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More destinations are scrapping Covid-19-related tests and quarantines for fully vaccinated travellers.
If you’re reading this, you’re already a professional traveller. And,
as professional travellers, we certainly have found ourselves in
stressful situations on the road. Tight airline connections, lost
luggage, no GPS signal — these hiccups are all part of the adventure.
But these days, even for the most intrepid of us out there, nothing
seems to cause anxiety quite like the threat of that little pink
positive strip on a re-entry Covid-19 test.
I’m speaking from personal experience. After a whirlwind winter
spending three months in Thailand, a last-minute decision to visit
Ireland on the way back to the United States left my fiancé and me
stranded with Covid-19 for a week in Dublin, unable to return home
because of the re-entry testing requirements.
was an unfortunate end to an otherwise fantastic trip — one that cost
us thousands of dollars in additional accommodations, airline fare
changes, food and more Covid-19 tests. Since the beginning of the
pandemic, I have been a staunch supporter of masks, testing and
travelling as safely as possible, especially while vaccines were not
readily available and deadly variants were causing overcrowded ICU
While hindsight is 20/20, it doesn't seem that the difference in regulations has yielded much difference in terms of contagion or deaths, especially in the post-vaccine era.
But this recent experience in Ireland shined a very bright light on
the many, many holes and — some may argue — antiquated measures that
exist in current travel requirements, particularly the requirement to
provide a negative Covid-19 test to re-enter the U.S.
A lack of uniformity among Covid-19 rules and requirements
It was a recipe for disaster once the world started reopening at
different rates and with different requirements. How could it not have
been? One country completely lifts restrictions, while another still
requires stringent testing or quarantine.
happened early in the pandemic, particularly with Americans returning
from Mexico, which has essentially been open to tourism, without
restrictions, since the initial outbreak. Millions of people from around
the world made Mexico their vacation destination of choice for the last
two years, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that it was one of
the easiest destinations to travel to.
But this left hundreds of travellers stranded when they had to
provide a negative test to return to the U.S. Inevitably, they would
contract Covid-19 while on vacation, or just as likely, they would
contract Covid-19 prior to arriving in Mexico and would start testing
positive in Mexico. Unable to return home, they would have to scramble
at the last minute to figure out where and how to stay. (Many
all-inclusive resorts side-stepped this hiccup by offering to put
Covid-19-positive travellers up at no additional cost while they awaited
a negative result so that they could return to their home countries.)
On this most recent trip, we started our adventure at the end of
December, when we left for Thailand in the midst of an Omicron surge. We
had to show negative PCR tests, get travel insurance, provide proof of
vaccination and commit to a 24-hour quarantine to await the results of a
PCR test on arrival. By the time we left Thailand in March, many of its
travel requirements had eased, and we were on our way to Ireland, a
country that had recently dropped every single Covid-19 travel
restriction (including mandatory masks and all entry requirements).
successfully evading Covid-19 for three months in Thailand and adhering
to masks, vaccine mandates, curfews and occupancy capacities, Covid-19
found us in Ireland. It came as a considerable shock, seeing as we’re
vaccinated and boosted — plus, I’d had Delta in March 2021. While my
fiancé had a cough for a day or two, I had no symptoms at all.
The issue was not with contracting Covid-19 — it was with being
unable to get back to the U.S. because of it. Inherently, this rule is
not something I disagree with. But these testing requirements seem
outdated, and almost nonsensical, for a country that has no problem
allowing people to return to work in person and, most recently, go on
planes and to airports unmasked.
Why bother requiring a negative Covid-19 test to return home, when
preventative and protection measures at home are inconsistent? It adds
stress and costly expenses that, at this point, feel wildly unnecessary.
How to help your clients prepare for the possibility of getting stuck abroad
Because there is no consistency anywhere in the world, the best way
to prepare yourself and your clients right now is to constantly check
the current rules and regulations — which continue to change by the day.
Many countries have remained consistent; those that are freshly
reopening or newly dropping mandates may pose more of a risk.
I will say that our three months in Thailand never caused a problem
for us. Because of the mask mandates and other requirements, we knew we
would be able to enter other countries that also had travel
restrictions. It’s the travel between countries that are not aligned on
requirements where the risk continues to be greatest, and as countries
drop their travel restrictions, that means that there are many more
places where it’s possible for Americans to get stuck.
"These requirements definitely need to go," said Katie Lynn Reynolds,
a travel advisor with Travelmation. "As cases get lower, we do not need
them. It's causing more stress than it's worth. Sitting on edge waiting
to hear if a client is negative, or if I have to spend three hours
cancelling flights, is not fun for anyone. Most people have common sense
and won't travel if they don't feel well — unless they have to. I think
masks should stick around as an option and not be shamed, though."
"At this point, I don’t think the U.S. testing requirements for entry
make much sense,” he added. "While hindsight is 20/20, it doesn't seem
that the difference in regulations has yielded much difference in terms
of contagion or deaths, especially in the post-vaccine era."
Source: TravelAge West