In the year 2020, the whole world was shaken very badly with the onset of the global pandemic COVID-19. Our livelihood and daily living took a huge hit, countries went into lockdown and closing their borders thus severely impacting the world travel and tourism, aviation and hospitality industries. We have finally made progress after two years of battling this global pandemic, countries are gradually opening up their borders and relaxing safety measurements in Q2 2022. We are finally reopening up again, a move towards back to a more normal life. People are taking this opportunity to travel again, this bodes well not just for the countries economy, travel and tourism sectors, it’s great for human, social and cultural interactions too. A word of caution, we are not of the woods yet, this pandemic is still ongoing and we still have to be mindful and careful. For all travelers, this pandemic era travel guide by Scott Dunn would come in handy.

Fully Restarting Tourism

In my earlier article “Special Theme Q2 2022 – Fully Restarting Tourism“, we are finally opening up again, more people are expected to travel again over the next few months. While we are absolutely delighted in fully restarting tourism, this is not going to be an immediate change/recovery. All these things and changes are going to take a bit of time to get up to speed, from both demand and supply side of things, my personal estimation is that it would start to peak in Q3 (June school holidays) or Q4 2022 (year end school holidays, year end Christmas festive season). 

For those who are ready to travel, we still have to be mindful, be safe, practice safety and health measures. Scott Dunn has handled many unexpected global situations and travel emergencies for guests over the last 30 years, their team has the experience and expertise in keeping guests safe on their travels, from before they depart to returning home. There are two scenarios presented by Scott Dunn that are still relevant especially during this period when the global pandemic is still ongoing. Both scenarios are first-hand personal experiences – (1) Testing positive right before a flight and (2) Testing positive during a trip.

(1) Testing Positive right before a flight

What should I do if I test positive before departing for my trip? Scott Dunn’s Service and Sales Manager, Sheena, tested positive for COVID-19 three days before she was due to fly to the US for business meetings. At that time, a negative pre-departure PCR test was required before she could board the plane and there was a stipulated seven day recovery period before you were deemed “fully recovered” and released from SHN. As such, Sheena was unable to recover in time to board her scheduled flight to the US.

Sheena Seah (Scott Dunn’s Service and Sales Manager)

Here are Sheena’s experiences and tips on handling this situation.

What is the first thing one should do when you have upcoming travel plans but test positive?

If you get a positive result on a self administered ART test but feel relatively well or have mild symptoms, I would recommend visiting a Combined Test Centre (CTC) or Quick Test Centre (QTC) to undergo a supervised ART and have your results documented. Such results of infection as supervised at the CTC/QTCs can be used as proof of recovery for exemption from Singapore’s border measures. For those who don’t feel well, it’s good to see a doctor or do a teleconsult with one. Depending on your age/vaccination status, you should receive a recovery memo on either Day 7/14 which can also be used for travel purposes (more for entering destinations than departing Singapore)

While pre-departure tests in Singapore are no longer required, it’ll be good to wait till you test negative before you start travelling. It’s the socially responsible thing to do and I personally think it’s good to recover and be feeling 100% before you embark on any adventures! Also, it’s good practice to refer to the relevant destination countries’ border measure requirements to ensure you are able to fulfil them before going ahead with any travel plans.

Once the medical side of things are settled, be sure to reach out to your insurance provider to log a case so that you will have a reference number for when you wish to upload your supporting documents for insurance claims. It is important to always make sure you purchase comprehensive travel insurance with COVID coverage that will satisfy your requirements based on your own lifestyle or concerns.

Finally, you can then proceed to cancel or postpone all your travel arrangements and remember to request for cancellation invoices or notes as supporting documents for the claim later on – all largely dependent on your insurance policy of course!

Are there precautions one should still take after making a recovery?

Don’t be complacent after your recovery! There’s still the possibility of being reinfected, so err on the side of caution. Personally for me, I tried to take it easy and avoided heavy workouts for the 1-2 weeks following my recovery, thinking it’d be good to let my body rest and recover fully.

Is it still worth taking the risk to travel?

Most of us have had no international travel in the past 2 years, so I think cabin fever is real.  Prior to this incident, I had the opportunity to travel to London for a work trip and having gotten so used to our current environment here, the change of scenery was really nice and refreshing. I personally still think it is worth venturing out (when you feel comfortable enough to) and after my London trip, I felt more confident and assured after going through all the processes in person once. In fact, I’ve booked a few other personal trips for the year after returning from my work trip to London.

What are some of your top pandemic era travel tips?

My three top tips would be to –

  • Ensure that you are purchasing a comprehensive insurance plan – don’t skimp on it.
  • Remember to double check destination entry requirements when you are nearing your departure dates. Sometimes there may have been updates or changes, so it’s good to confirm instead of rushing or panicking at the last minute.
  • COVID is all around us, so it’s good to maintain safety measures such as washing your hands, refrain from touching your face and if there are large crowds, it’s still a good idea to mask up!

Is it worth working with a travel operator for an upcoming trip?

I think the pandemic has definitely allowed the value of travel operators like Scott Dunn to shine through. While measures have now eased off significantly, when travel was first allowed to resume, many were confused and frustrated with the ever-evolving entry and departure requirements. This is where guests really turned to us for help and guidance when it came to planning and going on holidays. Also, having not travelled for two years, many of our guests are relying on us to help guide them through any new requirements, allowing them to enjoy their long-awaited getaways fuss-free.

Additionally, we also have a 24/7 emergency hotline, which provides comfort and reassurance to our guests as they know they have someone to call for help no matter where they are or what time it is.

(2) Testing positive during a trip

What should I do if I test positive while on holiday/prior to my flight home? Scott Dunn’s travel specialist, Jean, had tested positive for COVID during a pre-departure PCR test prior to her flight back to Singapore from Sweden. On her week-long work trip in Sweden, Jean started to experience symptoms such as sore throat, cough, and fatigue but continued to test negative daily on self-administered ARTs. As a negative test was required for her to board the flight then, Jean was unable to return home on her originally scheduled flight.

Jean Tay (Scott Dunn’s travel specialist)

Here are Jean’s experiences and tips on handling this situation.

What should travellers do if they start to feel unwell on their trip?

It’s good practice to pack sufficient ART test kits when travelling so that if you feel unwell, you can always do a self-administered test to monitor your own personal situation, especially with COVID all around us. I also usually pack a small pouch of medicines such as some panadols, some flu tablets and medicine for upset tummies. At Scott Dunn, when we have guests that feel unwell, they can let us know and we will help make the necessary arrangements to bring them to the nearest healthcare facility or get a doctor to do a hotel visit.

What should one do after testing positive overseas or prior to their return flight home?

While pre-departure tests are no longer required to enter Singapore for fully vaccinated travellers, it’s good to be socially responsible and wait till you test negative or wait out the 7 day recovery period before returning home if possible.

Also, try to self-isolate so you don’t spread the virus to your travel companions or others- ie you may need to stay in another hotel room from your travel companions to avoid spreading it to them etc. You should also inform the hotel of your diagnosis so that the staff can take any necessary precautions or let you know if they accommodate COVID+ travellers. You may also want to switch to a more affordable hotel/alternative accomodation to recover before heading home.

Be sure to reach out to your travel insurance company and let them know of the situation as soon as you can so that you will be able to make claims when you return home. As you proceed to cancel or postpone your travel arrangements, do remember to request for cancellation invoices or notes as supporting documents for the claim later on.

Any tips to help mitigate such a situation? 

As we are living in a pandemic era and you never know what may happen, it’s good to ensure you have extra backup cash in the destination’s currency while travelling – in case you need to extend your trip and cash is not widely accepted in your destination. Other than packing a small pouch of medicine, I would also encourage you to pack some small packets of laundry detergents. You may need to wash some pre-worn clothes if you end up staying longer than expected. Laundry services at the hotel can add up quite quickly! Pack extra ART test kits – these may be more costly in other countries plus if you do test negative before your stipulated date of departure, at least you can go out for some sight-seeing or shopping!

Are there any post-travel precautions to take, or any tips should travellers test positive upon returning home?

If you have travelled overseas in the last 10 days, and test positive on an ART upon your return home, you’ll need to go for a confirmatory PCR test. You can head to a Swab and Send Home Clinic or Combined Test Centre to see the doctor and get the PCR test done. It’s also good practice to inform the doctor of your travel history and positive ART result. Then try to rest up and focus on recovering!

What are some of your top tips to keep safe while travelling?

I would strongly encourage travellers to:

  • Wear a mask during flights and ensure that you sanitise often.
  • Try to avoid crowded areas where people are not wearing masks. (Pro tip: Hop on a private tour where possible. With a private guide, driver and car, you can minimise your contact with the crowds.)
  • Always purchase travel insurance enough to cover medical and hotel costs if you contract COVID whilst travelling. If you do contract the virus while travelling, inform your insurance company as soon as you can to open a case file for you to submit your test results and daily claims when you return.

Is it still worth taking the risk to travel?

As an avid traveller myself, I still think it’s worth it to take the risks and travel as we will have to learn to live with COVID eventually. After all, even if you don’t travel, there’s still a chance of contracting COVID in Singapore as well. I would highly encourage travellers to get their booster shots so that in the event they do contract it, the symptoms would be mild.

Is it worth working with a travel operator for an upcoming trip?

The perk of travelling with a travel operator is that we understand the high emotional stress such unforeseen or unexpected incidents can bring – especially so when you or a loved one is feeling unwell, and we will be there to step in and help so that your focus can be on recovering and getting better.

Additionally, with our strong connections with local suppliers and partners on ground – as a Scott Dunn guest, you’re well looked after no matter which part of the world you are in. I think it’s comforting and reassuring to know that you know you are in good hands and not alone, stranded in a foreign country.

* Information and pictures courtesy of Scott Dunn and White Label PR *

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