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Travelling in corona times and post-covid era!

By Rahat Bashir

Last year, the virus was relatively new, and vaccines were unavailable, so people were confined in their homes but things have progressed a lot since then. People are looking forward to travelling in corona times for a little breather or to meet their loved ones both nationally and internationally.

Pakistan has just come out of the danger of an outrageous third wave, with the recent positivity rate declining to nearly 3 percent. It should not be forgotten that the virus is still there, maybe suppressed due to persistent vaccination and immunization, but not gone. The months of June and July are officially considered summer vacations and people living in different cities across Pakistan have travelling obsession to northern areas. They take international trips to escape the heat and relax with their families.

The vaccine chaos and confusion

The Government of Pakistan started a free vaccination rollout to its citizens in March 2021. Since then, the government has successfully administered 16,714,717 doses, which include both partial and complete vaccination. The government has been offering four vaccines free of cost; AstraZeneca which is made by University of Oxford and three Chinese vaccines which are Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSino. All citizens above the age of eighteen can get their doses from any vaccination centre near their area of residence. AstraZeneca is approved by 117 countries, Sinopharm is approved in 56 countries whereas Sinovac is approved by 33 countries with popular tourist destinations including Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Georgia, etc.

In the third week of June 2021, few major cities including Karachi and Hyderabad ran out of vaccination doses to which Special Assistant to Prime Minister of Pakistan, National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination’s, Dr Faisal Sultan reassured that the situation would improve. Last week, Pakistan received 2 million doses of Sinovac from China to boost the immunization process in the country. On Wednesday 30th July 2021, a protest was seen in Islamabad due to unavailability of vaccines.

According to Dawn, “Hundreds of people, who came to Islamabad from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for vaccination, blocked 9th Avenue for hours during a protest on Wednesday after being told by staff at F-9 vaccination centre that they ran short of Pfizer and AstraZeneca.” Later, it was handled by the authorities and the crowd dismissed.

Flights and Hotel Bookings

Due to the pandemic, the aviation industry just like any other industry, suffered major losses due to travel bans and route suspensions. The industry is trying to recover, and hence the rise in prices are seen in 2021. Here are some tips by airadvisor.com to find cheap flights.

  • never book flights last minute
  • book domestic flights – 44-50 days in advance
  • book international flights 3 weeks to 2.5 months in advance (based on destination)
  • book flights on weekends, especially on Sunday evenings
  • travel during the off-season
  • be flexible about travel dates (check for special events that might significantly raise ticket prices)

Similarly, the hotel rates are also rising, making the vacation even more expensive and unaffordable for many travelers. Most countries require a negative PCR Test report within three days of arrival.

A close-up visit to the Passu Glacier. The Karakoram Highway brings visitors within striking distance of some of the Hunza Valley’s most spectacular natural sights © Kit Yeng Chan

Here are a few guidelines for those wanting to travel during this summer. It is advisable that you only travel if you are fully vaccinated so that the chances of getting the virus are minimized.

  • It is important to check the rate of COVID 19 spread in your city and the city/cities you are travelling to, so that you are well-aware of the risk you are exposed to.
  • Keep a check on your flight status because flight delays/cancellations are very common these days especially if you are travelling in corona times through international airlines.
  • Assess which mode of transportation will be safe for you and your family. To travel locally, it is preferable to use private transport rather than public transport to avoid interaction with people.
  • Make sure that the hotel you book follows all SOPs and international safety standards. 
  • Prefer outdoor dining over indoor dining. The fresh air will reduce the chances of contamination.
  • Do not indulge into activities that are overcrowded. It is better to be safe than sorry.
  • Keep extra masks, sanitizers, and tissue in your handbags for quick access.
  • Do not obsess. Enjoy, you totally deserve it!

It is important not only to take care of yourself but also the people around you. Keep a six feet distance to ensure that the other person is safe too. And if you are unable to travel this summer, do not worry or lose hope because there are better times to come soon. Make a well-informed decision for yourself and your family so that you do not regret later.

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