Hope on the Horizon – International Travel 2021

Let’s not cut corners and sugarcoat what a true disaster 2020 has been. People have lost their lives to a virus the world does not understand. The world has come to a standstill, the likes of which none of us thought would ever happen in our lifetime. Some of us have lost loved ones, others have been stranded in countries, families kept apart for nearly a year because of the virus. Every single person on this plane of existence has been affected by COVID–19.

There has to be hope on the horizon. To go back six months ago there was no direction on how the world would return to normal life. Travelling internationally is nothing more than a lucid dream, be it to explore or to reconnect with your loved ones. For the rest of 2020, the world is off-limits. So, what is the solution for 2021? Is the possibility of international travel a reality, or is it going to be shelved and dusted off when 2022 rolls around? Nearly two years since the pandemic began.

As this article is being written, the rush for a vaccine is showing some results. Companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech are currently in trial stages of a cure, proving a 90% success rate. Similar claims are also being made by Russian Sputnik V and Moderna. When questioned at a recent press conference whether life would return to normal by spring 2021, John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at The University of Oxford simply replied; “Yes. Yes. Yes.”, shedding some hope into the prospect of our civilisation returning to a ‘normal life’. It may seem far, but with correct planning and strategy, life, as we use to know it, may return mid next year.

What does this mean for travelling internationally? Should a vaccine be found and everyone is vaccinated, wouldn’t life return to normal? Not so fast. As with any virus, the potential for different strains can and will manifest itself. This makes creating a vaccine difficult, especially if it has the potential to take on a new form and becoming immune to any vaccine currently being developed. If you are an anti-vaxxer, don’t expect to be flying anytime soon. Qantas has just announced that anyone without vaccination against COVID cannot board any of their flights in 2021. This procedure will and should be common practice for all airlines in order to suppress any further outbreaks.

Another idea that has been proposed is for travellers to undergo a COVID test pre-flight and another once you arrive at your destination. Passengers would have to cover expenses for both tests and quarantine accommodation until they get the all-clear. A costly solution, but one that might save lives and can keep contact tracing easy and manageable. Unfortunately, the risks associated with this method are quite high. Should COVID be detected on a passenger upon landing, every passenger on that flight would have to quarantine for 2 weeks.

There’s no easy way to say this, travelling will never be the same. Long gone are the days of walking through a metal detector, grabbing your shit, and heading to the bar for pre-flight beers. Should international travel be reintroduced back in 2021, there will be strict measures in place similar to those seen at testing stations around the globe. Passengers will be kept separate, social distancing will be heavily enforced in these situations while maintaining little to no contact in stopover airports. Most airlines will try to fly directly to their destinations, should a stopover be necessary, there’s little hope for exploring the airport.

Just when airport security couldn’t get any tighter because of terrorism and learning from being too relaxed, preventing COVID measures will be stricter. Take a country like Australia for example, who are renown for having strict border control and throw in the possibility of passengers flying in with COVID-19, the security measures are going to be insane. This is all speculation of course, but given the way countries have enforced lockdowns to their own citizens (which was needed), the idea of letting foreigners into their countries might come with extreme screening.

The world certainly needs to open up to travellers, the revenue alone lost for 2020 has taken a massive hit on the global economy. As long as world leaders open their borders in a controlled and safe way and not let money be the pushing point of motivation, international travel could be here sooner than we realise. No doubt over the next six months there will be strategies and plans in place to ensure that COVID is kept to a bare minimum and that we are all kept safe. Our fingers are crossed in seeing the hope on this dim horizon for some normality in our lives.

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