Coronavirus: The (Travel) Questions You Asked Us Answered

Tue, 17 March 2020
coronavirus-questions-answered

Last week we posted an Instagram story asking you to send in your coronavirus-related travel questions. Safe to say, you delivered. We’ve whittled your responses down to 10, conflating any overlaps and prioritising the most commonly posed moral quandaries. Not that you need reminding (eye roll), but the situation is constantly in flux so please be patient with us if any of the information seems a little out of date. It was all good at the time of writing, we promise. Hang on in there, fellow homebound travellers.

Your Instagram questions, answered.

1. My holiday has been cancelled. Help me from going totally stir crazy?

We suspected you might be. We’d be twiddling our thumbs too if it weren’t for all the armchair-travel content we’ve been thoughtfully putting together. Scroll through our list of SUITCASE-approved podcasts, the films to inspire your future travels (whenever that might be) and our completely swoon-worthy hotel profiles. Oh, and become one of our newsletter subscribers. This week, we’re launching a new weekly email in which we share one equally epic and uplifting travel story pulled from our archives – keep your eyes peeled for that.

2. Is it ok to stay in a hostel mixing with people from all over the world?

It’s a tricky one, and government authorities (especially in the UK) have really placed emphasis on the consumer rather than hostels themselves – a controversial move which risks leaving small businesses in the lurch. There are three steps you should take before heading for a hostel. Firstly, call ahead and enquire about their private dorm availability – nab a private room if you can. Secondly, ask about their refund policy. Thirdly, ask about their social-distancing measures. Some hostels and hotels are ditching bunk beds and reducing their capacity. We’re all for it.

As countries increasingly sink into lockdown, we’ll only be able to pick from a handful of hostels on home turf anyway – and it’s unlikely that they’ll draw an international crowd.

3. I’m looking at destinations for September or October; where would you suggest?

Our first ports of call will be the countries currently in lockdown. Forte dei Marmi on Italy’s Versilia coast will still be balmy come September, as will the Setouchi region in Japan. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be looking for somewhere that will deliver six month’s worth of vitamin D in the space of a week. Try Tel Aviv, Kenya, Cyprus or Jordan for starters. This pageshould help you out, too.

4. What measures are airports taking to prevent the spread?

It depends. Some major international airports, like Heathrow and Gatwick, have introduced “enhanced cleaning measures” and made sure that employees and travellers have constant access to hand sanitiser. There are hundreds of pumps currently accessible to travellers across Heathrow airport. While Public Health England has ruled out temperature checks for departees (not effective at detecting infection, apparently), those heading to Asia are likely to be tested upon arrival and again when flying back home/ onwards.

5. What to do if I choose not to fly, but my flight isn’t officially cancelled?

The onus is on you here. We’re not in a position to advise on whether you should or shouldn’t catch that flight – every journey bears its own troubles – but it’s unlikely you’ll receive compensation unless the destination country is high-risk, isolating arrivals or in lockdown. Now is probably not the best time to appeal, but if you think it’s necessary, reach out to the Civil Aviation Authority (UK residents) or the Federal Aviation Administration (US residents). As it stands, most airlines are cancelling flights and offering refunds – a move that’s likely to lead a few into a financial quagmire and ultimately, administration.

6. How likely is it for smaller airlines to go out of business because of this?

We might have pre-empted that one. Historically, pandemics have caused what economists call “V-shaped recessions” – that’s a sharp decline, then a spike, followed by a plateau – as consumers temporarily squirrel away their financial reserves and then blow it all in the months following. The post-coronavirus economic landscape is expected to be similarly craggy.

It’s not only the small airlines that are at risk of going under, however. Norwegian Air has temporarily laid off 7,500 of its staff, Virgin Atlantic has asked theirs to take eight weeks of unpaid leave and stocks in Boeing continue to tumble dramatically. Forecasts by the Centre for Aviation suggest most airlines will be bankrupt by the end of May if they don’t receive financial support. So in short: it’s highly likely.

7. What is Airbnb’s cancellation policy?

Good news. It’s refunding all reservations made before or on 14 March. Check out our coronavirus crib sheet for more info, and let us know if you think we should add anything else.

8. How does this compare to the last pandemic (H1N1/ swine flu)?

Perhaps it’s more interesting to look back at the SARS outbreak in 2003. This was a turning point in Asia’s approach to stifling viral contagions. It’s partly the reason that Taiwan and South Korea have been so ahead of the curve in quashing coronavirus. In Seoul, there are apps which alert you to an infectant’s whereabouts, drive-through health checks and a smattering of finely tuned thermal imaging cameras in public spaces to spot those with raised temperatures.

Comparing statistics from previous health scares does help to put the pandemic into perspective and can quell panic. The fatality rate for coronavirus sits between three and four per cent – small in comparison to SARS (9.6 per cent) and tiny beside Ebola’s which varied between 25 and 90 per cent. Of course, the issue is sheer pervasiveness: hundreds of thousands of people have contracted coronavirus, while there have only ever been 33,500 cases of Ebola.

9. Should I book a holiday or wait?

Self-isolation is necessary, but you can read your symptoms and act sensibly. The merest drip of a runny nose (not an indicator of coronavirus, by the way) is not reason enough to burrow under your duvet with a fortnight’s supply of bone broth and a reusable straw. Then again, travelling as an asymptomatic carrier will put others’ lives at risk. While it pains us to say it, a bit of humble couch-surfing might be the best option. Load up on inspiration by leafing through our back catalogue of (in our humble opinion) exquisite travel stories.

10. What can I read?

We’re offended you’d even ask. A bundle of our past print issues should keep you busy.

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