Many of us are considering a long overdue trip abroad. However, despite what our politicians tell us, the pandemic is not over and there is always a risk that you will catch COVID during the holidays or just before you leave.
So, here are some general tips on what you should do to maximize the chance of a safe and enjoyable vacation, and a quick look at the COVID situation in four popular vacation destinations.
First of all, make sure you’re fully vaccinated: that’s three doses for most people, and four for those over 65 and some vulnerable groups. Two doses are better than nothing, but not good enough against the Omicron variant.
Several insurance companies will cover you against a COVID infection just before you travel or while you travel. Travel insurance is not only recommended, it is mandatory in countries like Fiji and Indonesia.
On the plane
Airplanes are quite safe as the air is filtered through HEPA filters. However, you could be very unlucky and have someone sitting near you who is infectious. So your best bet is to wear a face mask when you’re not eating or drinking.
Carry alcohol wipes and thoroughly clean the tray, seat belt, entertainment controller, and inside seat pockets.
When thinking about your destination and the COVID cases there, it is also important to compare this to the situation in Australia.
Australia’s current cases (seven-day moving average, per million population) are 1,684 per day, and deaths (seven-day moving average, per 10 million inhabitants) are 19.8 per day. Around 84 per cent of the Australian population has completed the initial vaccination programme.
In terms of how much COVID there is, Fiji is doing pretty well. The average number of daily cases is 13.6 per million, a tiny number compared to the Australian rate. The daily mortality rate for every 10 million inhabitants is zero.
The vaccines currently available are AstraZeneca and Moderna, and 70 percent of Fijians have completed the initial vaccination program. It seems that there are few current public health regulations. Face masks are optional and social distancing requirements do not apply.
Given the very low number of cases right now, I don’t think this is a major issue. But if you’re older or at risk due to health issues, I’d still wear a face mask indoors.
Medical care in Fiji is not up to Australian standards, especially in government-run hospitals. Private hospitals are better, but if you get seriously ill, you might be better off transferred to Australia or New Zealand.
Indonesia is also doing quite well with daily cases of 0.98 per million and a fatality rate of 0.3 per ten million population. However, these data may be underestimated.
Currently available vaccines are Zifivax, Covovax, Moderna, Pfizer, Convidecia, Sputnik V, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, KCONVAC, Covilo, and CoronaVac. Covovax is from India, Sputnik V is from Russia, and the rest you may not have heard of are from China. There have been some doubts about the efficacy of some Chinese vaccines.
About 60 percent of Indonesians have completed the initial vaccination schedule, however it is likely to be higher in Bali.
Wearing a face mask indoors (for example, in stores) is mandatory, and some social distancing and mandatory QR code scanning are in place. Face masks are not required while sitting in a restaurant.
Like Fiji, hospitals in Bali are generally not up to Western standards, although private ones are better than public hospitals. If you get really sick, probably the best way to do it is to get medicated in Australia.
Across the ditch, the COVID situation is similar to Australia, with 1,399 cases per day per million population and 23.4 deaths per 10 million population.
The licensed vaccines are AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. The vaccination rate is also very similar to Australia, with 80 per cent having completed the initial vaccination schedule.
New Zealand is slightly more sensible than Australia, retaining face mask mandates in retail settings and public spaces like museums.
New Zealand’s healthcare system isn’t quite up to Australia’s standards, but it’s good enough that you don’t have to worry if you have to be hospitalized. The good news is that Australia has a reciprocal agreement with New Zealand, so there are no costs if you are admitted to a public hospital.
The United Kingdom
All public health measures have been removed in the UK.
Reported case numbers are not as severe as Australia and New Zealand, with a daily average of 120 cases per million population. However, COVID tests are no longer free for most people. While people can purchase their own rapid antigen tests, they cannot be registered on the government website.
Only those with underlying health conditions can get a free test and are required to report the results. This means that the reported case numbers are likely to be a gross underestimate. This would partly explain the UK’s current daily mortality rate of 12.4 per 10 million people.
Interestingly, almost everyone in the UK has antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID. Around 73 per cent of the UK population have completed the initial vaccination schedule, considerably less than in Australia.
In terms of quality, the UK healthcare system is somewhere between Australia and New Zealand. Like New Zealand, Australia has a reciprocal healthcare arrangement with free treatment in UK public hospitals.
In one word
While Bali and Fiji don’t have much COVID, their healthcare systems aren’t that great if you’re unlucky enough to get seriously ill. You are more likely to get COVID in the UK or New Zealand, but they have good health services if you do.
As for me, I’m covering up and staying in Australia for the next few months!
Adrian EstermanProfessor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of South Australia
This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.