Editorial: In for the long haul

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 January, 2021 at 12:32 pm by Andre Camilleri

When I cast my mind back to over a year ago, I had booked the honeymoon of my dreams on a jolly round the world jaunt, of course, Covid-19 ensured that never happened. The reality is finally sinking in now; this isn’t going to happen anytime soon. We are all in for the long haul- and not on a plane to the Cayman Islands.

And while this is a minor issue in the scale of the pandemic, for those who love to travel, and work to save for a getaway it may not be. Many people have had to realign what motivates them to get out of bed in the morning go to the office in the first place, and undoubtedly, the mental health strain is real. Right now, it seems an alien thought now that Malta was once a highly connected island, where in just a few clicks you can find yourself on a seat to Morocco, St Petersbourg or Rome. Nothing seemed impossible.

By now, we know that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, can and will continue to move around the globe. Even as the Covid-19 vaccine begins to roll out, experts caution that preventative measures will remain necessary. If we don’t recognise how this virus moves and we don’t take precautions, we will continue to chase behind the virus instead of being ahead of the game.

It’s fair to assume that soon, hotels, airlines, and immigration services may require proof of vaccination before you’re allowed to travel, we already hear echoes of this emanating across the globe. This may be especially true for countries with near-zero transmission rates—New Zealand or parts of Australia—and are waiting to vaccinate the entire country. For example, you could receive a Covid-19 vaccination record to bring with you. While this sort of identification may be necessary for some time, it will not likely be the case in perpetuity.

There are various barriers to this concept, and an international travel requirement would have to consider which vaccines are sufficient to be acceptable. It would have to be universal and its crucial to remember that (as of now) one Covid negative test result doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is Covid-free.

What’s more, it’s also still unclear how long vaccine protection lasts and how well the vaccines prevent virus transmission. In many vaccines like MMR, the body produces antibodies; after you’re vaccinated, you don’t harbour the organism, and you also don’t spread it. But experts don’t know yet if that’s the case with the coronavirus vaccine.

We certainly hope that the vaccines will curb transmission, but according to experts, we really don’t have enough data at this stage to answer this question. Some vaccines might also wind up being more effective than others in slowing the spread.

 Let’s not forget it’s also a huge risk that people will be entirely fixated on Covid-19. When we are thinking about international travel, one concern is that people forget about other vaccine-preventable diseases. Even in a post-pandemic world, it will always be essential to remain vigilant of any vaccine you might need while travelling—both Covid and others. What we do know is, we’re in for the long haul for travel to resume.

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