The world is in a panic over COVID-19, aka the Coronavirus, and rightly so.
As of this writing, nearly 200,000 people around the world have been diagnosed with the virus, and the number of global Coronavirus deaths is approaching 10,000.
Of course, the news is evolving, so it’s impossible to give you up-to-the-minute information here. Check in often at the World Health Organization, the CDC or the FCO for the latest information and guidance.
What we do know for sure is that Coronavirus is highly contagious, about 2 to 3 times more infectious than standard, seasonal flu.
In addition to being much more easily spread than the typical annual influenza infection, Coronavirus is also much more deadly, especially for elderly people and those with compromised immune systems.
We also know that all of this is wreaking havoc on the plans of thousands of travelers.
…In which thousands of holidaymakers collectively say, ‘Oh, shit…’
Understandably, due to the grave nature of the outbreak, partial or total travel restrictions are in place in countries on every continent on earth. Some nations have issued total bans on any travelers coming from highly infected places like Italy and China.
While other places like Australia have issued mandatory 14-day self-quarantine periods for people coming from anywhere abroad, with fines of thousands of dollars awaiting those who don’t comply.
So what about those travelers who were vacationing abroad and have been trapped in a foreign country? How are things going for them? How could they make it easier on themselves?
Trapped in Tenerife on Coronavirus lockdown
Travelers to Tenerife in the Canary Islands have been much in the news, and one recent article in The Mirror relates the sad tale of four lads from Kent who are, as of this writing, still restricted to their hotel.
They’re not alone. The Spanish government’s strict Coronavirus lockdown on travel has resulted in dozens of Brits being stuck in Tenerife in what some describe as a ‘nightmare’ situation.
The boys from Kent, for instance, were supposed to return to the U.K. on Saturday March 14, but after checking out of their hotel and heading to the airport, they found that their flight had been canceled.
So they checked back into their hotel, and decided to make the best of it and hit the pub – like any right-thinking gentleman would in similar circumstances.
However, they soon found that even that cold comfort wouldn’t last long. Shortly after midnight, police came through the town and shut down all the bars and restaurants, and everyone is now confined to their homes or hotels.
The Spanish government has placed a ban on people going outside for anything other than buying groceries, medicine, or going to hospital, so our intrepid lads were sent back to their room.
But it gets worse still: turns out one of the four, all of whom are crammed in together on single beds and cots in a budget room, has been struck with a (non-Coronavirus related) stomach bug, and is suffering from severe diarrhea.
Coronavirus lockdown: how to stay healthy whilst traveling (and not go mad)
So let’s assume you’re one of the unlucky folks like those guys from Kent – hopefully not the one with diarrhea – who thought their worst health threat might be the odd exposure to a sexually transmitted disease.
If you find yourself in a Coronavirus lockdown, what are some things you can to do to make it easier on yourself, and keep healthy and sane in the midst of experiencing a global crisis thousands of miles away from home?
Stay healthy: remember the Coronavirus restrictions are there for you too
First of all, understand that the travel and movement restrictions are in place not to inconvenience you, but to prevent the spread of a deadly virus.
You’re not only helping to stop the spread of the disease to vulnerable people (you don’t have to be sick to carry the virus), you’re also helping yourself by adhering to the restrictions.
And for those who argue that the virus generally only kills elderly people and say, ‘I’ll be fine even if I do get it,’ remember that even if you do recover from Coronavirus – which isn’t guaranteed, no matter your age – you may spend the rest of your life with permanently scarred lungs.
So yeah, if running and comfortably walking up stairs just isn’t your thing, then sure, don’t worry about following the Coronavirus lockdown, by all means.
So your best bet on how to avoid catching Coronavirus on vacation, especially during a Coronavirus lockdown, is by things we all know:
Washing your hands frequently
Not touching your face
Avoiding getting within six feet of other people.
And if you do get sick, don’t rush off to the hospital at the first sniffle or cough, as it’s most likely just a cold. Anyway, there’s little they can do for you apart from telling you to ride it out (that’s why it’s better to avoid any chance of getting it, like from going out and socializing.)
If it gets more serious, for instance if you have difficulty breathing, call the hospital or urgent care before going in, and talk to someone about your symptoms.
If needed they can then arrange for you to be admitted in such a way that reduces the chances of you infecting anyone else.
Follow instructions if you’re on Coronavirus lockdown
Look, everyone is scared, especially those who are in a Coronavirus lockdown situation, and that makes everyone frustrated and puts people on edge.
Do what you’re told anyway.
One guaranteed way to make things worse for yourself is to piss in the face of local authorities and flout the new regulations.
Remember all those Brits stuck in Tenerife? One young woman there has gone viral – and not from Coronavirus, but in the ‘old-fashioned’ YouTube way.
Fancy a swim?
When she got tired of being confined to her hotel room during the Coronavirus lockdown, this lass went a little mad and took to the swimming pool – which is off-limits during the quarantine for obvious reasons.
She then proceeded to swim around while loudly demanding an upgrade to a suite if she was to be stuck there any longer. Other guests, to their credit, mocked her from their balconies.
Well, needless to say, her accommodations have indeed been changed. After Spanish police came and fished her out and deposited her face-down on the concrete to cuff her, they took her away.
Basically, if you’re stuck on vacation during the Coronavirus lockdown, don’t be a dick.
The authorities and the staff at your hotel and the workers in the shops and restaurants – if they’re even open – are all under the same stress and fear as you are.
It’s not their fault you’re stuck in Coronavirus lockdown.
Have some patience, pull your head out of your ass, and maybe even look to help other people when you can, or at least try to be empathetic, since they’re going through the same thing as you are.
Communication is key
In any crisis, information is the most valuable commodity – contra breathless reports from Australia and the U.S. suggesting that some hoarders are planning new post-apocalyptic economies based entirely on toilet paper.
While your movement and travel may be restricted, you’re unlikely to be without internet and television. Stay on top of the latest information on the Coronavirus lockdown not only from your feeds and the news, but also from folks back home.
Not only will dear old mum appreciate seeing your smiling face on Skype or FaceTime, but also you can often find out new developments more quickly from people in your home country.
And hey, if you’re stuck on vacation during the Coronavirus lockdown, you’re bound to have some time on your hands. Why not catch up with other friends and more distant relatives as well?
Who knows who might have some tidbit of information or string they can pull that could prove handy for getting you home sooner rather than later?
That’s long-distance communication. Now, if you’re a savvy traveler, you already know that the concierge, Airbnb host, or hotel personnel are often an invaluable source of information whenever you’re traveling – even without a crisis.
In a volatile situation like the Coronavirus lockdown, these local sources of information are people you should absolutely cultivate and try to get on your side.
If you can find out ahead of time that a certain shop is going to open briefly, or that the airport is in fact going to open sooner than later – or perhaps that a nearby liquor store discovered a dozen crates of whiskey they’d misplaced – it may help make your unwanted stay easier.
Know your rights
Most airlines base whether they’re going to offer compensation for missed flights in these types of situations on whether the FCO (or U.S. State Department) has advised against all but essential travel to a given country.
If that’s the case, you should be able to get a refund, change your flight, or make a claim against your travel insurance.
As of this writing, the FCO advises against all but essential travel worldwide, which means you should be in the clear to get compensation or free ticket changes.
Be aware that in the future once these advisories have been lifted, just being nervous about traveling somewhere isn’t usually sufficient to get you a full refund.
The bottom line on Coronavirus lockdown
Look, at the end of the day, this situation sucks, and it sucks for all of us.
But remember that it sucks even worse for hospital staff who are being exposed to the virus, and elderly and immuno-supressed people who are literally scared for their lives.
If you’re young and relatively healthy, count yourself lucky, be smart, do the right thing, and ride out the restrictions with a minimum of fuss.
Live to fight another day, and you’ll come out the other side and return home with a suitcase full of stories of ‘How I Survived the Great Plague of 2020.’