Travel SOS: What happens if I get COVID overseas?

There are so many international travel deals going around at the moment, making it nigh on impossible not to want to hit ‘buy’ on a heavily reduced holiday.

Tony is one such traveller, and he wants to know what would happen if he did head overseas but contracted COVID while he was there.

Q. Tony
I’m pretty close to buying a holiday for me and my partner. Looking to visit Vietnam sometime soon – or when the borders are back open. The deal I’m looking at is refundable and transferable, that’s no worries. What concerns me is what would happen if I get COVID while I’m there?

A. There are some amazing travel deals at the moment, and it’s difficult not to take a flyer (pardon the pun) on a package marked down to bargain basement rates. But is the low cost of a holiday worth the risk of copping COVID while you’re away?

If your deal is covered, that is, you’re happy with the cancellation and refund policy, then the remaining risk is infection. Those deals make it difficult to say no, though, don’t they?

It’s a question on the minds of many a traveller. Honestly, I’m not qualified to give you advice on this, but I can relay what the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel advice site – Smartraveller – says.

You need to understand the risks of contracting COVID-19 at your destination and what to do if you do test positive, including an understanding of Australia’s return requirements.

Firstly, read the travel advice for your destination to learn the risk of contracting COVID-19 there and standards of medical care. You should also subscribe for updates.

You’ll see that right now Smartraveller advises you to avoid non-essential travel to Vietnam right now. Hopefully that changes for you in the near future.

Make sure you have good travel insurance that covers COVID-19-related issues, including medical, quarantine and cancellation costs if you test positive to COVID-19. It would be wise to ensure you bank funds to cover an extended stay if you need to quarantine or isolate.

Read more: You can get COVID travel insurance. But what does it cover?

If you or your partner tests positive for COVID-19, you should isolate immediately and contact the local health authority for advice. Then seek advice from your travel insurer and contact your airline or travel provider to reschedule your travel plans.

Save the list of ‘local emergency contacts’ in the travel advice for your location. There’s also information on seeking medical assistance overseas as well as mental health and wellbeing resources.

If you test positive to COVID-19, you’ll possibly need to quarantine or self-isolate depending on the local advice. There may also be penalties for breaking isolation rules, so it’s important you check with the requirement with local authorities.

I can’t say if Vietnam has government managed quarantine facilities or if you’ll need to find suitable accommodation. If that is the case, you’ll need to cover any quarantine costs.

Read more: Getting ready to travel post-COVID

You should be prepared for the possibility of being in your destination longer than planned, as you won’t be allowed to travel to Australia until you have recovered.

If you have isolated and recovered but your PCR test results continue to be positive, you may be eligible for an exemption if you have a medical certificate, so long as it meets the requirements outlined on the Department of Health website.

You may also have to check departure rules with the local authorities, airlines and transit locations, as well as any specific rules for onward travel with your airline.

Even if you’ve only been exposed to someone who has tested positive to COVID-19, you’ll still need to follow the requirements for isolation and testing in the city you are located.

Read more: A comprehensive guide to COVID tests for travel

If you do need to get tested, contact the local health authority in your location to make sure you’re using an accredited testing facility. Don’t fall for scammers charging for fake tests.

If COVID-19 PCR testing is not reasonably available, you may be eligible for an extension or exemption when returning to Australia.

So, the risks are plenty and the onus is on you, but who’s to say whether that outweighs those tasty travel deals? If you have any other queries, I recommend reading the step-by-step guide to travelling with COVID-19.

Have you booked an overseas trip yet? How do you view the risk vs reward? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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