Covid 19 travel advice for Australian domestic small group tours
This year, Odyssey Traveller saw a recovery in small group touring into regional and outback Australia. As the Delta variant spreads among the unvaccinated, many fully vaccinated people are concerned about how to travel through the airport on a domestic flight. A key question asked by mature and senior travellers is whether it is time to mask up again?
After reading a lot of published literature and reflecting on how this covid 19 pandemic has shaped domestic travel advice, mandatory quarantine, travel insurance, and every aspect of our daily lives then this article and the information presented should assist you in managing your way through day to day travel plans.
This article is not a substitute covid 19 restrictions implemented by the state governments of South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland the Northern Territory or Victoria. Information on any travel restriction or government restrictions and/or border restrictions as well as general travel advice should be checked before you leave home or join a flight. State websites or your travel agent should be able to assist on current covid 19 restrictions.
Covid 19 travel advice when travelling away from home.
Your bags are packed, you have been exercising and preparing yourself for your small group tour. What to also include? When you travel outside of your home you should include in your travel plans;
- copies of your vaccination certificate from my gov
- and then personal masks,
- and a travel size hand sanitizer.
To mask or not to mask that is the question.
Experts in American according to a New York time report in July 2021 agree that masks remain a wise precaution in certain settings when travelling for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
How often you use a mask will depend on your personal health tolerance and risk, the infection and vaccination rates in your community and that area being visited, and who you’re spending time with.
As a general rule we would suggest that you practice;
- social distancing,
- mask up and
- use hand sanitizer
after passing areas of transition on arrival such as entrances, check in counters at the airport for your domestic flight, and public bathrooms.
The bottom line is this: While being fully vaccinated protects against serious illness and severe illness requiring hospitalization from Covid-19, no vaccine offers 100 percent protection. As long as large numbers of people remain unvaccinated and continue to spread coronavirus, vaccinated people will be exposed to the Delta variant, and a small percentage of them will develop so-called breakthrough infections. Here are answers to common questions about how you can protect yourself and lower your risk for a breakthrough infection.
When should a vaccinated person wear a mask?
To decide whether a mask is needed, first ask yourself these questions.
- Are the people I’m with also vaccinated?
- What’s the case rate and vaccination rate in my community?
- Will I be in a poorly ventilated indoor space, or outside? Will the increased risk of exposure last for a few minutes or for hours?
Finally, it really is about being safe not only for yourself but your travelling companions on a domestic flight or a small group tour. Typically we all would like to be safe are avoid the quarantine requirement from being infected. Therefore being the considerate traveller is the right and only way to behave.
What's my personal risk (or the risk for those around me) for complications from Covid-19?
Experts in the NYT article agree that if everyone you’re with is vaccinated and symptom-free, you don’t need to wear a mask.
But once travellers start to venture into enclosed public spaces such as museums and galleries where the chances of your encountering unvaccinated people are greater, social distancing and a mask is probably a good idea.
Being fully vaccinated remains the strongest protection against Covid-19, but risk is cumulative. The more opportunities you give the virus to challenge the antibodies you’ve built up from your vaccine, the higher your risk of coming into contact with a large enough exposure that the virus will break through the protective barrier generated by your vaccine.
For that reason a key piece of travel advice is that, the case rate and vaccination rate of the community you are among the most important factors influencing the need for masks.
Finally, masking is more important in poorly ventilated indoor spaces with medium to high transition populations eg public toilets at a service station, than outdoors, where risk of infection is extremely low.
Why is the Delta variant prompting experts to rethink mask guidance?
People infected with the Delta variant are known to shed much higher levels of virus for longer periods of time compared with earlier lineages of the coronavirus. One preliminary study estimated the viral load is 1,000 times greater in people with the Delta variant. These high viral loads give the virus more opportunities to challenge your antibodies and break through your vaccine’s protection.
“This is twice as transmissible as the original lineage of Covid,” said Dr. Hotez. “The reproductive number of the virus is around 6,” he said, referring to the number of people a virus carrier is likely to infect. “That means 85 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated. Only a few areas of the country are reaching that.”
Is it safe for vaccinated people to go to restaurants, museums, the movies, or other large gatherings?
The answer depends on your personal risk tolerance and the level of vaccinations and Covid-19 cases in your community. The more time you spend with unvaccinated people in enclosed spaces for long periods of time, the higher your risk of crossing paths with the Delta variant, or any other variants that may crop up.
Large gatherings, by definition, offer more opportunities to get infected with coronavirus, even if you’re vaccinated, be prepared to take a covid 19 test.
But even with the Delta variant, full vaccination appears to be about 90 percent effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization from Covid-19. If you are at very high risk for complications from the Covid 19 pandemic, however, you should consider avoiding risky situations and wear a mask when the vaccination status of those around you is unknown.
Healthy vaccinated people who are at low risk of complications have to decide what level of personal risk they are willing to tolerate. Wearing a mask at larger indoor gatherings will lower their risk for infection. If you’re healthy and vaccinated but caring for an aging parent or spending time with others at high risk, you should consider their risk too when deciding whether to attend an event or wear a mask.
If breakthrough infections are rare, why do I keep hearing about them?
Breakthrough infections get a lot of attention because vaccinated people talk about them on social media. When clusters of breakthrough infections happen, they also are reported in science journals or the media.
But it’s important to remember that while breakthrough cases are relatively rare, they can still occur no matter what vaccine you get.
“No vaccines are 100 percent effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people,” in America the C.D.C. states on its website. “There will be a small percentage of fully vaccinated people who still get sick, are hospitalized or die from Covid-19.”
A breakthrough case doesn’t mean your vaccine isn’t working. In fact, most cases of breakthrough infections result in no symptoms or only mild illness, which shows the vaccines are working well to prevent serious illness from Covid-19.
I'm vaccinated. How often should I be tested for Covid-19?
If you’re fully vaccinated and you know you’ve been exposed to someone with Covid-19, it’s a good idea to be to take a Covid 19 test even if you don’t have symptoms.
And if you have cold symptoms or any other signs of infection, experts agree you should take a covid 19 test. Many vaccinated people who aren’t wearing masks have picked up summer colds that cause runny noses, fever and coughing. But it’s impossible to tell the difference between a summer cold and Covid-19. Anyone with cough or cold symptoms should wear a mask to protect those around them and get tested to rule out Covid-19. It will be a good idea to keep a few home Covid tests on hand as well when they become available in Australia.