As the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe and countries continue to tighten their travel restrictions, questions regarding travel and where it is possible to travel and whether it is wise to do so have become increasingly complicated.
As the coronavirus continues to spread across the world and countries still tighten their travel restrictions, questions about where it’s possible to travel and whether it’s informed do so became increasingly complicated.
In a trial to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, in recent days Hawaii and Florida have announced new restrictions on domestic travel, mandating 14-day self-quarantines for a few newly arriving visitors.
That followed the US closing its borders with Mexico and Canada last week. The Canadian and Mexican borders closed to nonessential travel beginning on March 21.
Additionally, the State Department last week raised its global travel advisory to tier 4, recommending u. s. citizens to not jaunt the other country due to the worldwide effects of the outbreak. this is often the agency’s highest advisory.
As the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe and countries continue to tighten their travel restrictions, questions about where it is possible to travel and whether it is wise to do so have become increasingly complicated.
In an effort to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, in recent days Hawaii and Florida have announced new travel restrictions on domestic travel, mandating 14-day self-quarantines for some newly arriving visitors, in concern of the coronavirus.
That followed the United States closing its borders with Mexico and Canada last week. The Canadian and Mexican borders closed to nonessential travel beginning on March 21.
Additionally, the State Department last week raised its global travel advisory to a Level 4, recommending United States citizens not to travel to any other country because of the global effects of the outbreak. This is the agency’s highest advisory. A lot to do about travel and the coronavirus.
1. I hear some states have started quarantines for travelers. What’s going on? This is another top question.
After a week in which global travel was largely shut down, restrictions on domestic travel have started. Hawaii and Florida sought to trim down on the volume of out-of-state travelers by announcing that some newly arriving visitors would have to self-quarantine for 14 days. In Florida, the quarantine only is to those people who travel to the state from New York. Starting March 26, both returning livers and visitors traveling to Hawaii will have to the required self-quarantine. Returning residents are told to quarantine themselves at home, while visitors have to quarantine themselves at their travel hotels, per the governor’s office.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced his state’s measure on Monday. (It does not apply to people entering the state by car.)
“Hopefully that will be a deterrent for people if you’re just trying to escape here to avoid the restrictions that have been put in place in your own state,” Mr. DeSantis told in a news conference.
2. What about other domestic travel? Are there restrictions? Is it safe?
Last week, Mr. Trump stated that he could require domestic travel to regions of the United States. When asked by a media dude in the Oval Office whether he was thinking restricting travel within the country to hard-crippled states like Washington or California, President. Trump stated the subject had not yet been discussed.
Some hard-hit states have declared a state of emergency or a public health emergency, including Washington, California, New York and Florida. As a practical matter, a state of emergency or a public health emergency does not affect travel — flights are not canceled and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not issue any travel restrictions.
States of emergency are used by local and state governments to help them shift funding, as well as to have the authority to close schools and other facilities.
Those additional powers also mean that travel could be restricted, as Florida and Hawaii have done, if the state or local government thought it necessary, said Jessica Justman, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
“That flexibility that the government then gains might allow the government to lay out certain policies and those policies in turn could easily affect what an individual can do or not do.”
Even though domestic travel has not been restricted, Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, an adjunct professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases at Cornell University School of Public Health said the most responsible thing is to avoid it.
If you spend a lot of hours around older retirees or someone who has a disgusting illness — sections of the country at a higher risk of the coronavirus — traveling within the states would pose a risk to them. But for the nations youth, who are not around those two groups of people, she said: “It’s going to be simpler for them to choose to go and visit other cities.”
3.The State Department issued a Level 4 travel advisory. What does that mean?
A Level 4 advisory is issued when the State Department considers there is a “greater likelihood of life-threatening risks” if you travel.
This is the highest warning level that the federal agency can issue, and comes during an emergency, when the federal government may be very limited to assist you while traveling. The advisory recommends that United States citizens either remain at home, return home as soon as its safe to do so, or stay in place.
But I have a personal emergency, such as a death in the family. What can I do to minimize the health risks? The more people you come in contact with while traveling, the higher the risk of getting infected with the virus, said Dr. David Abramson, a clinical associate professor at New York University’s School of Global Public Health and the director of the research program PiR2.
“You want to be in a situation where you are least likely to mix with others,” Dr. Abramson said.That means taking shorter flights and avoiding connections if possible. If your flight is three hours long or less, Dr. Abramson said that staying in your seat for the entire flight might be the best option to limit your contact with other passengers and airplane crew.
“I would recommend using the bathroom in the terminal rather than on the plane if you can manage that,” Dr. Abramson said. The terminal restroom is likely to be bigger and cleaned more often than the one on the airplane, two aspects that minimize the risk of getting infection.
If you encounter a really terrible scenario where someone is snotting less than six feet away from you (or within the next two rows), you should ask the flight person if it’d be doable to switch seats to another section of the plane, Dr. Abramson said. If that is not doable, you could also ask the flight attendant to tell the sick passenger to wear a mask, he added.
If you are fortunate to book a window seat, that might be the safest seat of a row, Dr. Abramson said.
“Prior research has shown that people in window seats come into contact with fewer people and move around less on a plane,” Dr. Abramson said. “ Both of these things are protective.” (He’s referring to this 2018 Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology study.)
And there’s other stuff you could do. While on the traveling thing-a-ma-jig, you should wipe down any areas you are likely to touch such as the seat tray and the seat’s arm rest. If you can avoid touching any surfaces, that’s ideal, Dr. Abramson added. But if you do touch any surfaces while on the plane, washing your hands and not touching your face are even more critical if you are flying.
“Those are the basics,” Dr. Abramson said.
4. Should I cancel a trip I have planned for April/May?
President Trump has said it could take until July or August for life to get back to normal. Doctors and scientists have guessed it could be sooner than that, cautiously predicting the virus could subside in the next two months.
But what happens to travelers who have an upcoming trip they booked months or weeks ago and who are not sure what to do: To cancel or not to cancel?
“It depends on the date and the destination that they are going to,” said Linda Bendt, the owner of Pique Travel Design, a travel agency based in Minnesota. If your trip is coming up in the next two weeks, Ms. Bendt said, you most likely already know the answer to this question — health experts say you should not travel.
If you are not traveling until late May or after, don’t worry about making this decision right now. Wait until your “go, no go date” — the last day for you to cancel without incurring penalties from your travel providers, Ms. Bendt said.
“Don’t stress about it until that date,” said Ms. Bendt, who has 25 years of experience as a travel agent.
One thing working in your favor is that many airlines, hotels and other travel companies have loosened their cancellation policies to give travelers more flexibility during the pandemic.
Marion McDonald, an independent travel agent with Brownell Travel, who has been in full cancellation mode these past days, said she is not recommending any travel before mid-April to her clients. If you are considering canceling your trip, wait until the last minute possible to make an informed decision, she said.
“I’m telling my people to hold tight for now,” Ms. McDonald said. “Let’s wait and see for anything mid-April and beyond.” But in the end, Ms. McDonald said, choosing to go or not to go is up to you.
“When they say to me, ‘What would you do?’ that is not my job to answer,” Ms. McDonald said. “My only job is to provide only calm, accurate information and lay out of their options that will allow them to make the ultimate decision about whether they travel.”
5. Who is covered by President Trump’s European travel ban?
On the same day that the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, President Trump announced he was suspending travel from Europe to the United States, beginning on March 13.
One day later, the administration extended the ban to include those traveling from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The ban applies to foreigners who have been in the 26 countries that make up the European Union’s Schengen Area, as well as England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the last two weeks. For a complete list of the 26 countries, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website.
Initially, Mr. Trump had said the ban would be in place for 30 days, but later the White House said the restrictions will remain in place “until terminated by the President.”
6. I am an American in Europe. Can I fly home after March 13?
Yes. There’s been some confusion following President Trump’s announcement that he would restrict the entrance of travelers from Europe to the United States, beginning on March 13. Some Americans in Europe scrambled to get home after learning about the impending deadline.
But the ban does not apply to American citizens and lawful permanent residents of the United States, according to Mr. Trump’s proclamation.
The travel restrictions also generally exclude the immediate families (spouses, parents and siblings) of American citizens and permanent legal residents. However, those travelers might be directed to certain airports for enhanced screening.
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including their spouses and children, are also exempt from the ban, the proclamation stated.
7. I’m thinking of driving instead of flying. Is that safer?The issue is not whether you fly or drive, said Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician and vice chair of the Infectious Diseases Society of America Global Health Committee, but why you are going at all.
The whole idea of avoiding nonessential travel and promoting social distancing is to stay close to home to prevent the outbreak from spreading.
Though, admittedly, in a car you would be less exposed to the virus than you might be on a plane, the same is not true when you get out of the car.
“It’s about what you’re going to do when you get there,” Dr. Kuppalli said. Once you got to your destination, you would likely still be having contact with other people, she added.
8. If I cancel my flight, will I get my money back?
It depends. Typically, you would have to at least pay a cancellation fee or booking penalty if you did not buy a fully refundable ticket, which is usually more expensive.
But the coronavirus has nailed airlines hard, and many, including Delta, United and American, are loosening their booking policies and suspending cancellation or rescheduling fees. “At the moment, the airlines are being very helpful,” said Jonathan Breeze, chief executive of AardvarkCompare Travel Insurance, a travel insurance company. “These are not normal circumstances and the airlines are seeing that people are not booking flights, so airlines are offering commercial flexibility.”
9. I can’t get my airline on the phone. What should I do?
“Obviously, the 800 numbers are overwhelmed,” said Michael Holtz, the founder and chief executive of SmartFlyer, a luxury travel agency. “Because of the coronavirus and the news, things have just spiraled out of control and a lot of people have questions.”
Last week, many of the major airlines in the United States informed travelers that they could expect longer wait times to speak to a customer service agent.
“We are receiving more calls than we typically do and your hold time may be longer than usual,” a United recorded message said. The wait time was 90 minutes.
Other airlines like Delta redirected callers to their websites and their apps, where they could find more information about rescheduling or canceling flights, a recorded message instructed. American had the option to leave your contact information for an agent to call you back in the next two hours, the longest you could hold your place in line.
Mr. Holtz said the airlines’ websites and apps are travelers’ fastest ways to answer their questions or change their travel plans.
“My advice is to use technology,” Mr. Holtz said. If travelers have the good fortune of having a travel agent, they should contact the agent as soon as possible, as many have direct connections with airlines, he added.
Shashank Nigam, the chief executive of Simpliflying, an airline marketing strategy firm, said social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are your best option during these times.
“Most airline social customer service staff can help cancel or reschedule flights, or answer any questions about waivers,” Mr. Nigam said.
10. What about travel insurance?
Insurance companies have very specific circumstances under which they pay out if you decide to cancel or interrupt your trip.
Choosing not to travel because you are concerned about getting infected with the coronavirus is not one of them, nor is a government advisory, said John Cook, president and chief executive of Quotewright.com, a travel insurance company.
“Those covered reasons are very specific and they do not include being fearful of being exposed to a virus and the government telling you not to travel,” Mr. Cook said.
The answer has been to buy what is called cancel-for-any-reason coverage, which costs more, but usually lets you recoup about 75 percent of your money, Mr. Cook said.
But that option may be disappearing. Jason Schreier, the chief executive of APRIL Travel Protection, a travel insurance company, said that his company’s sales of cancel-for-any-reason insurance had jumped 275 percent since the outbreak began. APRIL recently stopped selling the upgraded policies, after its under-writers required the company to pull them from the market.
“We’ve never seen a spike in the any-reason purchases like we’re seeing now,” Mr. Schreier said. “It’s an unprecedented spike, which caused an unprecedented reaction.”
Other companies, like Generali and RoamRight, have also stopped letting purchasers upgrade to a cancel for any reason policy, according to letters they sent to insurance agents.
11. Will I be quarantined when I come back?
If you travel to a city that does not have a large number of confirmed cases — or perhaps no cases at all — but the number of confirmed cases rapidly increases during your stay, it could affect what happens when you return home, said Dr. Scott Weisenberg, an infectious disease doctor at New York University School of Medicine, and director of the university’s Travel Medicine Program.
“You might be restricted on your re-entry,” Dr. Weisenberg said, adding that you could be asked to quarantine yourself at home, or be placed in a special facility.
Even if you are not quarantined by health officials, some companies are requiring employees who have been traveling to work remotely, he added. And things are changing rapidly.
“Those answers may vary depending on ongoing public health changes,” Dr. Weisenberg said. “Once we have widespread testing available, then it will be easier for travelers to have a better idea of what the risk is in different areas.”