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How to stay safe from COVID-19 when you travel this festive season

We’re fortunate to live in a country where the beach, mountain, forest, or bushveld are all just a road trip away. However, if you are going away on holiday, remember to keep your social distance, wash your hands regularly and wear your mask at all times. Also, remember to comply with all COVID-19 regulations, and do your research or know in advance what the rules are regarding places and beaches that are closed. We asked Dr Rolf Verster from the Sandton Execuhealth Travel Clinic at Mediclinic Sandton for key holiday safety tips. A little extra advance planning and you can enjoy your break with peace of mind.

Plan your accommodation carefully

You may have a go-to resort, but this year may need to be different. ‘Try to avoid booking at usually overcrowded facilities and consider a quieter option this year, for example, a bush break or more remote beach destination (the beaches that are open),’ advises Dr Verster. A self-catering cottage may be less convenient than a full-service hotel, but it gives you more control. If you’re booking public accommodation, ask about their COVID-19 protocols. ‘This includes regular sanitising, surface spraying and cleaning of utensils,’ says Dr Verster. Screening of staff and adherence to social distancing and wearing of masks can be very reassuring,’ he adds. When you get there, maintain what he calls your ‘family bubble’. Avoid sharing facilities and leave your room while it’s being serviced.

Travel with caution

Like your choice of accommodation, your road-trip traditions may need a rethink. When you pull into a diner outside of town, look for seats outside rather than indoors, Dr Verster advises. And if it’s too crowded, rather opt for a takeaway or ‘padkos’ sarmies you packed yourself. ‘When using public facilities, maintain social distancing, use masks and be extra obsessive about handwashing and sanitising. Don’t touch surfaces that you don’t have to,’ he adds. Also, add extra face masks and sanitising wipes to your travel medical kit and boost your immune system with a good multivitamin that contains Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, zinc and selenium, he recommends.

Keep your loved ones safe

The December holidays are the time when many of us catch up with relatives. But if someone in your family is at high risk – for example, because of diabetes, hypertension or obesity – Dr Verster says you should limit contact. Don’t hug or kiss-greet and don’t travel if you or any of your family are ill, he adds. ‘If you suspect COVID-19, see your doctor, get tested and amend your plans.’

What if I have a medical emergency on holiday?

Holidays are meant to be relaxing, but life happens: your child starts running a fever, you get a urinary tract infection, you sprain an ankle. If you’re worried about COVID-19 exposure, look up your nearest Mediclinic. ‘Mediclinic and all doctors who work from within Mediclinic facilities have taken exceptional precautions to maintain a clean and safe environment,’ says Dr Verster. ‘In the consulting rooms, screening, social distancing and sterilising protocols are strictly adhered to. I feel that you’re less likely to come into contact with anyone with COVID-19 in the Mediclinic than you are doing your weekly shopping.’

With 59 branches across the country, ER24 can also be reached on 084 124 wherever you might find yourself this holiday season.

Drive safely

Before you travel, do these safety checks, as recommended by Arrive Alive:

  • Legal stuff: A valid car licence, driver’s licence and passport if you’re crossing the border.
  • Power and fluids: Check battery, oil, brake fluid, coolants and fuel.
  • Vehicle control: Check tyre condition, shock absorbers, wheel balance and alignment, brakes and brake pads. Get any vibrations, odd noises or concerns with your steering wheel checked out.
  • Visibility: Check wiper blades and all lights work; the windshield is clean.
  • Emergency gear: All passengers have working seatbelts, the spare tyre is in good condition; you have an emergency triangle, medical kit and a charged cell phone.
  • Have an emergency contact number saved on your phone. You can phone ER24 on 084 124 for any emergency 24/7, 7 days a week.