Update - What We Know About The Covid-19 Vaccine & International Travel

Well today is the day that the UK can get back on track and hopefully, in the long run, we may see some changes to international travel.

As previously reported, this has been a horrendous time for people hoping to emigrate or those with a sense of wanderlust. We’re not out of the woods yet in controlling Covid-19, however we can see some light through the trees. The vaccine starts with the over 80s, extremely vulnerable and those working in health and social care.

So what do we know about the vaccine for Covid-19 and how will it affect travel? In a nutshell; nothing too drastic at first.

Just over a week ago the UK became the first country to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for regular use and this week it will begin rolling it out on a mass scale. Other countries are potentially set to follow in the next two weeks. Australia, the country that (along with the UK) brings us together here at Part Wild, is cautiously monitoring the progress of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

There is a very important factor to consider – it isn’t yet reported as to how effective the vaccination is at stopping people becoming carriers of the virus, just that it is effective at stopping people becoming sick. This may be huge factor when considering the safety of international travel and flights.

Length of immunity is also unknown. Therefore, how long will somebody be a “safe traveller?”

Let’s see how the vaccine may impact travel between the UK and Australia. Many families are split between the UK and Australia and the latter closed its borders in March, we’re coming up to nine months now where families haven’t been able to visit one another. Australia has managed to almost eradicate the virus for over a month now, with cities such as Perth not reporting a case since June. Internal travel is almost wide open again now.

There is now talk of an Ultra Long-Haul Bubble between the UK and Australia. Two immediate questions already with answers; changeovers & space. The Ultra Long-Haul flight that began last year from London to Perth will see no need to stop over in other countries that have other rules while these planes already allow for people to have adequate space to social distance – a thing that is likely to remain even with vaccinations.

Qantas have stated proof of vaccination will be required and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that become electronically attached to passports or visas through NHS numbers or something of the like.

Australia has taken in small numbers from Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong with a requirement to self-isolate costing almost £3K. The same is not likely to happen with countries hit hardest by Covid-19.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses. This will vaccinate almost a third of the UK with everybody requiring a double dose. You would think Australia and the rest of the world will monitor things closely.

Some countries have no reported cases of community transmissions such as Tonga, Micronesia and Samoa while others like Australia and New Zealand have the virus under control and travel between these countries is very low risk and won’t likely require restrictions.

Other regions in the world have a traffic light system, if you like, where countries are ranked by risk level. Vaccination “passports” and tests on borders may be necessary for a very long time.

Though some people will be vaccinated, it is going to take a very, very long time for all of us to be vaccinated and the vaccination will go out in a tiered system, ranked by need and let’s be honest; wealth. So for someone young and healthy that wants to backpack around Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia – things sadly won’t be normal for months, more likely years.

Digital health passes, immunity passports, 14-day quarantines, airport tests, rapid anti-gen tests are all likely to become staple parts of travel. This will come at a cost that we can only assume will trickle down to the customer. International travel probably won’t look the same again for many, many years when this reality will become the norm. It’s grim reading and writing but a two week holiday in the Costa Del Sol looks far more attainable than a working visa in Australia for now…

Could Brexit become the saving grace for us Brits in an unlikely plot twist?!