Please Stop Traveling. At Least For A While

You need to stop traveling, for the time being. Not just to Italy, but to anywhere in the world. 

You thought you’d never hear it from me, right? Well guess what. It’s time to act like responsible human beings, and to think about the social implications of our actions. It’s time to pause, forget about what we like and enjoy and focus about what has to be done to save the lives of peoples – all over the world. 

In the days that have lead to the decision by the Italian Government to lockdown the entire country, I have had the chance of reading a variety of comments and conversations among travelers, travel bloggers, tourism industry professionals around the net. As always, Facebook communities are the biggest conundrum of misinformation and fake news you can think of. People asking “is it safe to travel to Italy now?” and others answering that it’s ok to go.

You can only begin to imagine the level of aggravation I feel towards the blatant ignorance I am seeing these days. It’s only one of the many issues – which can be easily summed up in a sentence: we are a selfish society. 

Below you can read some of the things I have been reading around. In some cases, these very things have been said to me by friends living overseas or by my readers. But let’s not fool ourselves: it is time to stop traveling. At least for a while.

please stop traveling

Please Stop Traveling – 9 Justifications That Just Don’t Work

It’s just a flu

Believe it or not, people continue saying this. Pity this is the very same flu that has put the healthcare system of Lombardy, Italy’s richest region, one of Europe wealthiest regions on its knees. It is not just a flu when one of the consequences is pneumonia. I am not making this up. World Health Organization experts say so here. Please inform yourself.

It only kills people over 70

I hear this over and over. The last person who told me so is a foreign friend. It’s as if the lives of elderly people did not matter. As if they were not someone’s parents, grandparents, friends. As if they were not an integral part of society. Well guess what? In Italy they are. We are the second oldest nation in the world, we have a huge amount of elderlies, and we care for them. Oh, and FYI, my mom is 71 and my dad is 75. And their lives matter – certainly to me, my sister, my brother in law and many many other people.

It’s the media flu

This really is one of my favorite comments. It basically means that the flu was an invention of the media. That they sensationalized the news over what really is only just a flu. For whatever hidden reasons we – readers – are not supposed to know.

Seriously though. Let me stick to Italy, for which I have been following the news. Do you people really think that this is some sort of media orchestration? Some grotesque joke? Some plot of which we have yet to discover the purpose? 

Well let me tell you this.

The way the media has been reporting about this epidemic hasn’t exactly been great and yes, they have indeed been a bit sensationalist about it. But this is a real flu – hospitals in the north of Italy are dealing with a real emergency; people really are in intensive care units; available beds in intensive care are fewer and fewer; doctors and nurses are being called from their usual duties and all the effort is going into fighting this. It is getting to the point where hospitals will have to prioritize who they ventilate and help fight the virus based on age and chances of making it. 

This is not a media flu. 

stop traveling

There are no / fewer cases in [country X]

Seriously? Do you really believe this? 

Let me tell you a secret: it is all a matter of how many tests are carried out. It is plain statistics. The more you look for a thing, the higher the chances you find it. Italy is proactively testing people with symptoms and even those that show no symptoms but who have had relations with people who tested positive. Do you wanna know why? Because people who have no symptoms still carry the virus, unknowingly, and may pass it to the weakest ones who may on the other hand have symptoms. 

Other countries are late in the testing game.  They either only test people who show symptoms; people who can afford to pay for the test; they have made the fight against the virus a political one rather than a public health one. Bless Italy and it’s health care system which is free and available for all. Including you, should you decide to ever need assistance when you visit. 

I am canceling my trip to [country X – usually Italy] and going to [country Y]

Even better if Country Y is neighboring with Country X – ie France and Italy.

This cracks me up (*sarcasm*). It’s as a disease – any disease – had a passport and could be stopped at the border. It’s as if you have forgotten about Schengen and the free movement of people in Europe. If you think one country is safer than another one, remember this: it took just 2 weeks for Italy to go from 2 cases to the point that it had to be locked down. Cases quickly spread across Europe and now the United States.

March 14 update – Spain has announced a full lockdown, much like Italy. As of 15 March schools are going to be closed in France, and in the meantime bars, restaurants, coffee shops etc have been closed. 

I won’t get a refund if I cancel my trip

First of all, most companies are being incredibly cooperative and will allow you to reschedule your trip or cancel your reservation due to this emergency. And even if they don’t, honestly, this is not the time to worry about money. This is the time to worry about your health and the health of your family and friends. This is the time to stop thinking it is about you. You may lose some money. You may lose a trip you have been dreaming about. But I am sure you will agree with me that health is more important. 

is it safe to travel now

I still want to travel because the tourism industry of [country X] needs my help

This is what someone told me yesterday when I suggested she should stop traveling for a while. 

Let me explain you as simply as possible. If an Uber driver in Mexico City – just to give you a random example of a country I know little about – is currently making less money than usual because less people are visiting, it’s bad news for him and his family. But what if the entire Mexico City’s hospital was crowded with patients showing symptoms associated with the disease and needing intensive care? Way worse, if you ask me. 

We need to avoid that. Urgently.

Do you want to help us fight this virus? Then don’t travel. Limit your social life. Tell your family and friends to do the same. Increase your personal hygiene – wash your hands more, for example. 

Do you truly want to help Italy? Help us raise funds for some of our hospitals which are working hard to fight the virus and save lives. This Go Fund Me campaign helps raise fund for Ospedale Santissima Trinità in Cagliari, my hometown – the very same hospital where I got surgery twice and at the forefront in the fight against the virus. The money will be used to fund ICUs and get more ventilators. Click here to donate.

I only follow WHO travel advisory

Travel bloggers and influencers seem to be divided about the kind of advice to give regarding traveling now. Some suggest to only follow the travel advice provided by the WHO. It’s a very sensible way to put it. Others are more proactive in suggesting to limit all unnecessary travel. 

I am more of the second opinion – perhaps because being in Italy I am right at the center of the storm, and I have been seeing how the numbers of infected people have risen dramatically across Italy and then Europe in the last few days. 

I can’t say what the right approach is. But I wanted to raise your attention on something. 

On 29 February WHO updated its recommendations for international traffic in relation the outbreak and suggested that “restricting the movement of people […] during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions. […] However, in certain circumstances, measures that restrict the movement of people may prove temporarily useful […] Travel measures that significantly interfere with international traffic may only be justified at the beginning of an outbreak, as they may allow countries to gain time, even if only a few days, to rapidly implement effective preparedness measures. Such restrictions must be based on a careful risk assessment, be proportionate to the public health risk, be short in duration, and be reconsidered regularly as the situation evolves.”

It then continued to say that travel bans are not effective in preventing the spreading of the disease but they do have a significant economic and social impact; and that countries that have applied bans are now registering their own cases (yep, because as I have repeated over and over, the virus knows no borders and has no passport). The full text of WHO travel advisory can be found here.

What I want to raise your attention on, however, is that WHO declared a pandemic on 11 March and that, after that, it has not updated its travel advisory at all. The only thing that it said in a joint statement with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) on that day is that it is important to raise the awareness of travelers in preventing the transmission of the disease. I also want to underline that in its advisory WHO says that restricting travel during public health emergencies its ineffective in most situations – it doesn’t say “all”. This means that in some situations it may be necessary – a caveat that most won’t notice, but that I, as a trained human right lawyer, won’t fail to see.

This is all to say: use your good judgement. Follow what the WHO says. But also read between the lines of what it does or does not say.

Where does all the tax money of Italy go?

Do we really need to get into this, right now? Italy guarantees health care free of charge to anybody in the country – residents, migrants, tourists. This is because we pay a fair amount of taxes so that even disadvantaged people can have access to it. But, in case you haven’t noticed, we are facing a terrible emergency and we need help. There are not enough beds in intensive care units. We’re at the point that soon enough places normally used for fairs will be used to place more beds. 

This is not the time to create controversy. This is the time to show us respect and support. 

One last appeal

We are facing a serious crisis here, and the sooner we stop being in denial, the better. There is no other way to put it: PLEASE STOP TRAVELING. Stay at home, stay put where you are for a while, postpone your trip for a month or two until things have settled; and stop the risk of catching and spreading the virus. Don’t put the lives of others in danger. Don’t put even more strain on the healthcare system of your own country. Whichever that is. Because this is not just a flu.  

Wherever you are, stay safe. It you need regularly updated information on the virus in Italy, check out my post “What You Need To Know About The Current Situation In Italy – Rome And Sardinia.”

If you are bored at home read my posts Virtual Traveling: 13 Ways To Travel Without Traveling” and “19 Productive Things To Do At Home When You Can’t Travel.”

And remember: the Colosseum will always be there. The gorgeous beaches of Sardinia will always be there. The Dolomites will always be there. They will be waiting for you, when these bad times pass. 

6 thoughts on “Please Stop Traveling. At Least For A While”

  1. I completely agree with this! Even this we see so many blockbusters with end of the world, we shouldn’t be part of that, but rather try to be aware of our surroundings (this is a serious matter, not just panic created by media)

  2. Of course it is not just a media creation. I can’t believe how many people in the travel industry like you and I are still in denial and going about saying “it’s just a flu” -#iorestoacasa

  3. A very thoughtful post Claudia and I agree completely. We should all try and avoid larger groups, travel, and other high risk activities that can not only get us sick but carry to others including our loved ones who may be at higher risk.

    I think it is very important to point out that this is very much like the flu. The #1 complication from the flu that ends up killing people is Pneumonia. Exactly like in this case.

    Scientists still don’t know exactly how contagious this disease is, or the morbidity is because they just do not have complete data. It appears to be more contagious than the flu and to have a higher morbidity, but part of that is due to people with mild symptoms just not seeing a doctor or getting tested.

    This is also part of the reason it is spreading. People can have it and not know it and pass it on to others.

    It does appear to be more severe than the flu in serious cases. That is important. This combined with being more contagious and people being A-symptomatic and still able to infect others, is what makes this such a threat.

    It has the potential to spread quickly and overwhelm medical facilities like it has done in northern Italy, China, Iran and South Korea.

    There is some good news, South Korea seems to have peaked and to be declining. That is a very good sign for all of us. It means that if your community has a modern medical system, and takes preventative measures like they have in South Korea and Italy, this can be contained.

    China is also reporting this has peaked for them, but no one can trust what is said there. So we have to wait and see.

    let’s all be safe. wash our hands. avoid touching your face. avoid high risk activities and avoid close contact with our elderly loved ones as much as possible if have any chance of being infected yourself.

  4. Thanks Rick! We here in Italy are truly trying to make other people other countries listen and learn from our predicament. ACT NOW. Close down schools, offices, transportation. Close your borders. NOW. Because this is the only thing we can do to prevent the virus. It’s crazy how in denial others seem to be.

  5. Well written and very thought provoking. This was meant to be my year for travel, but I have to rethink and reschedule. Far more important to have our health rather than adventure at this time. Thank you for your wise article.

  6. Thank you Valerie. I appreciate your support and understanding, and I appreciate how responsible you are. Stay safe!

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