Uncategorized April 6, 2020

Travel and the Coronavirus

Thanks to the coronavirus, it will be months before international travel returns to normal. Quarantine measures are in force in almost every country in the world. Most countries have closed their borders to foreigners. Those that are still accepting foreigners are insisting on a mandatory 2-week quarantine at the traveler’s own expense.

How We Got Here

In November or December of 2019, the coronavirus caused an outbreak in the city of Wuhan in China. The province of Hubei, where Wuhan is found, was sealed and no one was allowed in or out. Those measures appeared stringent but were necessary to try to contain the infection. However, due to the interconnected nature of the world these days, the virus soon spread to Asia, Europe and the US.

Maybe because of our experience with MERS, SARS and similar diseases that were much less infectious, the world didn’t take the coronavirus (COVID-19) seriously at first. We didn’t learn from China’s experience and the virus spread unchecked. 

The coronavirus has a few qualities that make it difficult to contain. It is very infectious, it has an incubation of about 2 weeks, and it can be spread by asymptomatic carriers.

total coronavirus cases by country
Total coronavirus cases by country – April 6, 2020. Source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/coronavirus-maps.html

Africa’s Response

I was traveling through Africa around this time and was impressed by the response of many African countries to the crisis. Months before many of them got their first cases, they were wearing masks at immigration, insisting on the use of hand sanitizer, asking about travel histories, and checking temperatures. This was my experience in airports in Ghana, Togo, Kenya, and Uganda. 

In Uganda, still without a single case at the time, one could not enter many buildings without cleaning one’s hands with hand sanitizer. Some people I met with would not shake hands and I appreciated that. I could not cross into the grounds of my hotel without cleaning my hands with hand sanitizer and the guards at the gate were also checking temperatures. The week I left, still before any cases were detected, schools were closed, mass gatherings were banned, and businesses were encouraged to implement remote work where possible.

What Now

Unfortunately, we are fighting an invisible enemy so without enough testing kits, it is almost impossible to keep people with the virus from spreading it especially across borders. In my opinion, we need a vaccine and/or a cure to get the coronavirus under control or we will keep seeing flare ups. Until then, the best we can do is stay inside and continue social distancing. Wear a mask if you are going outdoors. Many thanks to all the essential workers including doctors, nurses, truckers, grocery store workers, etc. 

Stay safe, everyone, and hope to see you on the road at some point in the future.

About the author

Dr Q: I am a traveler not a tourist. I have visited all 7 continents and over 60 countries.