The number of cases of Coronavirus patients has multiplied exponentially over the last three months. What started out as four known cases near the end of December 2019 has become 118,381 cases (and counting) by the second week of March 2020.
The United States has only tested a small percentage of the population as of March 10, 2020. As new tests become available and are distributed nationwide, it’s expected that the number of positive diagnoses will increase dramatically.
While no one is immune from the Covid-19, there are many precautions we can take to prevent and reduce the spread of the virus. First and foremost, you should make your personal health a priority. When traveling anywhere, be sure to have hygiene supplies to help you disinfect anything that may contain germs. Secondly, you should remain informed about any government alerts and warnings, especially if you’re planning to travel overseas.
Coronavirus Safety Travel Kit Essentials
For most people, life moves forward regardless of the world events that occur around them. Unless there’s a mass travel ban or city-wide lockdown, chances are you’ll still be expected to show up to work, take your kids to school, and run your typical errands. If you’re used to traveling by foot, public scooter or bike, bus, train, taxi, airplane, or are otherwise in constant contact with people, you’re inevitably putting yourself at a higher risk of being exposed to the virus.
Sure, we all know the basic prevention drill: wash your hands with soap and water (be sure to sing the entire birthday song), avoid getting too close to sick people, cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, stay home if you don’t feel well… etc.
Those are all valid prevention steps and we should follow them, but as of this moment, research has yet to provide accurate data that determines exactly how the Covid-19 is being spread. One study performed by Chinese epidemiologists found that the virus can “linger in the air for at least 30 minutes, survive on some surfaces for up to 3 days, and travel a distance of up to 4.5 meters.”
With the findings of this recent study and the alarming number of cases continually on the rise, I believe that the preventative steps we’re taking now might not be enough. Reducing travel and avoiding large crowds might not be possible for many, therefore I think we should kick our preparedness measures up a notch, even if that means looking a little silly or OCD in front of others.
From now until the threat of the virus diminishes, I encourage you to keep a virus prevention kit with you at all times. This kit should contain disinfectant supplies and other miscellaneous necessities to help protect and reduce your risk of exposure.
Be sure to include the following items:
- Disinfectant wipes for surfaces: Use wipes to clean off any surfaces that are touched frequently, such as light switches, elevator buttons, handles, doorknobs, seats, tabletops, and keyboards. It’s good practice to disinfect mobile devices daily since they get very close to our mouth and face every time we use them. After wiping down any surface, allow it to air dry completely so that the anti-microbial chemicals in the wipes have time to disinfect. The US Environmental Protection Agency released this list of disinfectants that work well against the Novel Coronavirus. Whether the wipes contain bleach or not is a matter of preference. Just check that the ones you pick match one of the approved disinfectants on that list.
- Hand and face wipes: Imagine all the things you (and hundreds of other people) touch every day when going to the mall, entering the metro, airport, or any other public place. Disinfect your hands multiple times throughout the day, especially prior to eating and drinking, and after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, and using the bathroom. Hand and face wipes are formulated to prevent skin irritation, so don’t use surface disinfectant wipes on your skin.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer: Hand sanitizer is ideal when you don’t have the option to wash your hands with soap and water. For the sanitizer to be effective, it must contain a minimum of 60% alcohol. Note that if you’re traveling by airplane, you should have the appropriate size container to be able to bring this item in your carry-on luggage.
- Hand soap: On occasion, you’ll go to a bathroom that has run out of soap. Have a backup ready in your kit. Carry a small, hotel-sized hand soap with you.
- Paper towels: Most bathrooms nowadays have an air-based hand drying appliance instead of paper towels. Because the virus is believed to be airborne, we should avoid using air hand dryers because they re-circulate the particles within their enclosed environment. Instead, have a few paper towels to dry your hands thoroughly. Use that same towel to open the door so your hands don’t become contaminated when exiting the bathroom.
- Pack of tissues: Travel-sized tissues are convenient all the time, but more so now with the sniffles going around. Experts recommend covering your mouth with a tissue when sneezing and coughing. Dispose of any used tissues safely in a trash can.
- Surgical face-masks: There are differing opinions on the effectiveness of surgical and N95 face-masks. As far as protecting you from getting the virus from someone else, there’s no hard evidence to determine that it will, but it might provide a minimal layer of protection if worn correctly. If anything, it may help you to reduce the spread of the virus to others if you have it without knowing it. Keeping a mask or two in your travel kit might be a good idea in case you’re traveling in an enclosed area with many people, such as in a metro or airplane, but they may not be necessary to wear when out in open spaces.
- Personal eating utensils: Use your own utensils when dining out. This will reduce the probability of eating with contaminated plastic and silverware, especially when dining in food courts and similarly crowded restaurants. Do not share your utensils. Be sure to wash them thoroughly with dish soap and water after each use.
- Vitamins and supplements: While there’s no specific diet regimen or vitamin that will prevent you from getting the Coronavirus, data suggests that those who experienced fatalities had weak immune systems and/or pre-existing medical conditions. By feeding your body the vitamins it needs to stay healthy, you’re improving your chances of surviving against any possible viral attack. Ask your doctor for the appropriate dosage of the vitamins and supplements you’re considering taking, especially if you’re already taking medication for something else.
- Basic medication: Taking fever reducers like ibuprofen or aspirin the moment you begin to feel flu-like symptoms might help reverse those symptoms faster. The longer you wait to take medication, the greater the chance that the virus might spread quicker throughout your body. If you’re taking prescription medication, have an extra supply of that too and copies of your doctor’s signed prescription.
- Snacks: Energy bars, nuts, and other snacks that are high in protein and nutrition are vital for maintaining your health. When traveling, especially in airplanes, you may want to avoid the snacks being served since you don’t know who touched them nor how they were handled before they got to you.
- Travel and health insurance information: It’s recommended that you postpone any nonessential travel at this time, however, if you must travel, you should expect to face disruptions at your destination—anything is possible, from quarantine to lockdowns to medical evacuations. Consider these options especially as the virus is expanding worldwide and government officials are taking active measures to reduce the spread. If you’re traveling overseas, carry proof of your international travel insurance and healthcare insurance along with your personal ID.
While some of these recommendations may seem strange or even overboard, the truth is that there’s not enough information on this virus to determine the best strategies to ward it off, reduce the spread, or protect yourself. Being extra cautious during this time is not a matter of acting paranoid but rather increase our level of preparedness.
Current Government Alerts and Travel Advisories
Many aspects of our lives are dictated by travel in one form or another, whether that’s commuting to work on public transport, flying overseas for business or vacation, or taking a cruise for leisure.
In the last few months, governments have shut down entire cities and borders to quarantine highly affected regions and prevent the further spread of the virus. It’s important to stay up-to-date on the current travel advisories enforced by your country and other countries you’re planning to travel to.
These are the updated alerts for the following countries:
- A Level 4 advisory (meaning: do not travel) has been issued for China (effective February 2, 2020)
- The CDC advises avoiding all non-essential travel to China (effective prior to March 11, 2020).
- New measures announced by the Italian Government on 11 March 2020 closing all non-essential business across Italy with immediate effect.
- International travel is restricted and borders are closed until further notice (effective March 10, 2020).
- A Level 3 advisory (meaning: reconsider travel) has been issued for Italy (effective February 29, 2020).
- A level 3 advisory (meaning: reconsider travel) has been declared for South Korea (effective February 29, 2020).
- The CDC advises avoiding all non-essential travel to South Korea (effective prior to March 11, 2020).
- A Level 4 advisory (meaning: do not travel) has been issued for Iran (effective February 26, 2020).
- The CDC advises avoiding all non-essential travel to Iran (effective prior to March 11, 2020).
- A level 2 advisory (meaning: exercise increased caution) has been declared for Japan (effective February 22, 2020).
- The CDC advises at-risk groups to avoid non-essential travel to Japan (effective prior to March 11, 2020).
- A level 3 advisory (meaning: reconsider travel) has been declared for Mongolia (effective February 26, 2020).
- A level 3 advisory (meaning: reconsider travel) has been declared for Turkmenistan (effective March 6, 2020).
- A level 3 advisory (meaning: reconsider travel) has been declared for Azerbaijan (effective March 6, 2020).
- The CDC advises the public to use caution when traveling to Spain (effective prior to March 11, 2020).
- The CDC advises the public to use caution when traveling to France (effective prior to March 11, 2020).
- The CDC advises the public to use caution when traveling to Germany (effective prior to March 11, 2020).
The US Government will not permit entry to the USA of any non-US nationals, including British nationals, who have visited (or are resident in) Schengen Area countries 14 days or less prior to their travel to the USA (effective from midnight Friday 13 March)
The US government does not recommend traveling on cruise ships at this time, especially for vulnerable people.
- Find more information about the developing US travel alerts surrounding the Covid-19 here as well as any specific regulations on a country-by-country basis here.
- For UK’s advice on foreign travel, whether coming or going from any specific country, please visit their website here.
- The Kuwaiti authorities are no longer allowing non-Kuwaitis to enter Kuwait in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Non-Kuwaitis arriving on flights to Kuwait will be required to board the next plane out of Kuwait (effective 12 March 2020).
- The Israeli authorities have announced that effective from 8pm on Thursday 12 March, visitors entering Israel from overseas will be subject to home quarantine measures for 14 days.
- The Government of India has announced that it will suspend all existing visas for India due to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 (effective 12 March 2020).
- The FCO now advises against all but essential travel to San Marino, due to an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 (effective 12 March 2020).
In summary, think about how quickly our world has been changed from one moment to another. A flu-like event that sparked some attention just three months ago has brought major disruptions to our day-to-day lives.
International health organizations, government officials, epidemiologists, and immunization microbiologists have been working tirelessly to provide the public with information and a solution to the virus. While that is still in the works, it’s up to us to take preventative measures, no matter how extreme they may be. Your proactive actions to sanitize frequently touched spaces, properly wash and dry your hands, boost your immune system, and travel conscientiously is not only helping you but helping others too!
Thanks for doing your part!
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