This post is updated regularly to reflect the latest news and science around the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in the UK.
The UK may have come out of its second lockdown, but restrictions still remain in place to control the spread of COVID-19. Families across the country have relied on digital forms of communication to keep in touch for the past nine months, but nothing can replace our natural instinct of physical contact and comfort. So is it safe to travel home to quarantine with family during the coronavirus outbreak?
What are the risks of travelling home during the coronavirus pandemic?
As of Dec. 8, the government advises “against all non-essential international travel to some countries and territories” to help stop the spread of the outbreak. The same goes for travelling anywhere in the UK, and while there are currently no restrictions in England, there are in the highest tiers in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Wales, people are allowed to travel from the country to “tier one and two areas in England and Scotland”, but are unable to visit Northern Ireland.
Between Dec. 23 and 27, the four nations of the UK will lift some social contact restrictions for families to form social bubbles over Christmas. Yourself and people from no more than three other households will be able to form a social bubble for the allotted period, and you can travel between tiers and UK nations to form this bubble.
Despite restrictions being lifted over the festive period, there are still risks around travelling home during the pandemic. If you rely on public transport, the risk of catching the virus depends on how well you can social distance. As BBC News notes, being in an enclosed space on a crowded bus, train, or plane can increase the risk of infection. To stay as safe as you can while travelling, it’s advised that you travel during off-peak times, take less busy routes, stick to contactless payments if you can, and follow social distancing and face covering guidelines.
What are the risks to elderly parents and vulnerable family members?
Throughout the country people are being instructed to stay at home as much as possible, whether they are with or without symptoms. The Guardian reports that the virus seems to be worst affecting those over 60, and even more so those over 80. Those who are below 50 and do not have underlying health conditions usually experience far milder symptoms and have a low mortality rate, as the BBC reports, but there is no guarantees about how the virus will affect each individual.
While your elderly relatives will soon be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus jab as part of the mass vaccination program, the government still advises to adhere by the tier restrictions in your area. Especially as the majority of the population won’t be receiving the two doses of the vaccine until mid-2021.
How can you reduce the risk of passing the virus on to others?
- Follow social distancing and face covering guidelines, and check what regulations you need to follow depending on what tier your local area is in.
- Wash your hands with soap and water as often as possible. Scrub them for at least 20 seconds; there are lots of celebrity videos out there to jazz up your hand washing routine.
- Carry hand sanitiser for times where you can't access a bathroom. Ensure your sanitiser contains at least 60% alcohol, and, again, rub in for 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your face when your hands aren't clean.
- If you need to cough or sneeze, do it into a tissue or your elbow. Throw tissues away immediately after use and then wash your hands.
- Avoid the vulnerable and anyone showing symptoms, and self-isolate if you do come into contact.
Best practices before travelling home
To avoid the possibility of spreading the virus, especially if you’re asymptomatic, it’s best to follow a few simple precautions before travelling home.
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been contacted by Test and Trace, book a free test immediately through the gov.uk.
- If you’ve arrived in the UK from another high-risk country, are planning to leave the UK, or have been asked by your employer to get a test despite not having symptoms, you can’t have a free test. You can pay for a private one, which you can get in-store at selected Boots pharmacies for £120.
- You can also quarantine for two weeks before travelling home if you’re able, avoiding any unnecessary contact before leaving to meet up with family.
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If you or someone you’ve been in close contact with appears to have shown or be showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing, visit the NHS website in the UK to find out the next steps you should take or visit the CDC website in the U.S. for up-to-date information and resources. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here, and UK-specific updates on coronavirus here.
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