As we enter a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people are finally able to resume activities they haven’t been able to do for over a year – and travel appears to be on the list. tops many lists for summer projects. Among the growing options, Europe seems to be a popular destination for many.
According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fully vaccinated people can resume their activities without wearing a mask or moving away, unless specifically noted otherwise based on federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial regulations.1 In addition, vaccines are increasingly easy to find through online resources.2 It is important to note, however, that health disparities were revealed both during the pandemic and by the process of widespread vaccine administration.3
Nonetheless, the return to previous routines and activities brings a welcome change from more than a year of quarantine and social distancing. The European Union (EU) recently struck a deal to approve a ‘digital COVID certificate’ to make travel easier this summer and jumpstart their tourism industry.4 Many scientists, doctors and various other healthcare agencies will be watching how the next few months unfold as the doors open in June, once international travel resumes between the two continents. It is also important that travelers know what to expect when traveling abroad.
The CDC offers advice on international travel on its frequently updated website.5 Travel advisories are listed on the United States Department of State website for specific countries.6 The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control also offers weekly COVID-19 surveillance reports for the general public.7 The 14-day case notification rate for the European Union based on data from 30 countries has been declining for weeks, giving many a sense of ease when planning trips to Europe. Mortality has also declined.
As for those who are vaccinated – while traveling, it is important to realize that wearing a mask is always mandatory on planes, buses, trains and other means of transport. A viral test 3-5 days after travel is also recommended, as is self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms. Expectations and recommendations are stricter for those who are not vaccinated. It is also important to note that different individual European countries may have different regulations, so this should also be considered before any purchase of airline tickets.
While we are now in a time when we can talk about travel planning, it is still important to realize that the COVID-19 pandemic continues. It should also be noted that these travel options and flexibility restrictions are only for those who have been vaccinated. Only about 37% of the American population has been vaccinated today.9 Community programs still need to be in place to provide vaccines and education to those in need, both nationally and internationally.
As the EU opens its borders to vaccinated Americans, an “emergency brake” will also be put in place to stop travel from countries with rising infection rates.8 Variants pose several problems around the world, so you have to be careful if you decide to travel abroad.
Eevar Benjamin Rossavik, DO, is a chief pediatric resident who will soon be joining his program faculty to become a pediatrician. He has a particular interest in allergies, asthma and immunology.
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