Coronavirus and summer travel: how to stay safe on vacation | Coronavirus

TueWhether they’re heading to Mallorca’s scorching beach or dancing under neon flags at a music festival, millions of people will be hoping for a Covid-free summer. But that doesn’t work. With infections on the rise again, how can people be sure they stay safe and don’t miss out on vacation plans?

How vulnerable am I to contracting Covid on a plane or train?

Crowded sites are ideal for infection to spread, and the dominant strains of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 are reported to effectively evade antibody immunity and spread about a third faster than previous variants. So you may feel anxious when you have to squeeze into your seat on an airplane next to a stranger who is constantly clearing his throat.

But planes have an unfair reputation as a reservoir of infection, experts say, and the real risk is lower than in many enclosed spaces. For trains and other transport, it depends on how busy they are and whether they have modern ventilation systems. “Be sure to consider wearing a mask in crowded places, on public transport and at an airport where there are a lot of people,” said Professor Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong. “In the plane itself, the ventilation is great, so the risk in your seat is actually lower.”

Masks: to wear or not to wear?

Masks may seem a thing of the past to some in the UK, but this is not the case in all countries, so check the rules before you hit the road. Italy, for example, has maintained the requirement to wear an FFP2 mask on public transport, except on airplanes. Some airlines also retained the mandate.

You may also be motivated by the desire to be a responsible citizen or self-preservation. In this case, the FFP2 mask, which filters out potentially infectious particles in the air, is better than a cloth or disposable paper mask. “If this is a concern for you, I highly recommend wearing a mask,” said Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the University of Leeds. “It’s been turned into this symbol of freedom, but it’s smart and not too much of a hassle. It’s not a problem. Why ruin your vacation by feeling like garbage?

Festivals and clubs

Festivals are back this summer, from Primavera in Spain to Tomorrowland, the world’s largest dance music festival, in the Belgian city of Boom. Do these huge gatherings lead to outbreaks? Oddly enough, many people reported testing positive for Covid after Glastonbury, but there were 200,000 people in attendance at the time and about one in 30 people in England had Covid in the past week. It is difficult to determine exactly whether such events greatly affect the overall figures at this stage.

If you are trying to assess your own risk, use common sense: transmission is more likely in closed, crowded places. This scenario may be relevant at a festival or nightclub, but it is equally true for highly intellectual holiday pursuits, such as an afternoon in a stuffy museum or a crowded art gallery, or exploring the vaults of a medieval church.

“The only time I’ve been abroad recently was in microbiology…

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