Published on November 9, 2023, 3:19 am

As we approach the holiday season, many of us are looking forward to traveling and celebrating with loved ones. However, it’s important to remember that there are still various travel threats that we should be aware of and take precautions against, even with the availability of COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 is not the only virus that poses a risk during this time. Seasonal viruses like influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are also a concern. Additionally, perennial safety and security risks such as extreme weather events and criminal activities like scams and pickpocketing can impact personal safety while traveling.

It’s expected that the number of people traveling between now and the new year will be close to pre-pandemic levels. This means airports, train stations, planes, and roads will likely be busy and congested. It’s essential to plan accordingly and anticipate longer lines and potential travel disruptions.

During the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere, there were major flight delays and cancellations due to strike actions and staffing shortages. As winter approaches, there is an increased risk of airline personnel calling in sick due to flu and other illnesses, which could further disrupt travel plans.

Dr Katherine O’Reilly, medical director at International SOS, emphasizes the importance of using available resources to celebrate the festivities safely. These resources include COVID-19 and flu vaccines, COVID-19 tests when necessary, avoiding being around others when feeling unwell, practicing good hygiene, and staying informed about the latest advice.

To ensure safe travel during this holiday season, here are some tips:

1. Be prepared: Check entry requirements for your destination ahead of time. Determine which vaccinations you may need or if any antimalarial measures are required. Schedule a travel health consultation well in advance.

2. Be COVID-safe: Stay updated on coronavirus trends at your travel destination. Make sure your COVID-19 and flu vaccines are up to date. Don’t let your guard down during the holiday period and remember to practice simple measures, such as good hygiene and wearing masks in crowded areas, to decrease COVID-19 risks.

3. Maintain flexible itineraries: Keep departure and return dates/routes as flexible as possible. It’s always a good idea to have contingency plans in case of unexpected situations or if self-isolation becomes necessary.

4. Timing is everything: Allow for additional travel time to reach your destination, considering the increased volume of travel during this season. Be prepared for congestion in airports, train stations, and on the roads.

5. Be crowd safe: When traveling, you may encounter queues and large crowds. Stay vigilant, be aware of your surroundings at all times, keep valuables secure or out of sight, and identify the closest points of exit. Follow local directives if any incident occurs.

6. Eat, drink, and be jolly informed: Stay informed about the most up-to-date information and any emerging developments related to your destination. Research your destination before you arrive to know whom to call in case of an emergency. Monitor local media for updates on weather conditions and consult with locals for information about safe neighborhoods, places to stay, and incidences of crime.

While we cannot predict exactly what will happen with COVID-19 or other potential threats during this holiday season, taking advanced planning measures can help protect ourselves and each other as we celebrate safely. By being proactive and following these tips, we can minimize risks and enjoy a healthy and enjoyable holiday season.

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