Is it safe to travel right now? Experts explain how to mitigate COVID risks on vacation – KION546

By Alexandra Mae Jones

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TORONTO (CTV Network) — At the start of 2022, with pandemic fatigue spreading and the majority of Canadians having received at least two doses of the vaccine, many were hoping that this summer could finally be a return to normal.

The majority of public health restrictions were lifted across Canada in the spring and early summer, including measures such as requiring masks to be worn in public indoor spaces and vaccinations for flying at inside the country.

However, in June and July, new subvariants of Omicron triggered a new wave of COVID-19 cases. So is it really safe to travel right now?

Experts say there is no point postponing travel indefinitely in the hope that COVID-19 will be eradicated.

“COVID isn’t going away anytime soon,” Dr. Angela Cheung, senior scientist at the University Health Network in Toronto, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

However, she stressed that learning to live with COVID-19 doesn’t mean giving up on mitigation efforts and allowing it to spread rampantly — it means making COVID safety a regular part of your schedule, including included when planning a trip. FACE MASKS

According to experts, the first thing travelers can do to reduce their risk quickly and simply is to mask up in indoor spaces while traveling and wherever they feel the need to.

Cheung compared it to bringing an umbrella in case of rain.

“Do you need a warrant to tell you you have to carry an umbrella?” Cheung said.

“If you’re ready to get wet, you can’t carry an umbrella. If you’re ready to get sick with COVID, of course, don’t mask.

Dr. Kieran Quinn, clinician-scientist at Toronto’s Sinai Health System and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview that “a mask is better than no mask, but it’s There are certain types of masks, such as N95s and KN95s that offer better protection. He recommended securing some of them before a trip if feasible.

“People should wear masks in indoor spaces where there are lots of other people around or in places where there might be high-risk immunocompromised or older people around,” he said. “We continue to strongly recommend that people wear masks. And I hope people will continue to do this, as it has been shown to protect themselves and others from infection.

Cheung echoed that she would personally wear an N95 on a plane, but said her main advice was to “wear a mask that you would wear” and be comfortable in.

If you want to wear a better quality mask in order to be safer in enclosed spaces such as an airplane, and you usually don’t wear N95s in your daily life, Cheung recommended practicing wearing a mask for at least as long as you would be on the plane, to see if it’s too uncomfortable and you touch it all the time, or if you can handle it. BE UP TO DATE ON VACCINES

Vaccines reduce the risk of severe disease and offer some protection against transmission, even against these more transmissible variants, and anyone wishing to travel should be vaccinated, experts say.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Brian Conway told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview last week that anyone eligible for a fourth vaccine should try to get one before embarking on a big trip. .

“If you haven’t had three injections, don’t travel,” he said.

In Quinn’s view, a fourth dose may not be needed right away, but “certainly all three doses have been shown to be very effective in reducing transmission and severe disease.” And our third dose rates in Ontario and Canada, we still have room for improvement. PRIORITIZE SAFER EVENTS AND PLACES

At this point in the pandemic, conflicting advice from governments and experts means many Canadians are trying to figure out what safety means to them.

“Security is a personal choice, isn’t it? And it depends on people’s comfort with risk and everyone has different risk thresholds, the same as investing or crossing the street,” Quinn said.

With that in mind, the experts offer these thoughts to consider if you’re looking to minimize your risk while traveling.

Before confirming a trip:

According to experts, staying closer to home rather than traveling around the world might be a safer concept. A road trip, in which you know who will be in close contact with you in the vehicle, can be safer than other modes of travel.

“Certainly, I would feel more comfortable in the confines of my car with my family than in a public airport with a whole crowd of other people, especially if those people aren’t wearing masks,” Quinn said.

If you’re traveling overseas, you could research different countries’ vaccination rates beforehand, Conway suggested, adding that this is as much a protective measure for other countries as it is for travelers. , which should not risk bringing COVID-19 to a country. who has been denied access to vaccines.

During the trip :

Trying to find more things to do outdoors than indoors could help, experts say.

“Obviously going for a hike in nature where there aren’t many people is safer than going to a hockey game or a concert,” Cheung said. “So what you do while on vacation can also determine your risk.”

She added that with these new COVID variants, the outdoors is not always guaranteed a safe location.

“People can also get it outdoors, especially with fairly close contact outdoors,” she said.

“I would personally say I would opt for trips like hiking and outdoor activities and kind of minimize indoor public spaces as much as possible for the protection and safety of my own family,” Qunn said.

While crowded indoor spaces are the big danger, outdoor events where people are side by side for many hours can still be dangerous, experts say.

“If you are traveling, avoid areas that you already know are likely to transmit COVID,” Conway said. “Crowded indoor spaces for a long time. So as much as possible, it’s summer, if you go abroad, eat on the terrace.

“If I had to travel, I wouldn’t go to see an indoor stadium event […] with 30,000 of your closest friends shouting at each other. “

Whenever it is possible to know the ventilation levels of a building or event, this information can help you decide if a visit is a good idea or not.

“In Asia, there are cinemas where they display the ventilation quality,” Cheung said. “We really should be doing this everywhere, in indoor places, malls, stores, restaurants and things like that.”

“If you have good airflow and clearance and you have HEPA filters and stuff, then your risk is lower.”

For example, a crowded outdoor festival might actually be riskier than walking through a large, well-ventilated, uncrowded museum.

If you are traveling with immunocompromised or elderly people, or if you are traveling to visit someone at high risk, take this into account when assessing acceptable levels of risk. HAVE BACKUP PLANS

If you contract COVID-19 while on vacation, it could mean needing to extend the trip somewhere to isolate yourself, and that’s something to consider when planning a trip.

Cheung added that if you didn’t take the time to rest, you would not only put others at risk, but you could make your own illness worse, and having to be hospitalized in another country could be very expensive if you didn’t. . t have insurance coverage.

If travel has the potential to expose you to more situations where you could contract COVID-19, consider whether you have a place to stay and recover if the worst-case scenario occurs. KNOW WHEN TO STAY HOME

Ultimately, don’t travel when you’re sick, experts say.

“While you may have booked this vacation, and the last thing you want to do is cancel or delay it, if you have any symptoms suggestive of COVID then you should stay home and not go out in public. , because it puts others at risk,” Quinn said.

“If you have symptoms of any kind, you should not travel,” Conway said. “I think if you’re sick, you stay home.”

He added that rapid test results should not be used as justification for traveling if you are ill, for example, if a rapid test is negative but you have a new persistent cough. Rapid tests are less sensitive than PCR tests and are more likely to give you a false negative early in an acute illness than a PCR.

After two difficult years of isolation and pandemic restrictions, Cheung said it made sense for people to want to travel.

“I can completely understand that people need a vacation,” she said. “And so, it’s about balancing the positive side of vacations and travel against the risks.”

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Sonja Puzic

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