January 25th, 2021

Is it ethical to travel internationally duringthe COVID-19 pandemic?

By Submitted Article on September 9, 2020.

Submitted by Katie Turner, Peter A. Johnson, John C. Johnson, Jasrita Singh, Elisia Snyder, Austin A. Mardon

The federal government continues to advise all Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada, despite many countries still promoting international tourism.

Some people believe the economic benefits of tourism outweigh the risk of increasing COVID-19 cases, while others argue that international travel for pleasure at this stage in the pandemic is irresponsible and unethical.

As of July 21, there are nearly 50 countries that have opened their borders to Canadians. Many of these countries are in Europe and include France, Greece, Italy, Croatia, and Spain. Many of these countries rely on tourism to fuel their economy and because of this, they are offering incentives to travellers.

Italy was one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19, and many people are still uneasy about travelling there. To remedy this, the island region of Sicily is willing to cover every third night in a hotel and half of the cost of airfare for tourists that choose to travel there. This deal is enticing, and many tourists see it as a green light to travel.

Despite the potential economic boost from increased tourism, some locals are still against it, specifically tourists coming from other coronavirus hot spots such as the United States.

Travellers may not initially have symptoms of the virus, but could contract it en-route to their destination or in airports as they hop between locations. Small towns that are popular tourist destinations do not have the resources to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak that could be caused by travellers.

Some countries have isolation requirements upon arrival in an attempt to diminish the spread of the virus. These rules come with the expectation that all travellers will responsibly follow them, along with the other guidelines set out by the country, such as wearing masks or not having large gatherings. Upon returning to Canada, regardless of presentation of symptoms, travellers must isolate for 14 days.

If these laws and guidelines are not followed, a second round of outbreaks around the world may become prevalent, putting a further strain on health-care systems and economies. Any personal benefits of travelling internationally are surely undone by the mass public health impact that these actions cause.

Though ultimately it is each person’s individual choice to travel internationally, it is vital to consider how travel could affect the place being visited and whether the positives outweigh the negatives. Travellers must agree to abide by the country’s pandemic policies whether that be by isolating, getting tested, or wearing a mask. Canadians must understand that their vacation time will be at least two weeks longer due to Canada’s mandatory isolation laws upon their return.

Another important consideration is that travel insurance may not cover tourists if they get sick overseas, which could create a financial burden on families. As the world’s borders begin to open to Canadians, it is important that each person consider all repercussions and consequences (real and potential) before choosing to travel internationally.

Katie Turner, BA (University of Alberta) is a student at the Antarctic Institute of Canada with a background in psychology and sociology. Peter A. Johnson, MSc (University of Alberta) is a medical scientist with a background in infection control & strong technical writing expertise. John C. Johnson, MSc Biomedical Engineering graduate student (University of Alberta) is a scientist, author, entrepreneur, and disability advocate. Jasrita Singh, BHSc (McMaster University) is an undergraduate student with a background in Biochemistry, Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization. Elisia Snyder, English and Film Studies (University of Alberta) is affiliated with the University of Alberta Press and has a background in technical writing, editing & publishing. Austin Albert Mardon, CM, FRSC (University of Alberta) is an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, an Order of Canada member, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

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