The COVID Blame Game: Why Travel Shouldn’t be Your Target
January 18, 2021 Marsha Mowers
Nearly one year into the COVID pandemic, Canadians are getting what’s been dubbed “COVID fatigue.” We’re tired of restrictions, wanting desperately to return to normal and we’re mad we’re not there yet. And for a lot of people, their first thing to blame is travel.
After all, how did the virus get here from China to begin with?
On March 21, the Government of Canada prohibited all non-essential travel into Canada.
The proportion of COVID-19 cases associated with international travel was at 21.7% in March 2020. By May, with border measures taken, it was down to 0.4%, Canadian statistics show that figure increased slightly over the summer months but remains low today – about 2 %.
With a province wide lockdown underway in Ontario, many people are looking for reasons why we’re where we are in terms of not getting back to normal yet.
Could this have been prevented? Did the government fail to act early enough or make the right calls?
It’s a natural human response to a crisis.
If you look at the news lately, you’ll see a lot of fingers being pointed at politicians, and even at regular folks who use the airport. The phrase “travel shaming” has entered the lexicon.
There’s no doubt that the virus spread from China via international travel. That’s an issue with the spread of any virus in modern times; our mobility and the ability to travel when we want and where we want has made the spread of viruses that much easier.
The thing is, however, that travel is not a major cause of the spread of COVID-19. In fact, it’s actually rated about the lowest on the list.
The issue for Canadians and others shouldn’t be whether we cease to travel or bring in international travel bans such as the one that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears to be mulling over, but why protocols for travel during COVID haven’t been instituted across the country.
While the perception of travel as a lead cause of COVID continues, the facts show that once proper protocols were in place, the spread of the virus dropped significantly.
Canadian airlines immediately instituted cleaning/sanitization protocols at the start of the pandemic. HEPA filters, which are hospital grade, trap more than 99% of airborne particles and refresh air 20-30 times per hour. Every Canadian airline has instituted cleaning protocols which match those of hospital settings.
Testing programs have begun at Calgary International Airport and at Toronto Pearson. Edmonton will begin testing arriving passengers on February 1, it was announced this week.
To add to the airline protocols, most destinations are requiring proof of a negative test to enter. Which means everyone you’re on that plane with has a negative test result. Yes, someone could develop the virus between their test date and the day they fly. And there could be false negatives. But the risk of that is very low. Just remember that the next time you’re in line at a grocery store with strangers or on public transportation.
Meanwhile, our Long Term Care Homes and hospitals have been struggling for years – COVID has only highlighted just how badly.
There are also people living paycheck to paycheck or less, and are the ones who are keeping many of our essential services running. We had, at least here in Toronto, neighbourhoods who were on fire with cases, reporting 10X the number of positive cases than any others in the summer, while the rest of us were excited to finally be able to sit on a patio and enjoy a socially-distanced lunch.
We ignored the major sources of spread of COVID from the beginning of the pandemic and now, people are looking to blame the travel industry – the one industry that has instituted more restrictions than any of the other government-led areas.
We should be funneling our blame for COVID-19 towards the real causes, and towards the lack of government help for some of society’s most vulnerable citizens. That’s the critical issue here, not travel.
About the Author
Marsha Mowers made the move to editorial side of travel after many years working in destination marketing where she represented places such as NYC and Las Vegas. Her experience on “both sides” of the industry has put her in a unique position to provide valuable context to both readers and trade partners. Marsha also serves as Director of Content for TravelPulse Canada