COVID: How to mitigate risk during summer travel | Tech US News

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In early 2022, with pandemic fatigue spreading and most Canadians receiving at least two doses of the vaccine, many expected this summer to finally return to normal.

Most public health restrictions were lifted across Canada in the spring and early summer, including measures such as mask requirements in public indoor spaces and vaccination for flying domestically.

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

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

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

However, he stressed that learning to live with COVID-19 doesn’t mean abandoning mitigation efforts and allowing it to spread rampant, but rather making COVID-19 safety a regular part of your schedule, even when you’re planning a trip.

FACIAL MASKS

According to experts, the number one thing travelers can do to quickly and easily reduce their risks is to wear a mask indoors while traveling and anywhere else they feel the need.

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

“Do you need a mandate to tell you to bring an umbrella?” Cheung said.

“If you’re willing to get wet, it’s okay not to bring an umbrella. If you’re willing to get sick with COVID, of course, don’t wear a mask.”

Dr. Kieran Quinn, a physician-scientist at Toronto Sinai Health System and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview that “a mask is better than no mask, but there are certain types of masks, like N95 and KN95 that offer better protection.” He recommended insuring some of these before a trip if possible.

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

Cheung echoed that he would personally wear an N95 on a plane, but said his main advice is to “wear a mask you would wear” and be comfortable.

If you want to wear a higher-quality mask to be safer in confined spaces, like an airplane, and don’t usually wear N95s in your everyday life, Cheung recommended practicing wearing it for at least as long as you’ll be there. on the plane, to see if it’s too uncomfortable and you’re playing all the time, or if you can handle it.

IS UP TO DATE ON VACCINATIONS

Vaccines reduce the risk of serious illness and provide some protection against transmission, even against these more transmissible variants, and anyone who wants 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 shot should try to get one before embarking on a major trip.

“If you didn’t have three shots, no trips,” he said.

In Quinn’s view, a fourth dose may not be needed immediately, but “without a doubt, all three doses have been shown to be very effective in reducing transmission and severe disease.” And our third dose rates in Ontario and across Canada, we still have room for improvement.”

PRIORITIZE SAFER EVENTS AND PLACES

At this stage of the pandemic, conflicting advice from governments and experts means many Canadians are sorting out what safe means for them.

“Safety is a personal choice, right? And it comes down to people’s comfort with risk and everyone has different risk thresholds, similar to investing or crossing the street,” Quinn said, adding that the threat of prolonged COVID should be something that people are taking into account when assessing risk.

Along these lines, experts offer these thoughts to consider if you’re looking to minimize risk while traveling.


Before confirming a trip:

Staying closer to home rather than jetting around the world could be a safer concept, experts say. A road trip, where you know who will be in close contact with you in the vehicle, can be safer than other modes of travel.

“I would certainly feel more comfortable in the confines of my car with my family than in a public airport with a lot of other people, especially if those people are unmasked,” Quinn said.

If you’re traveling internationally, you can research different countries’ vaccination rates beforehand, Conway suggested, adding that this is a protective measure for both other countries and travelers, who shouldn’t risk bringing COVID-19 into a country. who was deprived of access to the vaccine.


During the trip:

Trying to find more things to do outside than inside could help, experts say.

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

He added that with these new variants of COVID, a safe outdoor location is not always guaranteed.

“People can also get it outdoors, especially in fairly close contact outdoors,” he said.

“Personally, I would say I would opt for trips like hiking and outdoor activities and to 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 stand shoulder to shoulder for many hours can still be dangerous, experts say.

“If you’re going to travel, avoid areas you already know are at risk of transmitting COVID,” Conway said. “Crowded indoor spaces for a long period of time. So as much as possible, it’s summer, if you’re going to a foreign country, eat on the patio.

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

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

“In Asia, there are theaters where they advertise how good the ventilation is,” Cheung said. “We really should do it everywhere, in indoor places, malls, shops, 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 be riskier than walking through a large, well-ventilated museum that isn’t too crowded.

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 COPY PLANS

If you get COVID-19 on vacation, it may mean you have to extend your trip to a place to isolate, and that’s something to keep in mind when planning a trip.

Cheung added that if you don’t take the time to rest, not only would you be putting others at risk, but you could also aggravate your own illness, and having to be hospitalized in another country can cost a lot of money if you do. does not have insurance coverage.

If the trip has the potential to expose you to more situations where you could contract COVID-19, think about whether you have somewhere to stay and recover if the worst happens.

KNOW WHEN TO STAY HOME

The bottom line is: don’t travel when you’re sick, experts say.

“Even though you may have that vacation booked, and the last thing you want to do is cancel it or delay it, if you have symptoms suggestive of COVID, then you need to stay home and not go out in public, because that’s putting others at risk,” Quinn said.

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

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

Cheung added that you’re not immune to reinfection if you’ve had COVID-19 before.

“I have patients who have had it four times and it’s a little different each time,” he said. And the long-term threat of COVID should not be ignored. “Some of those persistent symptoms are very debilitating. People can’t work, people can’t go about their normal daily activities.

After two difficult years of isolation and pandemic restrictions, Cheung said it makes sense that people would want to travel.

“I can totally understand people needing a vacation,” he said. “And so it’s about balancing the upside of vacations and travel against the risks.”

“Just because we are learning to live with COVID does not mean that we should assume that everything is fine and continue to turn our backs on any kind of preventive and transmission measures, because although fortunately vaccination offers us great protection to reduce the severity of the disease. disease and, and adverse outcomes, […] We must not forget that COVID has been emerging for a long time,” Quinn added.

“They are possible challenges to our health and economy, and the evidence about how, how common it is, what the effects of the variants are and what people would suffer from it is completely uncertain right now.”

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