Travel TrendsA medical perspective on vaccine passports and safety processes the travel industry has put in place.

Doc, is it safe to travel again?

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“With the right pieces in place – passes, pre-departure testing, testing on arrival, alternate day testing – it can be done," says Dr Walter Lim of Fullerton Health.
“With the right pieces in place – passes, pre-departure testing, testing on arrival, alternate day testing – it can be done," says Dr Walter Lim of Fullerton Health. Photo Credit: Web in Travel

Around this time last year I interviewed a psychiatrist Dr Adrian Wang for one of WIT's early virtual events. We were in the initial throes of the pandemic and all of us were gripped by fear at this new unknown that had descended upon us, and robbed us of the freedom to move and travel at will.

I recall his advice – start a new routine, stick to it, have something positive to look forward to each day and that “this pandemic will end”. Which is true, just that we don’t know when.

While we have had plenty of time to manage fear, we now have to learn to manage the uncertainty and not knowing when this will end, and when we can travel to visit our families, friends and places.

Which is why 12 months on, I found myself interviewing a medical doctor at our Travel Roadshow last month. I never thought I’d do that in my career but that’s what Covid has done – broaden our world mentally even as it has narrowed it physically.

I felt it important to get a medical perspective on the whole issue of travel passes or vaccine passports, however you want to call them but they are the keys to restarting cross-border travel in Asia, as well as near-normal life at home, wherever you are.

Dr Walter Lim says collaboration has been critical in tackling this crisis. “Airlines have played a big part in transporting vaccines.”
Dr Walter Lim says collaboration has been critical in tackling this crisis. “Airlines have played a big part in transporting vaccines.”

Dr Walter Lim says collaboration has been critical in tackling this crisis. “Airlines have played a big part in transporting vaccines.”

Dr Walter Lim of Fullerton Health was pretty positive about the situation in Singapore – the progress of vaccination which might see the city state reach herd immunity earlier than the third quarter originally projected and the return of international events such as the World Economic Forum in August.

He said that Singapore can play a big role in showing how the different pieces of the puzzle work. “With the right pieces in place – passes, pre-departure testing, testing on arrival, alternate day testing – it can be done.”

As for neighbouring countries like Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, he said, “The momentum to start [vaccinations] is there. The ball has started rolling."

As for how much data would be required for governments to have confidence that vaccines work to one, prevent infection and serious illness despite exposure to infected persons and two, prevent infected persons transmitting to others, he said, “Most vaccines would reduce the viral load and the viral load determines the risk of infections."

While it’s been shown that so far the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines do reduce viral loads, “we have to wait for a few more months before conclusive data, but it is looking optimistic, probable”.

Speaking of travel passes, he said “whichever pass it is isn’t important, as long as it’s easy for providers (such as his organisation) to use”.

He said the travel industry – airlines, hotels – had done an excellent job in putting in place safety processes throughout the whole customer experience and that has been reassuring to customers like him.

What I found encouraging was when I asked him when he thought he’d be able to travel again. Having been vaccinated, he said, “It might be towards the later part of the second half when I will do some business travel".

Will you travel as much as you did before for business, I asked? Isn’t Zoom good enough?

He laughed and said Zoom was something to be done in moderation. “It’s been quite a while, we do have to reach out to colleagues. There is pent-up demand even for business travel. Face time is important. We do want to reach out to our regional counterparts and in different industries like insurance, to work with us.”

He said collaboration has been critical in tackling this crisis. “Airlines have played a big part in transporting vaccines. In healthcare, it’s not just medical tourism – we are all linked somehow. It’s a great thing to see the whole ecosystem come together at this time.”

As for leisure, he’s dreaming of snow – Hokkaido being his desired destination.

What’s yours?

Source: Web in Travel

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