A the new season is here and, with it, seedlings of vacation escape plans to a sunny beach or a snow-capped mountain ski slope. Based on passenger data from the United States and the United Kingdom, air transport is on the verge of recovering from the collapse of a pre-vaccine Covid-19 pandemic – despite the rise of the Delta variant.
But does that mean it’s a good idea to buy that plane ticket, even if you’re vaccinated? And if you are comfortable taking some level of personal risk, is it unethical to do so?
Kelly hills: The short answer is that it depends on where you live. Are we talking about a country with a relatively successful public health response where 80% or more of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, and is there a low overall incidence of Covid-19 both where you live and where you travel? So no, it’s not unethical. But that doesn’t describe most of the world.
[As well as] following the public health guidelines in place, I think people need to think in terms of how best to avoid “moral injury,” what we call the psychological damage that occurs when you violate your own moral or ethical beliefs. So, is there a risk of physical or moral harm in taking or not taking this non-essential trip? I think that more accurately captures the variety of situations that people can find themselves in.
Thomas Tsai: I consider it less of an ethical question – good or bad – than a public health question about how best to minimize the risks to yourself and to others. As a vaccinated traveler, it is always important to follow the guidelines of airlines and local jurisdictions regarding masking, screening, and testing (in places that require it).
Traveling without being vaccinated puts yourself and others at risk. We are at a stage of the pandemic where the focus is on taking collective action that can reduce transmission to ensure that schools, workplaces and public places can remain open and minimize the risk of HIV infections. the Delta variant.
Saskia Popescu: I encourage people to consider where they are traveling from and the levels of transmission in the community. [in both places]. Make sure you are prepared to continue practicing infection prevention efforts, such as wearing a mask and reducing the time spent without a mask indoors. Also, if you are traveling after an exhibition or if you are not feeling well I would advise against – we need to be good stewards of public health.
Even though I am vaccinated, is it wrong for me to travel to a place with low vaccination rates?
Tsai: Again, I would think this maximizes actions known to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid. With over a year and a half of travel postponed due to Covid, there are very real reasons why individuals may want or need to travel even to areas with low vaccination rates – to see family, for example. As a public health researcher, I see trade-offs as one of the risks.
Traveling to an area of low vaccination (and high rates of Covid-19 cases) is inherently risky. While you cannot control the risk to yourself from the surrounding community, you can control the risk to yourself and the risk to others by making sure you are vaccinated, wearing masks in appropriate places, not not traveling if you have symptoms or if you have recent exposure and get tested frequently with antigen tests.
Hills : Should you take a full vacation for fun in a country with low vaccination rates because they literally can’t get vaccinated? No you should not. If not, it is useful to assess the situation in terms of physical and moral hazard.
OKAY. How do I do that?
Hills: You may ask yourself: who is threatened by my trip, where am I going and where I will return? What is the risk to the hourly employees of an airport who will serve me during this trip? Is there a high vaccination rate where I go? What is the current rate of Covid-19 infections where I am going and where I am from?
Also consider: what kind of risk do I take when I reach my destination? (Spending time at the family home with your parents is less risky than spending several days in a theme park, for example.) Should this trip take place now? How will I protect the people around me during my vacation and during the quarantine period upon my return?
Asking yourself these kinds of questions and answering them honestly will help you answer the question of whether this to travel now is ethical for you to take.
If I decide to travel, are there any activities I should avoid once I reach my destination?
Popescu: I think this is ideal for avoiding crowded indoor environments with insufficient ventilation. I try to focus on outdoor activities and be aware of local transmission rates where I may need to take other precautions.
Tsai: The activities depend on the transmission to the community level of the place you are visiting. If you are outdoors, generally safer; if you are indoors, generally less secure.
Hills: People should follow the strictest public health guidelines available, whether or not local public health officials have the same recommendations. If people have decided to travel, it is up to them to take responsibility for their actions and do their best to minimize the spread of the disease.
Now, all of that being said, I want to point out: the only reason we as individuals even have to ask ourselves if it’s ethical for us to take non-essential flights (or do a lot of others? things), it is because public health has failed. How to deal with a pandemic is not, and should not be, a matter for individuals. With that in mind, I even offer advice on how to make those choices ethically. Because at the end of the day, these aren’t the kind of individual ethical choices we should have to do.
Check your local COvid-19 travel rules here:
United States: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/covid-19-information1.html
United Kingdom: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus