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Traveling Internationally, Are You Worried About …

Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 10:42 AM
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Traveling Internationally, Are You Worried About …

August 30th, DH and I are scheduled to leave Kauai for a Safari in Kenya. We will fly to LAX where we will overnight; then Qatar Airlines to DOH (Qatar), another overnight in a hotel that can be accessed w/o leaving the airport; then a flight to Nairobi.

We know there are risks involved. We are both fully vaccinated, but at best, the vaccines are touted as being approximately 90% effective. That means that theoretically, if we are exposed to the virus we would have a 1 out of 10 chance of contracting it – although we presume the symptoms would be mild. I’ve read that less than 1% of Kenya’s population has been vaccinated. While those in the travel sector have a higher rate of vaccination, we would be interacting with passengers in multiple airports and guests at multiple hotels. But getting sick is not my main concern (although maybe it should be!).

We will need to be tested prior to leaving Kenya. (This can done during the Safari.) One of our fears is that we test positive (even if we are asymptomatic) and are required to quarantine in a Nairobi hotel. Or that we develop symptoms on one of the flights home and have to quarantine in Qatar or Los Angeles. As the rules stand now, we will need an additional negative test in Los Angeles to bypass a 10-day quarantine when we arrive in Hawaii.

I am less concerned about getting sick than getting stuck somewhere at great expense. Are we being silly? Would you go ahead with the trip—or postpone it (again)?
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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 11:52 AM
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I don't know, I don't think you are being "silly". What baffles me is how many people (including the talking heads of CDC head whom I don't care for, Fauci, etc., smart people) always talk about how if you are vaccinated you are totally safe. They always present it that way.

The fact is the efficacy varies by brand (both top ones were about 94-95 pct OVERALL), but also by age group which people ignore. The Moderna was only about 85 pct effective for seniors, I believe. I think Pfizer did not report the stats by age. This makes perfect sense just because immune systems are not as strong as you age, which is exactly why there is a stronger type of flu vaccine for seniors.

I have also read the stats on cases of those who got the vaccine (sometimes called "breakthrough), and in fact, 7 people have DIED who were fully vaccinated. Now amongst the millions who have received it, of course that is very low, but the point it, it is NOT impossible. I think the rate of those who contracted it and had to be hospitalized was maybe 2 pct? I'll have to check if I can find that. Anyway, so over all ages, it is 95 pct effective in preventing noticeable COVID as I understand it (meaning not just that you get COVID but have noticeable symptoms). Although it is hard to even find clarification as to what that efficacy means, does it mean any symptom at all like a slight headache or does it have to be fairly sick? Who knows. That rate is about 90 pct for those with some preexisting condition, BTW (obesity, etc)..

In any case, I am leery of flying yet also, I do travel but by car. And I have not stepped foot in a restaurant yet, nor gym, etc. I was just seeing my cardiologist yesterday who is about 70 yo and healthy and he said he had just visited a restaurant recently AND he walked out because they had terrible COVID protocols. He said people weren't separated enough and they had some joke of plexiglass barriers that had all kinds of air space which I've seen also. Soon where was live all regulations are off, so there won't be much masking, either, in restaurants, etc. He was not looking forward to that. So he is a physician and doesn't run around acting like he is superman and that it is impossible for him to get COVID.

Personally, sure, the odds are that you would not contract it and if you did, you'd have mild symptoms. A lot of people overestimate small probabilities which is odd in terms of this vaccine, as scientists say that to explain lottor/powerball fever (when odds of winning are like 1 in a trillion or whatever) and yet a 5 pct chance of getting seriously sick with COVID doesn't faze a lot of people. Go figure.
I am going to try to get the nerve up to go to Europe, nonstop only (flight about 7 hrs) in the Fall. But I do not think I would do that to a country with such a low vaccine rate as Kenya. Plus that means there will be a lot of people like that on the plane, I bet, if you are going to that area.

I personally would NOT be going to Africa this August.
https://www.voanews.com/covid-19-pan...s-experts-warn

Are you aware of what's going on in Kenya in terms of infection rate, hospitals filling up, supply shortages, etc?
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/22/w...-variants.html

You could, of course, test positive and just not get seriously ill. As you said, that doesn't seem as unlikely given Kenya is a hotbed of COVID apparently. Then you have the quarantine issue.

I work in public health and in biostats/epidemiology as a consultant, mainly doing reimbursement issues, , which is why I tend to read the scientific articles and stats more, I guess.

here are the latest stats from the CDC, I see the death rate for breakthrough infections has gone up, which surprises me.
If you can't read this, it says as of end of May there were 10,262 breakthrough COVID cases in the US, of which 27 pct were symptomatic, 10 pct were hospitalized and 2 pct died.
Obviously, those are very low risks as about 150M US residents are now fully vaccinated. But tell that to the families of those who died.

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7021e3.htm

I don't mean to be an alarmist, I just don't believe in taking risks like that just for a holiday, that's all. Not to a country with such a bad COVID/vaccine situation. I would wait until next year or something.





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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Christina View Post
. . . I just don't believe in taking risks like that just for a holiday, that's all. Not to a country with such a bad COVID/vaccine situation. I would wait until next year or something.
I agree with that. I've been as relentless a traveler as anyone & I have no great urge to go anywhere for the time being. But that's me.

In "normal" times, whenever we leave home there's a chance we'll incur an expense for some unknown occurrence. The difference right now is that some of the possibilities are known. So you just must either resign yourself to those possibilities & the related expense or wait. It's pretty straightforward.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 12:59 PM
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I am less concerned about getting sick than getting stuck somewhere at great expense. Are we being silly? Would you go ahead with the trip—or postpone it (again)?

That's a tough one Songdoc. My husband just passed on his usual trip to Bandos for the second year in a row over the same concerns - although vaccinated, he'd still need to get a test on entry and departure, and if he were to get sick or forced to quarantine, he'd be on an expensive island for god knows how long with god knows what kind of medical care. In the end he decided it just wasn't worth the risk and hassle, but the rest of the group has decided to go forward (trip is in July).

We've booked a trip to Switzerland in late September and are waffling about booking a trip to Austria and Italy for December, but we're hesitant to put more money out there at the moment. We're hedging our bets...we've booked accommodation over Christmas in Salzburg (refundable until mid-December) to ensure we'll have a place to stay over the holidays, yet we're not ready to commit to flights yet. I've never booked accommodation before flights before, but this year is going to be a bit different.

As your trip isn't until late August, I'd just sit tight for a while and see what happens.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 01:13 PM
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On Safari most of your time will be spent outdoors, or in your own lodging. Also, will most of the travelers you interact with on Safari also be vaccinated? And COVID tested? If you can wear a GOOD N-95 mask on the plane and in the airport (although difficult for such a long flight) Ventilation, masking and social distancing around others, plus your own vaccination, with testing..I think your risk of infection is minimal.

I had not been inside a restaurant for over a year but recently was in Alaska (high rate of vaccination though) and it was amazing how quickly I got used to the old normal. After a few days I predict you will relax.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 02:03 PM
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I'm really appreciating the responses and the different perspectives and opinions.
I will get a N-95 mask. I can't imagine how I could find out if the other travelers on Safari will be vaccinated. This is a customized tour and we will be at 4 different Safari camps--each requiring a flight on a small bush plane. I assume we will have different people at each camp.

Being on Kauai, I have felt completely safe. We have had a total of two deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Still, I was VERY cautious. Now, being vaccinated, maybe I have a false sense of security.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 03:18 PM
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I was talking to the administrator on our space available board. We both have commercial flights for the fall. She is an ER nurse in Virginia. She is going to do blood work before trip to check antibodies are still going strong but is like me and would like a booster since we had ours so early. She had her second in January. I am not planning to be in tight spaces with anyone except the plane and will wear a mask on every type of transportation. I am not crazy about a crowded metro. I bought the insurance to get home for a medical emergency through USAA. I am still watching the variant as that could really put everything in a spin. I am so mad that people that can get the vaccine won't. Selfish people. Look at the mess in manatee county. They should have known better.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 04:33 PM
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Re the tour I was just on in Alaska, it was a small group of 9 including guide. The tour company required everyone to be vaccinated and for the leg to Nome we had our cards (you have to quarantine and/or test if you didn't have one, there was a person checking at the exit door from Nome airport). At the start of the tour we all decided that since we were vaxed we were okay with not wearing masks inside the van, as well as eating inside restaurants. So I guess you could always ask your driver and guide, as well as anyone you share a vehicle or table with, whether they are vaccinated. And mask or not, accordingly.

When I was on my Kruger trip, many of the dining venues had decks or other open air seating so that may be an option. As would be taking meals back to your room.

We wore masks at the airport, on the plane and in retail stores, as required by signage.

The safari vehicles have ventilation and if you use an Uber they keep windows open (Uber was popular in South Africa, I assume you already have private transfers lined up so could also follow that protocol along with wearing masks etc.)

Last edited by mlgb; Jun 23rd, 2021 at 04:38 PM.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 07:16 PM
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Safari in Kenya remains a treasured memory. We did not fly between camps, rather traveled in vans. I would love to repeat this trip, but would not do it this year. I was actually on a Zoom call with international colleagues in Africa just this morning and based on what they reported I would postpone. Sorry to be a wet blanket, but postpone does not mean cancel.
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Old Jun 25th, 2021, 07:57 AM
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If the situation is serious enough where you intend to fly (as opposed to some other parts of Kenya) I would hope the tour operator or "universe" would again cancel for you.

I start reading BBC, Al Jazeerah etc leading up to international trips.
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Old Jun 25th, 2021, 02:52 PM
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mlgb: the Safari planner gives me the impression that things are fine. He said that many people in the travel sector are vaccinated and they follow strict safety protocols. They are currently operating, but are willing to let me reschedule.

If I don't reschedule, I will need to arrange vaccinations in the next few weeks. I also have house/cat-sitters to deal with, who plan to fly here from the mainland. (Use of my oceanfront condo and car in exchange for taking care of three sweet cats.) I can't leave them until the last minute.I am not feeling optimistic. I am far less concerned about the Safari itself and more concerned about all the travelers I would be exposed to at the airport and hotels.
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Old Jun 25th, 2021, 03:24 PM
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Songdoc, if you know your camps, look to see if they are on social media. All of the camps I’ve stayed at have posted on Facebook or Instagram when their staff got the vaccines. That may give you a degree of comfort.

I’m not traveling anywhere internationally until next year at the earliest, precisely for the reasons you mention (quarantine, expense of quarantine, constantly changing rules). As much as I desperately want to go back to Kenya, and I’d love to both support the camps I love and take advantage of lighter visitor traffic, I don’t feel it’s worth the hassle, stress and risk now. I go to Kenya to relax and let my mind go. If I had to worry about other guests being vaccinated, getting test results in time and all that, it would defeat the purpose with a very high price tag.
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Old Jun 25th, 2021, 05:49 PM
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Certainly reasonable to be concerned Songdoc with the long flights half way around the world and the "Delta" AKA Indian Variant in play. Although all of those people flying to Europe...also exposed?
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Old Jun 26th, 2021, 06:19 AM
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I don’t agree with Christina that Fauci and other experts state that you are “totally” protected when vaccinated. What I hear (I’m Canadian but watch CNN a lot) is that vaccines are “highly effective” and that it is “very safe” to get vaccinated with “minimal risk”. What I don’t hear discussed often is that it is not the vaccines themselves that protect you against the disease or it’s severity, but the antibodies that your body produces in response to the vaccine. This varies depending on many factors, known and unknown, including age and general health. I’m a fully vaccinated senior with a usually robust immune system and no significant underlying conditions. What odds a would bookmaker give me? No matter how much you slice and dice it it really comes down to making a personal assessment of your risk and deciding whether you can tolerate it. Personally, I’m not considering rebooking my cancelled trip to Madagascar in the foreseeable future, but when Australia opens its borders I’ll have my 32 hour flight booked in a nano second. In the meantime, I’m thinking about Hawaii.

Good luck with your decision making Songdoc. An N95 mask only provides maximum protection if it is properly fitted, so don’t overlook that detail.
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Old Jun 28th, 2021, 10:04 PM
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I voiced my concerns to the Safari planner and received this response:

Like many countries in the world vaccination programmes are still in their infancy (USA and UK are well ahead of most of the rest of the world) and developing countries in particular do not have the wealth or health infrastucture to achieve what the USA and UK have on vaccinations. But the Kenya vaccination programme is underway and travel sector workers are being prioritised. Many of the Gamewatchers and Porini camp staff have been vaccinated under this priority programme.

Vaccinations are of course only one lens to assess the covid situation in a country. In that context here is a link to the US Embassy in Nairobi: COVID 19 INFORMATION - U.S. Embassy in Kenya (usembassy.gov)

The figures of COVID cases and deaths are shown and I do think it’s worth putting these in context. Kenya has a population of 50-55 million, so the overall numbers of cases and deaths on a ‘per million of population’ basis are still much lower than the UK, most of the rest of Europe and indeed the USA. There are lots of reasons for this, possibly: Kenya has a very young population, with the exception of 2-3 major cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa there are not a lot of densely crowded population centres, and Kenya shut its borders very quickly in March 2020 and when they reopened then in August 2020 every arriving person had to present evidence of a negative COVID test.

I have visitors from the USA arriving later this week and regularly throughout June and beyond. My most recent clients visited in March (April and May is always quiet as it’s the rains in East Africa); a couple in their 60s from Ohio. Here is their trip report: Gamewatchers Safaris (Nairobi) - 2021 All You Need to Know Before You Go (with Photos) - Nairobi, Kenya | Tripadvisor

The only things that has changed substantively since I wrote that is that the CDC has reduced the travel advisory to Kenya to Level 2, below many countries including lower than the UK.

I have had 9 sets of clients in Kenya this month, almost all from the USA and none have expressed any regrets, but ultimately these are personal decisions and part od the experience should be looking forward to the trip. And if you are anxious you will not look forward to it I guess. I would have no issues helping with a postponement if that is preferred.

* * *

So ... I guess I just have to assess how much risk I am comfortable with. At the moment, I think I would vote "YES," DH would not--and I wouldn't want to go if he were uncomfortable.
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Old Jun 29th, 2021, 04:54 AM
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You make a great point songdoc, it's not what other travelers are or aren't comfortable with. It's what you and Mr. Songdoc are comfortable with. While your safari planner makes a good case, ultimately it's your risk assessment and whether you or DH would be able to relax in the situation enough not to worry about it all.
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Old Jun 30th, 2021, 07:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Songdoc View Post
......I am less concerned about getting sick than getting stuck somewhere at great expense. Are we being silly? Would you go ahead with the trip—or postpone it (again)?
Since you are asking what others would do in your situation, I would go if I had fully comprehensive travel insurance which covers COVID, quarantine costs, medical expenses/medical evacuation to mitigate the risk of unexpected expenses due to COVID infection whilst travelling. I have travelled a fair bit since COVID started and am travelling longhaul in August, just for a holiday. The safari planner has provided their perspective on the matter which seems reassuring. life has to continue and I think COVID is something we have to live with for years to come.

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Old Jun 30th, 2021, 12:33 PM
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balthy: <I would go if I had fully comprehensive travel insurance which covers COVID, quarantine costs, medical expenses/medical evacuation to mitigate the risk of unexpected expenses due to COVID infection whilst traveling>

I would have to check my policy. But my guess is that most policies would not cover all of those contingencies during a pandemic. But apparently, your policy does.

<life has to continue and I think COVID is something we have to live with for years to come.>

I agree. But in years to come, we will hopefully have much higher percentages of vaccinated people -- and medications that will make contracting COVID something that is just a minor inconvenience.

As I stated above, I think I would go, but I probably won't because Mr. Songdoc is so concerned. If we went and contracted COVID I'd hear about it for the rest of my life!!! ;-)
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Old Jun 30th, 2021, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Songdoc View Post
I would have to check my policy. But my guess is that most policies would not cover all of those contingencies during a pandemic. But apparently, your policy does.
Yes apparently it does have COVID cover inc medevac and quarantine expense cover plus standard medical expenses for other things, I took it out especially in order to get approval to enter the country I am travelling to, they require specific COVID cover & I need to upload the policy wording to a portal along with the PCR test and I get some sort of approval (hopefully) so I can board the flight. There are quite a few insurance companies that offer it. Even if this insurance was not mandatory I would take it out for this particular trip.

But it is understandable if one in the party is not comfortable travelling then postponing is better, that and the various entry requirements for Kenya (extra steps to verify the PCR test certificate, possible yellow fever vaccination which is not recommended for the over 60s due to side effects, transit through Doha) might be a bit off putting, all of which might change for late August travel.
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