The travel industry has taken a hard hit from the COVID-19 pandemic and, even when travel is permitted, fewer people took advantage of the opportunity. This is partly because previous reports indicated that traveling abroad raised the risks of contracting the virus. Whether those previous studies were inaccurate or something has changed, new studies have shown that traveling abroad does little to nothing to increase the risks of contracting COVID-19.
Researchers in the U.K. recently studied how travel affected COVID-19 infection rates, selecting a period that started with September 25 and ended on October 8. Of the subjects studied, only 3% of them traveled out of the country within that time frame. Those 3% were tested for infection, but only 0.58% of that group showed positive results for the virus. The subjects who hadn’t traveled within that time frame showed a 0.49% rate of infection, indicating that traveling had very little influence on the rate of infection.
In a separate survey, which was also conducted in the U.K., the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed that travel habits had little influence on the rate of COVID-19 infections. That survey was conducted over a 30 day period, yet showed that people who traveled contracted COVID-19 at a similar rate to those who consistently remained in the country. Infectious disease experts have concluded that the new findings indicate that travel no longer poses an increased threat of infection.
Responding to the new findings, airlines are pushing governments to lift quarantine restrictions and replace them with mandatory testing for travelers. They argue this would still minimize the threat of spreading the virus, while allowing them to resume some degree of business. Currently, London’s Heathrow Airport charges £80 for coronavirus tests to those traveling to Hong Kong. They want to extend this type of policy to travelers going to other countries, such as the United States. This would allow many airlines an opportunity to reopen or expand their business to reintroduce international flights.
As plans extend to other countries, Heathrow Airport and many other airports around the world will inch closer towards a business as usual state of affairs. The U.K. has a plan that includes a shorter seven day self-quarantine restriction that would allow travelers to explore their destination much faster. Combined with mandatory testing, these policies could help stop the spread of infection without continuing practices that are driving airlines out of business.