Christmas is around the corner. And the new year too. It’s travel season, and I’m traveling to India. A trip after two years. This is true for many people whose travel plans have been put on hold due to COVID-19.
Call it a revenge trip, as in revenge tourism in the aftermath of the global pandemic. Most people head to their home country to share the festive joy with family and friends. Besides Christmas and the New Year, it is also the season for weddings and meetings.
Leave requests are submitted, tickets are reserved and the countdown has begun. It was then that Omicron, the new variant of the coronavirus, announced its arrival in the world. What followed was panic, pure panic. My anxiety was fueled not by the threat posed by the mutant strain but by the thought that travel plans might evaporate.
How Omicron impacts travel
When you haven’t traveled for two years or haven’t seen your loved ones for two years, such panic is inevitable. Will flights be cancelled? Will the borders remain open? Can I come back after the break? Questions, many questions, swirl around in my head.
Unfortunately, there are no answers. Based on current evidence, there is no cause for concern. The sparse data on Omicron shows that infections have so far been mild, although the rate of transmission in South Africa‘s Gauteng province has been high. Is it high enough to immobilize flights? The World Health Organization does not seem to think so and has criticized the decision to ban flights from southern African countries.
The WHO’s position may stem from the idea that the flight ban is tantamount to closing the stable door after the horse has run away. Any cases that have emerged globally must be the result of infections from at least a week ago. Now, these cases will lead to local transmission. So why ban international flights? Well, the WHO has a valid point.
More precautions and delays to come
This gives me enough reason to be optimistic that flights will not be disrupted. But precautions will be stepped up at airports and other entry points. So be prepared for excessive delays and take adequate precautions throughout the trip.
Precautions, precautions, precautions. Nothing is too much, although experts reject the need to wear N95 masks; they say KN95 masks are good enough. Hand washing or sanitizing and social distancing are very effective in keeping the virus at bay. Social distancing may not be feasible on planes, but I will adhere to it whenever possible.
The threat doesn’t just come from Omicron. Delta is still there too. So travel if you must, but be careful in your visits. I will certainly not appeal to the elderly, nor to friends and relatives with health problems. It would be irresponsible. I may be fine, but I don’t want to carry life-threatening germs.
I’m going shopping next week for gifts. The bags must be wrapped. Then the PCR test followed by the download of the result and many forms to fill out. It’s a pain. But that pain is worth it when traveling after two years.
I’m going on a jet plane. I don’t know when I’ll be back, sang John Denver. I will be back in the new year. And you?