Responsible travel during the coronavirus crisis
Whether it’s politicians meeting counterparts overseas, businesses ensuring continuity of deals and systems face–to–face, family members connecting with each other or tourists immersing themselves in a different culture, travel remains vitally important. In an increasingly polarized world, travel helps build deeper human connections and greater understanding. But in today’s environment, with COVID-19 at the top of everyone’s mind, travel also comes with responsibility.
In these difficult times, it remains essential that everyone who chooses to travel does so with full adherence to rules and regulations, while also thinking about sensible ways they can reduce risks for themselves, and for others.
That means following guidelines at the airport, following new boarding processes at the gate, wearing a mask while flying to ensure the safety of both yourself and others and ensuring social distancing and minimizing physical contact when you get to your destination.
Crucially, it is also important to follow local guidelines on quarantine periods following travel.
Why do people still travel?
It is unrealistic for all travel to cease indefinitely, and travel plays a vital role in keeping the world’s economy, as well as its people, moving. In Finland, travel adds €16 billion to the economy, which is more than the forestry industry. It accounts for 2.4 percent of the country’s GDP, rising to 5.9% in Lapland and 14.9% in Åland. Despite the pandemic, global spend on aviation is still forecast to reach $434 billion in 2020 according to IATA. That’s the equivalent of 0.5 percent of global GDP.
Those figures suggest that travel will continue to be a cornerstone of the global economy, as well as provide people with the opportunity to explore and understand the world.
Rules for travelling safely and responsibly during Covid-19
By following these simple rules, you can act responsibly while travelling, helping to keep yourself and others safe, while minimizing the risk of spreading coronavirus. It’s a balancing act, but we must always prioritize safety and responsibility.
1. Avoid popular and busy areas
Escaping the crowds is one of the great pleasures when travelling to new and interesting places and, at the moment, staying away from large social gatherings has an extra appeal.
That doesn’t have to mean avoiding major cities or popular resorts but instead trying to find quiet areas where it’s possible to keep a safe distance from others, whether you are travelling for leisure or for business
Many famous tourist attractions, such as Paris’s Eiffel Tower and London’s Tate Modern gallery, are limiting numbers of tourists, which means it’s easier to experience famous sights without worrying about being caught up in big crowds.
2. Maintain social distancing
Social distancing is key to lessening the spread of coronavirus and is even more vital to maintain when travelling. The WHO recommends people stay at least one meter apart, although some countries, including the UK, suggest people maintain a two-meter distance.
The idea is to prevent the virus from spreading through close contact. If you’re on a popular beach or in a busy city centre and feel that it’s hard to keep your distance, then it’s a good idea to find somewhere quieter, where the risks from coronavirus are likely to be lower.
3. Wear a mask, wash your hands and carry hand sanitiser
Studies have shown that wearing a mask or face covering can lower the risk of coronavirus by between 50 percent and 85 percent. And while masks are mandatory on all Finnair flights, in many countries across Europe and Asia it is now illegal not to wear one on public transport or in indoor public spaces, such as shops.
In Spain, face masks must be worn at all times when outside of your accommodation. The same is true in some cities in France, including Nice, Toulouse and Lille. Follow our guide to make sure you wear your mask comfortably. Remember to keep washing your hands and carry hand sanitizer at all times and to use it regularly, especially after using trains, taxis and buses and after eating out.
4. Book ahead
Whether you’re planning on sightseeing, visiting a restaurant or heading to a museum or gallery, it’s vital that you book ahead wherever possible. Restaurants and cafes are operating with fewer available seats, meaning it can be hard to secure a table, especially in popular locations.
In some countries, such as the UK, bars and restaurants will ask you to leave your personal details, so you can be tracked and contacted if there is an outbreak of coronavirus traced to that location at the time of your visit. Many museums, such as Paris’s Louvre, require pre-booking, even for free events which do not require paid tickets you are likely to find space is restricted. The same is true for all the major museums in the Vatican.
While it requires a little extra planning, there are major bonuses to this approach, with very popular sights attracting fewer visitors, you have a chance to eat in superb restaurants and check out the world’s finest art without having to worry about the usual crowds.
5. Use credit, debit and mobile payments where possible
Many businesses are reluctant to accept cash, with an increase in the use of contactless, card and online payments since the start of the pandemic. Paypal says it processed 3.7 billion transactions between April and June, an increase of 26 percent year-on-year.
Before travelling, call your bank or credit card provider to ensure your card will work at your destination. You’re likely to find it easier than exchanging cash, as well as minimizing the contact that naturally comes when handling notes and coins.
Remember that your phone may also allow you to make contactless payments, simply by linking your existing credit cards to Apple Pay or Google Pay. This method of payment also works on many urban transit networks, such as the London Underground, where simply holding your phone near the card reader will open the turnstyle so you can walk through without touching a thing.
Besides washing your hands, it’s also a good idea to clean your phone on a regular basis.
6. Download local coronavirus tracking apps
Most countries across Europe now have government-backed coronavirus tracking apps for smartphones, which can be easily downloaded either via Apple’s App Store for iPhone or Google Play on Android devices. Finland is launching its own, Koronavilkku, in late August.
The apps use Bluetooth technology to anonymously measure close contacts between travellers, before sending a warning if someone you’ve been close to tests positive for COVID–19. EU states have agreed to a set of interoperability rules, so that contacts can be traced across borders. By having the app on your smartphone while you travel, you can find out quickly if you’ve been at increased risk of exposure to the virus and take action immediately by quarantining yourself.
7. Quarantine on your return and get a test if you display symptoms
If you are returning to Finland after a trip to a high-risk country, which is deemed to be anywhere with more than 8 cases per 100,000 people, it’s absolutely essential that you follow the official quarantine guidance. Always remember to check the requirements from the local authorities – eg border control or health authorities – web pages before you travel.
Anyone arriving at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport and reporting symptoms can now get a test. A negative result does not mean that you do not have to quarantine if flying from a high-risk country.