Will It Be Safe To Travel Before There’s A Vaccine?

A reader who spent 10 weeks in Europe last year misses being back and wonders whether any travel – let alone international travel – will be possible until there’s a vaccine.

There are actually two issues here.

  • when will restrictions lift to make it easier to travel abroad
  • when will it be prudent to do so.

I would have little concern visiting Taiwan or Vietnam right now. They don’t want visitors, for understandable reasons, there’s very little spread of the virus – it’s contained – so why risk bringing it into the country?

Countries will open up at different paces, rather than all at once. I do think it will be possible to visit Europe next year. Whether it’s advisable will depend on several factors, but the biggest is age and pre-existing health conditions. Those put someone at greatest risk if they come down with COVID-19.

At some point the virus may run its course and become less common. Enough people will have gotten it perhaps this year and next, with enough of those people retaining some immunity, that it doesn’t spread nearly as effectively. One reason this virus spreads so easily is there isn’t much pre-existing immunity among many populations precisely because it’s new. The pandemic could subside on its own – after wreaking much devastation – but that would make travel possible again without a vaccine.

In the nearer term there are several treatments in the pipeline as well, probably coming late in this year and beginning of next, and these could make a real difference in patient outcomes. We won’t have to fear the new coronavirus so much if we know how to treat it, and hospital stays shorten as well reducing the burden on health care (so that each patient can get the care that they need).

Regardless it may not even be a vaccine that’s needed to feel comfortable traveling. A vaccine may not be 100% effective. What if it were only 30% effective? That would be enough to reduce the spread of the virus and make it less dangerous, even if it didn’t serve as absolute protection for any individual. And where someone got it, the vaccine might reduce still reduce severity.

The question about when to travel is mainly about rate of spread and how challenging it is if you catch it. The answer to the first will vary regionally, and the answer to the second will vary for each individual.

For those in an at risk demographic I certainly wouldn’t expect international travel this year.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @UA… Again, you validate my point perfectly. Are you still incapable of figuring this out? Seriously, it’s not that hard.

  2. @James N – still taking the blue pill I see…living in the Matrix just like all your other brethren

    “We’ll” be ready for you when you are ready to take the red pill

  3. UA-NYC= No independent thought. No intellectual curiosity. Follow the directives of his “leaders”.

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