Let’s not start this one with coronavirus.
Let’s start with safety in general.
Safety when travelling seems to be one of those things that is ever more present in day-to-day conversations.
When we moved to the Middle East, people questioned our judgement. “You’ll feel so unsafe,” they said. I countered that with attacks in most Western capital cities, that we should all question why we were living in London! With the exception of the blockade that happened two and a half years ago, boy were those people ever wrong. I couldn’t have felt safer there for the 4 years we were there.
In the time we were in Doha, various other events happened. The blockade was one during which we were, once again, asked if we thought we should be living there. There were terrorist attacks in Paris and friends considered cancelling their trips. The bombings in Sri Lanka in 2019 saw many friends deciding against booking travel there. Additional outbreaks of dengue fever or areas affected by an increase in measles cases have all affected people I know personally, their holiday plans and their anxiety levels while travelling.
I totally understand people reconsidering their travel plans after a big event. It’s a big risk to just blindly continue with a trip when circumstances have changed. Being reckless is not the same as knowingly taking a risk having carefully weighed up all the considerations.
So now we have coronavirus
Officially known as Covid-19.
While it was only something I was vaguely conscious about before we travelled for Chinese New Year, by the time we came back, 10 days later, it was full-on, in your face, unavoidable. And while it was in the news elsewhere in the world, it was far from the all-consuming, all-anyone-is-talking-about topic that it was here.
For over a month.
But now it seems fully on the radar of the Western world, as more outbreaks are declared across the globe every day.
What should we do?
It’s hard to know how to react.
I know people who have left their expat lives and gone home. Others who have been virtually summoned back to their host countries. Flight schedules have been altered, voluntary quarantines have been imposed by governments and private companies and holidays have been cancelled. The global stock market has seen it’s biggest daily fall in history and mass hysteria has seen everything from face masks and canned goods to toilet roll and condoms (!) selling out.
To travel or not to travel
One of the most common questions in every travel group right now is whether or not to cancel trips. In some contexts, it’s pretty understandable. It’s easier to make a decision about a trip to China than elsewhere in Asia.
Over the last month, more questions have come up about those other Asian destinations. People have been asking for advice from people on the ground there. In the last few days, there have been more developments. I’ve seen people cancelling trips to anywhere in Europe and questioning if trips to the UK and US are viable.
On the flip side
There’s plenty of defiant chatter from other corners of the internet. Other people are resisting the pressure to cancel or change their plans, justifying their decisions with statistics about other contagious diseases, facts about families who travel with young children who have underdeveloped immune defences and gut feelings. They quote the statistical (un)likelihood of catching Covid-19 / coronavirus and advocate supporting tourist-dependent economies.
The thing both groups have in common is the fear of the 14 days of self-imposed quarantine which is being implemented across the globe for people coming from (or through) certain destinations. 14 days of (sometimes unpaid) quarantine could have even more significant implications for the economy as a whole while the threat of it could be having a greater impact on travel patterns than Covid-19 / coronavirus itself.
No crystal ball
What all of us would love, of course, is a crystal ball. It would be great to be able to guarantee that this will all peak in April and be over by June (albeit with significant economic consequences). Wouldn’t it be nice for someone to us that XX location is completely safe and that, if we go, we won’t catch anything?
The reality is no one can tell us that. They can’t give us a guarantee about Covid-19 nor can they do it for any other illness that we might contract whilst travelling.
Or not travelling, for that matter.
Or even for anything else – a health crisis doesn’t have to mean an epidemic / pandemic, it could be a personal health issue or an accident. There could be an earthquake or an overnight change in political tensions somewhere.
It’s a personal choice
Only you and your family can decide if travelling at a particular time is too risky.
Or if you’re comfortable enough with the risks that you’ll travel anyway.