The world is currently in the throes of hysteria as people are worried sick (literally) about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
In the eyes of many (especially my father) travelling to another Asian country at this juncture is equivalent to a death wish.
I’ll admit I got a bit nervous with plenty of cautious whispers in my ears, but I did a bit of digging to prepare myself for a 7-hour journey of air travel across Asia and here’s what I found out.
What WHO says
First things first, Dr Carmen Dolea, Head of International Health Regulations Secretariat at World Health Organisation says “No, you shouldn’t cancel your travel plans since the risk of being infected is low in many countries.”
She advises that travellers shouldn’t cancel their plans but to take into account the various restrictions that airlines have put in place when planning for your trip.
Check government measures related to the coronavirus outbreak
For this, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has a great list on government measures across the world related to the outbreak.
The list shows the entry and exit requirements of each country, airport measures, airline requirements as well as operational requirements.
I also checked out daily updates on the coronavirus outbreak by TRP itself HERE.
Prepare an air travel survival kit
So, the number one message that WHO repeats time and time again is to practice proper hand hygiene.
The new coronavirus is spread through droplets and surfaces, so it’s vital to keep your hands clean after you touch any surface, either by washing properly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitisers.
Most importantly, never EVER touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
Armed with antibacterial wipes and alcohol-based hand sanitiser, I made sure to use these two generously when passing through immigration, security, using the airline tray table and even wiping down the armrest and seat buckles.
As for a face mask, Dr Dolea explains that its effective in preventing sick people from transmitting the virus, not preventing healthy people from getting sick.
For people who are not sick, face masks are not very effective.Dr Carmen Dolea, Head of International Health Regulations Secretariat at World Health Organisation.
So, wear a mask only if you’re not feeling well (or avoid travelling altogether).
However, if you choose to wear a face mask, it’s important to use properly and NEVER touch the mask exterior even if you are not sick.
Dr Dolea also stresses the importance of practicing proper cough etiquette (cough or sneeze into elbow) and keeping distance (at least 1 metre) from those who are coughing or have flu-like symptoms.
Perhaps the most reassuring factor for me was the fact that the air inside a modern aircraft is actually cleaner than offices and shops.
According to IATA, the air supply is either fresh or filtered through High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. These HEPA filters capture more than 99.9% of the airborne microbes (including viruses) in the filtered air and operate at the same efficacy as those used in surgical operating rooms.
From the flight that I took, it was also clear that cabin crew members always took great care in ensuring hygiene – wearing face masks and donning gloves while handling the food and merchandise cart.
In case a passenger is suspected to be sick, airlines also have an isolation procedure in place with proper guidelines and also a universal precaution kit specifically for suspected communicable disease.
“Congratulations Kirat, you survived the flight,” I told myself upon landing.
Now all that’s left to do is to enjoy my excursion, while arming myself with the necessary information and tools on how to protect myself during an outbreak (which you can read thoroughly HERE).
She puts the pun in Punjabi. With a background in healthcare, lifestyle writing and memes, this lady's articles walk a fine line between pun-dai and pun-ishing.