Lockdowns, face masks, social distancing — just a few words most of us had never heard before March 2020. The world has changed in the last two years, and we have had to change and adapt to it. The pandemic has changed the way we live, work, and travel significantly. With that in mind, our team of security experts have come up with four lessons to take away from the past two years of COVID-19.
1. No trip is guaranteed
Flexible travel plans are more important than ever in the uncertain global environment of a major pandemic. There are best practices you can employ to make sure most of your trips pass off smoothly without too many complications.
First, always ensure travel is booked on flexible, refundable, or changeable tickets. Use a credit card that has built-in insurance for cancelled flights and check if it offers any coverage for COVID-19 related cancellations. Often these will not be covered, but you may rebook your ticket on a different plan if you’ve purchased something flexible.
Prioritise journeys with fewer stopovers, as transit points can sometimes have their own, separate COVID-19 restrictions. Check travel restrictions two weeks, one week, and then 5 days before departure. This will ensure there is enough time to arrange the required PCR tests and complete the passenger locator forms.
Remember that testing positive while travelling is always a possibility and think about what you and your traveller will do if that happens. Consulting with a reliable medical and security partner is always recommended.
2. Tailored risk assessment
No two trips or travellers are the same. While one trip may be smooth, another trip may be disrupted because the traveller does not know the proper requirements. That’s why it is so important to get a tailored risk assessment before all trips, not just about travel risks on the ground and mitigation measures, but also based on the traveller’s profile. This includes their nationality, origin country, vaccination status, whether they are travelling with children, the purpose of their travel, and any relevant stopovers.
A solution such as International SOS’s COVID Trip Planner can help with peace of mind. It allows you to enter all relevant information and pulls out up to date travel restrictions for inbound and outbound travel that match your individual profile. It also pays off to have experts available that you can call at any time.
3. Flexible escalation planning
A key part of arranging travel and moving staff is planning for the worst-case scenario, which has been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. If possible, you should not wait until the last minute to explore movement and evacuation options for staff who do not wish to remain abroad.
While some border closures and travel bans have been unexpected, they are becoming more predictable. We have learned how to identify trends in the pandemic that would foresee harsher restrictions. For example, the discovery of a new variant will often bring about short-term closures of borders in countries that are affected.
However, we know that the border closures will not last long. A prime example is Morocco, which had its borders closed for most of 2020, and closed again on November 2021 because of the Omicron variant. However, it recently reopened after just two months of closure.
Countries are now focusing more on testing and quarantine restrictions, rather than broad border closures, to tackle variants and the spread of the pandemic. Although several European countries temporarily banned travel from African nations because of Omicron as well, these bans lasted only a few weeks.
It is important to communicate clear information to staff so that they do not feel concerned when they hear information about border closures or new restrictions. It is always worth exploring options to bring people home through commercial means with help from your trusted security and medical partner.
4. Get a reliable partner to fill gaps
It is not always possible to think of everything or prepare for every eventuality, and that is why having a reliable security and medical partner in your corner can fill important gaps and mitigate risk. Such a partner provides a global team to advise on questions around travel restrictions, security risks because of COVID-19, medical concerns, and referrals to clinics and doctors.
Your medical and security partner can assist with arranging travel for individuals who wish to leave a country because of restrictions or concerns about health systems due to COVID-19. Dedicated teams monitor changes to restrictions 24/7 to give the most updated advice, while combining this with the security and medical environments of these countries and how they overlap.
Even when travel is not happening, there are many key areas of maintaining business continuity and supporting workforce around the world that can be supported by a trusted partner.
For more information on how International SOS can support your workforce and travellers in a post-COVID-19 world, contact us today.