COVID-19 Travel Advisory FAQs from the World Health Organization

At the end of July, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a travel advisory Q&A article in light of international travel resuming around the globe. These FAQs from the WHO cover various aspects that travellers should be aware of when undertaking any sort of international or domestic travel.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from the World Health Organization

  • What do you mean by “essential travel”?

As of now, only essential travel is recommended per the travel advisory. In simple terms, that means “for emergencies only.” If you are traveling for non-essential purposes, you are recommended to follow safety protocols as outlined in the rest of the questions here.

  • What is the “high risk” category and who is advised against travelling?

If you are in the “high risk” group of people who are more likely to contract a viral infection, it is advisable not to travel at this time, per the WHO travel advisory. High risk individuals include people over the age of 60, people with comorbidities (chronic conditions current affecting their health), and, of course, people with confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19 and anyone with whom they have come into contact and has not been quarantined.

  • How can I be safe while travelling?

The WHO has set out various protocols for safety during the pandemic; these include:

  1. Wearing your mask at all times
  2. Washing and/or disinfecting the hands frequently
  3. Sneezing or coughing into a tissue or the crook of your arm (inside of a bent elbow)
  4. Social distancing – at least 1 meter distance from others
  5. Any other requirements as mandated by local travel authorities and the airline
  • What type of mask is best?

There are four main types of masks that help protect the wearer from a possible viral infection. None of them are 100% guaranteed to be preventive, but all of them help to varying degrees. The following information was originally published in Loma Linda University’s Health portal.

Cloth or Fabric Masks: These masks primarily stop droplets of infection-carrying saliva when speaking, coughing, or sneezing. They are washable and reusable, as well as easy to buy. This is the most common variety of masks you’ll find people wearing.

Surgical or Medical Masks: These are also easily available at most stores today. They are disposable and convenient but they’ve been causing disposal issues over the last few months. These masks protect the wearer from droplets of moisture carrying the virus, as well as larger particulate matter.

N95 Masks: The name of these masks comes from the fact that they are able to block up to 95% of the particular and suspended liquid matter reaching your nose and mouth. Experts do not recommend these for normal use; they are only recommended for health and frontline workers and need to be fit-tested before being approved for use. Although they are single-use masks, new ways have been developed to clean and reuse them.

Masks with Valves: These masks allow easy exhalation but the one-way direction of the valve means people around them are not safe. More and more medical experts are advising against the use of such masks. Instead, a mask with a simple filter is recommended as the better option.

The WHO recommends fabric or medical masks for members of the general population but also notes that wearing a mask alone is not sufficient protection unless combined with other best practices as outlined in the previous question.

What about inside the aircraft? Isn’t is more dangerous because it’s sealed and pressurized?

Most aircraft cabins are now designed to circulate mixed air from inside and outside the craft. Outside air is mixed with filtered and recirculated inside air, and HEPA filters ensure that any germs or viruses in the air are quickly removed. However, most airlines recommend wearing some sort of PPE or personal protective equipment when flying. Check with the airline you intend to use for current information on this.

What sort of testing and/or documentation will I need to travel into restricted countries?

The answer varies based on which country you’re referring to. Most countries require you to fill out a special form for the purpose of your visit. In addition, you may be required to carry a negative PCR test for COVID-19 that was issued no longer than a few days prior to your travel date. Your travel agent or the embassy/consulate of the country you intend to travel to will have the latest information.

Will I be quarantined on arrival?

Some countries have implemented mandatory quarantines for travellers arriving from specific countries where positive cases are still on the rise or already very high. Several countries in the EU, for example, still ban travellers from countries not on their approved list. In cases where travel is allowed, self-isolation may be required. For accurate and up-to-date information, check with the embassy or consulate prior to making travel arrangements.

What should I do after I get there?

It is highly recommended that you monitor yourself for any symptoms of COVID-19 for at least two weeks after arriving at your destination. Report any symptoms immediately to local authorities. They may require you to self-quarantine or be isolated in a health facility. You may also be asked to list any persons you have been in contact with in the two weeks leading up to that date; all of them will also need to be quarantined for their safety and that of others around them.

Will I be charged for anything at my destination country if I show symptoms on arrival?

According to the WHO travel advisory, in the event that exhibit COVID-19 symptoms on arrival, you should not be charged for any examination, quarantining, PPE, vaccinations, certificates, or even your baggage.

What if I fall ill while travelling?

If you are found to exhibit symptoms during your journey, you may be reseated away from other passengers as a precaution. On arrival, you may need to be tested and, if required, quarantined or treated. As part of its travel advisory, the WHO states that if you are asked to self-quarantine in a particular place, you should not be charged for the facility or for any related care. You should also not be asked to stay longer than the two-week recommended period.

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