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Travelling and transport are core components of commerce as they enable the movement of resources, labour, and finished goods around the world. However, when the Covid 19 virus began wreaking havoc in the world late last year, the global community realized that one of the best ways to manage the spread of the lethal viruses was restrictions on travelling. That meant that international flights would cease to expect those ferrying food and other essential materials. All travelling schedules involving road, railway, and waterways also reduced to the bare minimum to avoid congregating many people in a single spot and exposing them to the virus risks. Travelling restrictions reduced the spread of Covid 19 viruses by limiting exposure and preventing mass gathering, but also affected remote areas negatively due to panic travelling.
Travelling Restrictions and the Spread of Covid 19 Viruses
When it became clear that public transport was accelerating the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic from China to Asia and Europe, the public health stakeholders in various countries decided to limit travelling among their citizens. The nature of the Covid 19 virus enables it to spread from one person to others in congested places such as aircraft cabins, bus cabins, private cars, train stations, airports, and bus parks (Chinazzi et al., 2020).
When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or touches familiar places, they expose uninfected persons to inhaling these viruses or ingesting them. Many governments in Asia, Europe, American, and Africa realized that limiting public transport would reduce people travelling and also their chances of coming into contact with infected people. Additionally, reducing travelling would prevent uninfected people from getting the disease through various modes of travel.
Once a person becomes infected with the Covid 19 virus, they do not notice any immediate symptoms as the nature of the illness entails an initial period of asymptomatic incubation. The virus remains in the upper respiratory tract without causing any significant changes, and it is this characteristic that makes the illness highly virulent. People engaging in travel for leisure or work would continue their business while spreading the disease without their knowledge (Gatto et al., 2020).
Coughing, sneezing, and touching familiar places such as stair rails would enable the spread of the virus to uninfected individuals. However, travel restrictions enable the infected people to remain in relatively stationary places long enough for the virus to cease its asymptomatic phase without spreading to other people. The governments that enacted travelling restrictions early enough alongside other public health pandemic management steps such as contact tracing reduced the ability of the virus to spread widely.
During and after a significant pandemic, many people make travel plans for the sake of escaping and saving themselves or their families. However, the practice has been linked to significant rises of Covid 19 cases in remote areas where rural-urban migration is rare. These people escaping from cities and significant towns for fear of the pandemic may be infected but asymptomatic and unaware of their status (Wells et al., 2020). When they reach their family members upcountry or in remote farms, they infect them with the virus. Unfortunately, many of these newly infected people are old parents or grandparents whose immunity to flu-like diseases has faded off due to age. Travel restrictions prevent panic travelling, which exposes remote regions from becoming infected as urban dwellers flee from towns and cities.
Travel restrictions also reduce congestion in public transport facilities such as airports streamlining the logistics necessary for vaccine development and treatment. With fewer flights to manage, airports handle humanitarian requests of critical equipment such as ventilators, surgical gloves, masks, and sanitizing agent almost immediately (Wells et al., 2020).
The virologists, public health experts, and microbiologists working on vaccines mobilize faster due to less congested airports and roads. Evacuating seriously ill patients to better health care facilities becomes easier although it carries significant risk. Therefore, travel restrictions have the paradoxical effect of improving logistics for evacuating critically ill patients, mobilizing medical equipment, the relevant personnel, and a possible vaccine when available.
Some aspects of the strategies used in public health circles to contain the spread of a virulent pandemic like Covid 19 depend on travel restrictions. Tracing all the people an infected person has come into contact with is a complex and invasive exercise (Chinazzi et al., 2020). However, with the significant reduction in travelling, the process becomes more comfortable and more useful as most people remain in their residence. Therefore, travel restrictions optimize public health strategies aimed at managing the spread of such pandemics. Combining restriction on movement and contact tracing with effective treatment regimens has enabled many countries to flatten their once steep infection rate curves.
Although the Covid 19 pandemic has claimed more than half a million lives worldwide and infected more than 10 million people, the global community continues to manage its spread using public health strategies. Placing restrictions on free travel has proven to be an effective deterrent to the sharp rise in infection rates and mortality initially witnessed. Restrictions on travelling achieve their objective in several ways, key among being reducing infected people and uninfected ones from mingling in public places. However, restrictions also scared some infected asymptomatic people into travelling upcountry, causing the disease to spread even to the remotest regions of the world.
Chinazzi, M., Davis, J. T., Ajelli, M., Gioannini, C., Litvinova, M., Merler, S., Pastore y Piontti, A., Mu, K., Rossi, L., Sun, K., Viboud, C., Xiong, X., Yu, H., Halloran, M. E., Longini, I. M., & Vespignani, A. (2020). The effect of travel restrictions on the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Science, 368, eaba9757. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aba9757
Gatto, M., Bertuzzo, E., Mari, L., Miccoli, S., Carraro, L., Casagrandi, R., & Rinaldo, A. (2020). Spread and dynamics of the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy: Effects of emergency containment measures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(19), 10484-10491. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2004978117
Wells, C. R., Sah, P., Moghadas, S. M., Pandey, A., Shoukat, A., Wang, Y., Wang, Z., Meyers, L. A., Singer, B. H., & Galvani, A. P. (2020). Impact of international travel and border control measures on the global spread of the novel 2019 coronavirus outbreak. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(13), 7504-7509. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2002616117