contact.
3. Prepare for quarantine
Fearing of getting infected overseas, a large number of Hongkongers living abroad, some being students, flew back recently. They will be imposed compulsory home quarantine upon landing, but it’s not easy to live with that. Local dwellings are usually small, and if there are children and elderly family members living together, home quarantine may not be desirable. Other options could prove unfeasible either: hotels could incur extra expenses, and you may not be qualified for government quarantine centres.
4. Let’s meet online
Most corporates have given guidelines to cut down non-essential business trips which are replaced by video conferencing. Although there may still be some technical issues such as delay, echo and interruption, the technology keeps businesses running and keeps us off the risk of meeting face-to-face.
5. Be alert to travel alerts
Many travel lovers make overseas trip every year. The Hong Kong Government, however, has issued the Red Outbound Travel Alert for the entire world except the mainland China, Macau and Taiwan and made repeated appeals to the public to defer travel plans. This is indeed a wise suggestion.
On the other hand, many countries implemented quarantine for inbound travelers, for example, visitors to China must self-isolate for 14 days in designated hotels and pay for their costs, which may amount to almost HKD10,000. During the period you may not see the people or do what you intend to. Back to Hong Kong, you will also undergo compulsory quarantine that adds up to almost a whole month of being idle. It is hardly worth it.
Many world-class museums are now offering virtual tours that might help quench Hongkongers’ thirst for visiting monuments. Moreover, certain organisations even provided online study tours for young people so that can learn even though schools are closed.
Anyhow, in the time of a pandemic, no matter if you are travelling outbound or inbound, you should plan carefully. Make sure you have adequate protection on the plane and prepare for subsequent quarantine arrangements.