Travelling in times of COVID19

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way we think about travelling. Most countries in the world have adopted some measure of lockdown or restriction to movement to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus and ease the burden of admissions in struggling health systems. These measures have raised questions about the safety of travelling for work and leisure, and current recommendations discourage unnecessary travel. Although the risk of contracting an infectious disease when traveling has always existed, the COVID-19 pandemic has made travelers more aware of this possibility.

People still need to balance benefits and risks of the decision to travel, the focus for international travelers is on flying. The very idea of being in close proximity to strangers with an unknown infection status for hours is understandably a concern, although cases of COVID-19 transmission on airplanes have been very few so far. After the emergence of COVID-19, airlines and airports introduced new rules and measures to minimize the chances of infection with COVID-19: wearing masks in airports and on airplanes, expanded cleaning of public spaces to reduce the presence of the virus on inanimate surfaces, physical distancing (at least 2 m), and hand sanitizing. Some airlines have reduced the number of passengers allowed on a flight to guarantee more distance between travelers during the flights. Despite the spread of COVID-19 through air ventilation, airplanes benefit from air-conditioning systems with far more effective filters.


What are some tips to use while planning to fly on an airplane?

  • When boarding a plane disinfect everything. That means every single surface you touch, your seat, tray, window and your vent above. All should be properly wiped down.
  • Wear your glasses that you wear normally or wear a face shield to protect your eyes during the flight.
  • Make sure your middle seat is always open to provide some social distancing.
  • Keep the above air vent adequately opened to allow fresh air to circulate.
  • People will cough and sneeze sometimes. The ones you need to worry about most are seated two rows ahead of you and two rows behind you. So, it is important to wear your mask at all times.


What does the future hold for travelers? The availability of a COVID-19 vaccine will be instrumental in reinstating confidence in travelers. Enhanced cleanliness and sanitization will become the norm. Use of masks or other protective equipment will become more common. The COVID-19 pandemic may similarly redefine what is normal for travelers, with a potentially positive outcome of reducing the risk of transmission of many other infections besides COVID-19.

Dr Zaib Shaikh

General Practitioner

If you have any questions or for further information speak to one of our doctors by using our Health at Hand app.