Should I Travel on Holiday During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has seen all our best-laid plans fall by the wayside in 2020, not least when it comes to travel.
A combination of lockdowns, travel bans and widespread fear of catching the virus have seen international tourist numbers plummet by as much as 98% compared to 2019. This has in turn had a devastating impact on the travel industry that could cost as much as $8 trillion.
With a new year upon us and the arrival of vaccines, there is renewed hope of a return to some kind of ‘normal’ in 2021. But it still looks like a long road ahead, and at a time of year when many people start planning their next holidays, an obvious question is – should I even be thinking of travelling abroad until the pandemic is well and truly over?
This isn’t a straightforward question to answer. Ultimately it boils down to two things, what you are allowed to do within the rules and what you feel comfortable doing individually. As far as the rules go, the only two things that officially prevent you travelling overseas are a ban on international visitors imposed by a destination country (which are often targeted at specific nations where cases of the virus are high), or a ban on outward travel imposed by your own country.
Most national governments have been reluctant to impose such conditions because of the impact on the tourism industry and other parts of the economy, holding them back for when transmission of the virus is so high they feel they have little choice. Below this level of outright bans, most governments also issue non-binding travel advice about how safe it is to go to a certain country at any one time, such as that issued by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
The official line on travel might be summed up as something like, please keep travelling to countries wherever it is safe to do so, but be careful. Not all that helpful to anyone wrestling with a decision over their next holiday, but a symptom of the balance authorities are trying to strike between protecting public health and minimising damage to the economy.
So as things stand, assuming you pick what is deemed a ‘safe’ destination with relatively low rates of COVID-19 and there is no return to an extended national lockdown which bans outward travel, there is nothing official stopping you from booking a holiday in 2021. Whether you choose to do so or not will depend largely on the level of risk you are comfortable with, and what you can do to protect yourself. In saying that, circumstances can change every day, so take advice from your local health authorities.
This is where holiday insurance becomes an essential part of any travel plans.
Travel insurance provides financial protection against all sorts of accidents that could happen while you are on holiday, including loss of baggage, theft of or damage to personal belongings and so on. But in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the two most important protections holiday insurance offers are medical cover and cancellation cover.
Medical cover is offered by travel insurance providers in case you fall ill or have an accident while abroad and need medical treatment. In most circumstances, foreign visitors are not entitled to whatever state-subsidised healthcare is available to citizens of a given country, and therefore have to pay at private rates. This can be hugely expensive, especially for hospitalisations. In the context of COVID-19, no one wants to risk the double whammy of falling ill with the virus while abroad and then being hit with massive medical fees.
In some ways, cancellation cover is even more important if planning a holiday during the pandemic than medical cover. This is because the situation is so fluid, you just cannot say for certain whether or not your trip several months down the line will happen. Given the financial hit they have already taken, many airlines, hotel companies, tour operators and other businesses in the tourism sector are reluctant to offer refunds on deposits, especially if the customer has to cancel because they fall ill with or come into contact with someone who has the virus. Cancellation cover gives you that added assurance.
Levels of travel insurance cover
That is not to say that any travel insurance policy will automatically gove you the level of protection you might want. There are different levels of cover, and even different approaches offered by different insurance providers.
Some, for example, might be happy to offer medical cover for contracting COVID-19 abroad but not cancellation cover, or vice versa. Other providers are just refusing to offer policies covering anything related to coronavirus, because they view the financial risk as too high.
The truth is, because the payout risks are so high, no one is going to cover COVID-related claims on the cheap. The basic cover you might have been used to purchasing on a budget just won’t cut it – if you read the small print, you will be sure to find huge holes in the level of cover it provides for COVID-related cancellations and medical care, if they are even covered at all.
To be sure you and your loved ones are fully protected, you need comprehensive, premium cover.
How to avoid catching the virus
- Stay Home. Yes I said it, the best way to avoid catching the virus is to stay home.
- Wear a mask in public places
- Listen to advice from your local authorities and health experts
- Avoid travelling to any places with Covid Cases
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