Is There Really Such a Thing as Safe Travel During a Pandemic?

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COVID fatigue, emotional exhaustion, whatever you choose to call it—we’ve all experienced it at one point or another over the past ten months. The struggle to comply with public health guidelines while also maintaining our sanity has proved to be difficult. Some of us have found ways to cope, through exercise, baking, or meditation. However, far too many have turned to unsafe methods, namely travel. The pandemic has laid bare the massive social and economic inequalities between people, exposing the sickening display of privilege by those flouting their jet-setting lifestyles, as well as those who continue to promote travel even as the pandemic worsens. Not only are celebrities and the wealthy using “mental distress” to justify their vacations, but news publications are continuing to promote travel. The hypocrisy is remarkable. While everyday news outlets report on COVID’s destruction, they have also churned out articles that have encouraged their readers to travel. Many of these features target the upper echelons of society, further revealing the massive discrepancies between the haves and have-nots. The privileged have little excuse to take luxury vacations and then justify them with their pandemic fatigue when they have suffered the least. 

Even as COVID cases have surged during the past few months, vigilance to public health guidelines has weaned. It’s become increasingly common to go anywhere (be it outside or on social media) and find far too many people without masks and breaking government mandates for the sake of socializing. Celebrities who have continued to shamelessly flaunt their luxury vacations have proved just how out of touch they are with reality. In October, Kim Kardashian threw a party for her 40th birthday on a private island and proceeded to publicize it in a series of tweets, effectively normalizing this behavior. 

The privileged have little excuse to take luxury vacations and then justify them with their pandemic fatigue when they have suffered the least. 

For almost the entire year that we have been told to stay at home, people like the Kardashians and other social media influencers have been able to insulate themselves in the comfort of Hollywood Hills mansions, away from the traumatizing experiences of front-line workers. 

Perhaps the most upsetting culprits of this hypocrisy are news outlets themselves. As soon as COVID fatigue kicked off in May, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNN have continually published articles on how to travel “safely”, countries with lax COVID restrictions, and luxurious socially-distanced getaways. These articles demonstrate the hypocrisy of highly regarded publications in their attempt to justify travel while continuously reporting on COVID surges globally. 

The saying “ safe travels” is no longer applicable in the era of the pandemic. Even if one were to take precautions such as getting tested before and after flying, these tests are not one hundred percent accurate. In addition, you or others could contract the virus after being tested. What about the quarantine period? While quarantining is no doubt effective in limiting the spread of COVID, we must take into account that most travelers are quarantining with others, either in their family homes or hotels. As a result, there is a higher risk of the disease being transmitted to others. Even international sporting events that have implemented incredibly strict COVID restrictions have had a growing number of cases connected to them. The idea of creating a virus-free bubble is flawed and impossible regardless of whether one stays at home or travels abroad. Given the fact that one can easily become infected doing mundane activities like grocery shopping, traveling internationally for non-essential activities like vacations is playing a game of Russian roulette with oneself and with others.  

The saying “safe travels” is no longer applicable in the era of the pandemic.

Perhaps the most dangerous part of this pandemic has been not COVID itself, but the plague of contradictory information and the normalization of unsafe behavior. If recreational travel and unjustifiable excuses persist, our lockdown lifestyles will continue. We have seen this already, as it has been almost a year since countries shut down and the public has been told to stay at home. Most importantly, we need to put the concerns of those who have suffered the most from this pandemic before those who have been lucky enough to avoid the traumas that COVID-19 has caused. Even if you have the option and the means to enjoy these freedoms, it does not imply that it is morally right to do so. If this pandemic can teach us anything, it can be an effective lesson on empathy and selfishness. 

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