A Commentary From Us: COVID-19 – Where Are We Up To? (9 minute read)

11 March 2021. Can you believe it’s been a year since COVID-19 began to sweep the world? Our lives changed overnight. Travel plans cancelled, weddings put on hold, bars and pubs closed. The list of disruptions was endless and many of them continue today. So, what is the COVID-19 situation now? And when will international travel resume?

A lot has changed since March 2020. Thanks to incredible innovation and science, we have numerous effective vaccines, which are beginning to drive cases down. Countries such as Israel are beginning to lift restrictions, having vaccinated the majority of their populations. And there is clear evidence that in vaccinated groups, hospitalizations and thankfully, deaths, are plummeting.

In this article, we’ll try to summarize where we’re at with the virus. We’ll also try to outline what we believe is going to happen with travel over the coming months. It’s important to note that we are a UK-registered company, headquartered in London. So this may look somewhat alien to our friends and customers in places like Australia, where we are aware the restrictions are quite different! But for UK readers wondering if they can get away on holiday this year, and if so, where – read on!

 

Let’s start with the good news – vaccines

The vaccines have been nothing short of miraculous. From a standing start, organizations such as Oxford University and pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, backed heavily by governments, have created vaccinations which alleviate much of the suffering caused by COVID-19. Studies in the UK have shown that COVID deaths in the over 80s have fallen by more than 60% since mid-January. This is because the over 80s were the first to be vaccinated and are just coming up to full protection. When vaccines are given to every adult, these death rates are expected to fall further. In fact, the seven day rolling average of COVID deaths in the UK has dropped dramatically. From 1,242 in the week commencing 25 January 2021, to 314 in the week commencing 01 March 2021. This is still high, but falling fast. Vaccines are the way back to a normal world.

Israel has vaccinated around 90% of its population and is rapidly easing restrictions. The government there has announced that vaccines have proven 98% effective in preventing breathing problems and fever, dramatically cutting the need for hospitalization. Logic determines that as more and more people are vaccinated around the world, death rates will continue to fall.

Jerusalem - when will international travel resume
Israel leads the world with vaccinations, the country has nearly vaccinated its entire adult population.

It’s not all great news though

Whilst countries such as Israel, the USA, UAE, and the UK have seen a rapid roll out of vaccines, others have struggled. In the EU, vaccination rates are stubbornly slow, with COVID cases creeping up again in parts of the bloc. And in Brazil, hospitals are on the brink of collapse. But whilst this is obviously distressing, these issues will be resolved in time. Some countries were always going to be able to vaccinate quicker than others, thanks to factors such as spending power, population sizes and logistics. To resolve this, schemes such as COVAX have been established to ensure that poorer countries get enough vaccines. Every day more and more jabs are being given. We are certainly heading in the right direction.

 

So, when will international travel resume?

If you’re reading the On The Go Tours blog, then we presume you are (like us) desperate to know when you can get away on holiday again. A year of lockdown restrictions has us yearning for adventure more than ever. Not to mention a good dose of culture and a few cocktails by the pool.

This is the part of the article which is going to become more UK-centric, but this is what we know at the moment:

The UK government is going to reveal a plan for the return of international travel following the publication of an important Travel Task Force report on the 12 April 2021. International travel is banned until 17 May 2021 at the earliest, so nobody can jet off until then. But, with the continued expansion of the vaccination program, there is genuine optimism that by early June, holidays from the UK abroad will be possible.

 

Where can we go after lockdown?

Many countries around the world are heavily dependent on international visitors for their economies. So, it makes sense that they are keen to re-open their borders. Many countries have started to announce that they will allow travellers who have been vaccinated within their borders for a holiday. There are some ethical issues that have been raised surrounding this stance. But for now, that is the state of play. And as the UK government plans to have offered every adult a vaccine by the end of July at the latest, this means late summer or autumn travel should be available to virtually everyone, without the need for quarantines or any other restrictive action. The plans are still in their early stages, so policies regarding children are yet to be announced.

So far, countries to have announced they will let in vaccinated British travellers include Cyprus, Iceland and the Seychelles. Many others are said to be considering the policy, such as Greece, which has already formed a travel corridor with Israel. All of this is evidence that as vaccine numbers continue to surge, travel becomes more and more realistic. And with the UK government increasing its vaccination capacity all the time, vaccination rates should continue to rise. This is the same everywhere, albeit at different rates.

Northern Lights, Iceland - when will international travel resume
Iceland is one of many countries considering allowing vaccinated British travellers in for a holiday.

So, shall I book my trip?

We are a bit biased, so it would be easy for us to tell you to book your trip immediately, as vaccines mean everything will be normal again by summer 2021. But this would be irresponsible and misleading of us as a travel operator. The truth is that we aren’t definitively sure just yet. But things are looking good for certain destinations, and the picture gets brighter every day.

Trips to places such as Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Iceland and more look increasingly possible for 2021, given good levels of vaccination, the importance of tourism to their economies, and / or announcements already made by some of their governments. Vaccine passports should remove any need for quarantines.

If you are planning a trip to somewhere which is still struggling with vaccinations and high COVID rates, then booking for 2022 looks much more realistic. Examples include places such as India, Peru, or Brazil. Waiting a bit longer will give these countries time to catch up with vaccinations. Every day the situation gets slightly better, as millions more people around the world gain protection from the vaccine, helping to break up transmission of the virus. But the situation isn’t linear, and some countries are vaccinating quicker than others.

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro - when will international travel resume.
If you’re planning a trip to Brazil then you’re probably best to make your booking for 2022.

Travel isn’t far off now

We are staying on top of the news as it comes out, adjusting our advice as we get new information. Our flexible deposit and safe touring rules mean that if you did want to book a post-lockdown adventure, you can do so knowing that your money is safe if the situation were to take a turn for the worse. But we are increasingly optimistic that normal international travel will return for good in the coming months. To keep track of global restrictions, head to our Current Travel Restrictions hub.

If you have any questions regarding your upcoming trip or would like to discuss making a booking, do not hesitate to contact our team, who will be happy to help. In the meantime, look after yourselves and each other. This third UK lockdown has been incredibly tough, as have restrictions for people around the world. But there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.

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