Image source: The New Indian Express

CPPR Senior Fellow Dr Rijo M John comments in news article published in The New Indian Express on the concerns of travelling during COVID times. He says “Social distancing is the key to safety while travelling, as the risk is higher when you travel.”

Travelling in Covid times, despite the best of precautions, is laced with danger. While strict lockdown with zero travel had kept the virus at bay for so long, this could not be a permanent measure, as travel is unavoidable for people, for business as well as personal purposes. With the easing of lockdown restrictions, all modes of transportation are slowly getting back on track in the state. Even while social distancing is the stipulated norm, the fact is that those taking flights and trains, and moving by road are inadvertently exposing themselves to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Experts fear that community transmission will happen if the stipulated social distancing norms are flouted while travelling. With a majority of fresh cases in Kerala over the past few days being among those arriving from abroad as well as other states, travelling has become a very risky affair, especially when infected people endanger other passengers travelling with them. “Social distancing is the key to safety while travelling, as the risk is higher when you travel. Even though there are guidelines laid down for social distancing, we all have to learn to maintain the required distancing from others, wear masks, abstain from crowding and so on.

In many public places, people are seen wearing masks on their chin and talking to others. The main purpose of wearing masks is lost on them. Though a spike in cases was predicted earlier, the task at hand is to reducing the spread of the virus,” said Rijo John, health economist and senior fellow at the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR). The police in Kerala have registered cases against 1,133 persons for violating lockdown restrictions, including not wearing masks, till Wednesday.

 “No means of transport is safe. We are all exposed to the virus while we are out. In flights, though stringent procedures have been put in place to reduce the risk, the closed space of an aircraft increases the risk of virus spread. In all means of transportation, be it by air, rail or road, we have advantages as well as risks,” said Rijo. Dr B Ekbal, who chairs the state expert committee on Covid-19, said the state government is ensuring all means to maintain social distancing in the community.

“There is a limit to which the government can intervene and make people practise precautions. Though imported cases are on the rise in the state, we cannot predict that community transmission will not take place. After all, we cannot prevent people from travelling or returning to their homes,” said Dr Ekbal.

Experts are of the opinion that travel should be restricted to only urgent reasons in view of the high risk involved. The rate of the virus spread can, however, be minimised by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks properly, avoiding unnecessary touching of items, and using sanitisers while travelling, they say.

“There is a limit to which the government can intervene and make people practise precautions. Though imported cases are on the rise in the state, we cannot predict that community transmission will not take place. After all, we cannot prevent people from travelling or returning to their homes,” said Dr Ekbal.
Experts are of the opinion that travel should be restricted to only urgent reasons in view of the high risk involved. The rate of the virus spread can, however, be minimised by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks properly, avoiding unnecessary touching of items, and using sanitisers while travelling, they say.

This article was published in The New Indian Express on May 29, 2020. Click here to read

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