There has been a lot of news about COVID-19, formerly known as a Coronavirus in the press. With it now being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, it is understandable to have doubts about school travel plans. Here we will cover some sensible advice for safer school travel planning during this time.
Stay on top of Travel Advisories
The first thing you will want to do is check whether there are any restrictions on your destination. Certain countries have become hotspots for COVID-19 in particular, perhaps most notably China and Italy. This has led to many countries issuing travel advisories and restrictions preventing visitors from those countries.
Check Your Insurance Cover
If you've already booked travel insurance for your trip before 31st January you may be covered for COVID-19. This was the date that the World Health Organisation first issued a public statement warning people about the virus. At this stage it became considered a "known event" meaning that many providers won't cover related costs on new policies.
The known event factor creates a challenge for anyone looking to book insurance for school travel right now. Luckily there is an insurance product which can help with this called a "Cancel for Any Reason" policy. These policies are designed so that you can cancel your trip for any reason at a later date; for example if the health risk of COVID-19 in your destination becomes too high.
In our experience you can typically recover up to 75% of your trip costs using these policies, even if you booked travel at a time when there was a known risk. Get in touch if you'd like to learn more.
Air Travel Safety
Some international travellers are concerned by the thought of spending hours in a plane on the way to their destination. However according to the Centers for Disease Control; in most modern aircraft 50-90% of the air comes fresh from outside. The remaining recirculated air gets passed through a series of filters 20-30 times an hour removing 99.9% of particles. This makes is surprisingly hard for air transmission of viruses on a plane.
The bigger concern relating to COVID-19 would be shared surfaces in busy locations like an airport. Touching objects like hand rails and seats in the airport and then eating could pose a risk. Therefore frequent hand washing will go a long way to protect you when travelling overseas.
Practice Good Hygiene Whilst Travelling
There is a lot of information and mis-information online about how to protect yourself. Most experts are in agreement that there are several simple things you can do to significantly decrease the risk:
- Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap before eating and regularly throughout the day.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands.
- Disinfect shared surfaces regularly like doorknobs, tables, desks and handrails.
- Consider postponing large indoor gatherings.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
Pandemic Planning & Self Isolation
If you suspect anybody on your trip has come into contact with the virus whilst travelling, they should remain away from school upon their return. Current guidelines are suggesting self-isolation for at least 14 days. In some countries COVID-19 is considered a notifiable disease so you may also need to report your case to health officials. Your school is likely to have a pandemic plan in place for events like this and if not, the linked resources should help your team to create one.
As a school travel company we have been closely monitoring the global spread. We are also making adjustments and working with schools postponing trips where necessary. We will respect all international travel restrictions and are cautiously optimistic looking forwards.
Should you wear masks for school travel?
The general consensus among experts appears to be that masks are not effective at preventing transmission of the COVID-19 in day to day life. They are mainly recommended for those that have already fallen ill to limit third party exposure. The World Health Organisation breaks down the details here.
One last thing to consider is that Coronavirus cases are most serious for people aged around 80 years. Children and younger people are significantly less likely to be seriously affected. With that said, extra care should be taken on school trips, as they could still catch the virus and pass it on to older relatives and community members.
This is an emerging situation there are several prominent global authorities publishing advice. Here are a few more resources which could help your school to plan its response:
- World Health Organization Coronavirus Updates
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Work & school Guidelines
- Australian Government Coronavirus Resources
- New Zealand Government COVID-19 Response
- Safe Travel New Zealand
- UK Government Coronavirus (COVID-19) Travel Guidance
- UK Department for Education COVID-19 Travel Guidance
Please Note: The information in this article is not medical or professional advice and is intended to provide general information to the public. It is not intended to address specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity. All reasonable measures have been taken to ensure the quality and accuracy, however we do not assume any legal liability or responsibility for its accuracy, correctness, or completeness. Please consult with a medical or health professional if you have any concerns.