What you should know if you have to travel despite the coronavirus

I just landed,” says a friend of a WhatsApp group who has come to Madrid for a few days. Another soon responds: “Well, get ready because you can’t go out when you want to go back to Warsaw”, where at the time of publishing this information there were 17 coronavirus infections It is only an assumption because Spain has not entered the scenario that implies restricting travel to the population , but the Ministry of Health has recommended not to travel unless necessary . With the exception of Italy: the Government has prohibited direct flights from the country until March 25, as a measure to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

“The situation is evolving very quickly and what is recommended today may change tomorrow,” says the head of the preventive medicine service at the Puerta del Hierro Hospital in Madrid, Ángel Asensio. The doctor stresses the importance of “not traveling unless it is essential, avoiding crowds and close contact with other people .” In case of force majeure, it is advisable to know the recommendations of the health authorities and be informed about the last minute of the decisions taken by the different governments to try to avoid increasing the number of those infected (some, for example, impose measures such as quarantine to those who travel from Spain).

Check the list of destinations to avoid

The Italian Government decreed on March 9 the isolation of the entire country, an unprecedented measure in Europe that affects the more than 60 million inhabitants of the country. And several airlines have made the decision to decrease, even cancel, their flights to this country. With more than 9,000 infected and 460 deaths, this territory has become one of the main sources of the virus, which has led the Spanish Executive to take the decision to prohibit direct flights between Italy and Spanish airports, and maintain the recommendation not to travel to the regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont.

It is the most important advice, and, according to a series of guidelines for unavoidable trips of the Ministry of Health, it extends to any place with evidence of community transmission , that is, where there is a high number of infections. The list includes the aforementioned Italian regions and China (except Hong Kong and Macao), South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Iran. For now, no other country has entered this list .

If you travel from Spain, they can impose a quarantine

Apart from the Spanish recommendations, it is advisable to consult the pages of the destination countries, since, while Italy isolates itself and Spain tries to keep the situation as contained as possible, other countries have made the decision to shield themselves against the virus. The most drastic measure is to impose quarantines on those who travel from sources of contagion. This is the case of Israel, which on March 4 announced that all those travelers from Spanish territory and other European countries must spend two weeks in isolation to stop the spread of Covid-19. Those who do not have an address to seclude will be returned at the border .

The city council of Moscow, the capital of Russia, has taken a similar measure and has made it mandatory to follow a regime of home self-isolation for 14 days. The measure will apply to all people who come from countries with a special incidence of the virus, including Spain, as reported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from where they advise postponing trips to this city to all those who do not reside in it or have to go essential form. The governments of Chile and Romania have decreed the same measure.

Saudi Arabia has also set limits on its borders to protect its population . In addition to suspending all air and sea connections with the highest risk countries —including Spain— , the Government has suspended the entry of people traveling from those same places. Other countries such as Vietnam have confirmed the provisional suspension of visa exemptions for Spaniards, El Salvador has prohibited the entry of travelers coming from Spanish territory and Kazakhstan has prohibited the sale of tickets to Spanish nationalsfrom March 12. In the face of the need to travel despite the advice of the authorities, it is best to check the recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on its website , which are kept updated with all the news, and the pages of the Spanish Embassy in the country of destination .

What can I do if my flight is canceled

Many airlines have made the decision to cancel flights in March due to the coronavirus. Lufthansa will land more than 7,000, the Portuguese TAP another 1,000 between this month and the next , other low-cost ones like Easyjet have stopped flying to Italy and the list goes on. In the face of so many cancellations, the Spanish Executive recommends consulting the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Spanish Embassies to find out all the news about the restrictions. If we have a ticket, it is possible to find out about the flight situation on the website of the Spanish Aviation Safety Agency and on the pages of the airports (the same for train stations).

Those travelers who cannot travel should know that, according to Regulation (EC) No. 261/2004 , air passengers who are affected by flight cancellations by airlines due to the expansion of the coronavirus, have the right to information, assistance and reimbursement or alternative transportation.

Do not stock up on disinfecting gels

Beyond our destination being on the list of risky places, the current recommendation is to avoid travel unless it is really necessary to try to contain the disease. Millions of people pass through airports every day and, according to scientific studies, the counters are full of microorganisms . So it is essential to maintain hygiene measures to avoid infections.

The first thing is to wash our hands frequently with alcohol-based soaps and gels, or with liquid soap for 45 to 60 seconds . Before filling the suitcase with gels and soaps, remember that there are restrictions on traveling with liquids : they must be in individual containers of a capacity not exceeding 100 milliliters and all that we carry must fit in a 1-liter plastic bag. In addition, the head of the Preventive Medicine Service at the Puerta del Hierro Hospital (Madrid), calls for caution with the purchase of gels: “The stocks of this type of product are decreasing and it is necessary to preserve them for health centers. “The same is true of masks, which not only do not protect against the virus, but their massive purchase is leaving pharmacies without supplies where they are bought by patients who do need them.

Yes, it can be useful to bring alcohol wipes. “They have an efficacy similar to gels or a good hand wash, and can help us disinfect the objects we touch most often,” says the doctor. Gloves also act as a barrier between the virus and the hands, but it does not prevent the things we touch from becoming contaminated. “To use them effectively, we have to wash our hands very well before putting them on and immediately after taking them off. We also can’t touch our faces with them because that way we can catch it,” says the expert.

Within the planes, trains and transports in which we travel we must take extreme precautions. As they are closed rooms, where ventilation is worse, the risk of contagion may be higher if any of the passengers has the virus. Some research suggests that window seats are where we are most protected against viruses , but the truth is that if we have less than two seats on the sides, forward or back of a patient, there is not much to do about. The recommendation of the preventive medicine specialist is “to avoid approaching people who present symptoms of some type of respiratory disease “.

If you can’t avoid traveling, don’t forget to take these steps

When a cause of force majeure justifies the trip, health agencies provide certain tips to do it as safely as possible:

– Avoid close or direct contact with people who may suffer acute respiratory infections, cough, sneeze, expectoration. It is best to keep a distance of one meter and not share your personal belongings.

– Maintain good personal hygiene: wash your hands frequently (with soap and alcohol-based gels, or with liquid soap, between 45 and 60 seconds). This measure is especially important after direct contact with sick people or their environment.

– Avoid approaching live or dead, domestic or wild animals, as well as their secretions and excrement in markets or farms.

– Do not consume undercooked or raw animal products.

– If during your stay in affected areas you present symptoms compatible with an acute respiratory infection, such as fever, cough or feeling of shortness of breath, the first thing is to contact the local health authorities and follow their recommendations.


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