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What happens if I test positive for COVID-19 before a trip?

17 May 2021

Brought to you by TravelPerk, the #1 business travel platform.

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19 before a trip?

There is a great deal of uncertainty about when we will travel freely again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As governments are administering COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, people are naturally keen to travel both for business and leisure. But 2020 taught us that our circumstances can change quickly, with restrictions implemented fast to stop the spread of COVID-19 cases. In fact, the vast majority of countries currently have limitations on travel

Who can forget the scenes we saw last year where borders were closed overnight and left thousands of travelers scrambling for repatriation flights home? As well as being extremely stressful, without the suitable systems in place, needing to change your travel arrangements last minute can prove very expensive. If you are a travel manager, having to rearrange multiple team members’ itineraries could make a substantial dent in your annual travel budget. 

More importantly, when deciding if it’s the right time to travel again, travelers need to assess various health hazards. This includes weighing up the risks to their health and the dangers of passing on the infection, especially to those at high risk in countries where vaccinations are rolling out at a slower pace. Contending with new outbreaks of COVID-19 cases, alternative strains, and overwhelmed public health systems reminds us that this is a global struggle we need to tackle together. Travelers need to be more conscientious than ever when making their vacation or business trip plans. 

When organizing their next trip, travelers need access to correct, up to date, information so they can make informed decisions as to whether it is safe to travel. If you decide to go ahead with your journey, what happens if you test positive? What steps should you take to protect yourself and others? 

What should I do if I test positive at home? 

Positive COVID-19 test result

Before you travel, you will need to study the latest restrictions for your destination. Ensuring you have a full understanding of what is required before your departure, while you are away, and when you return home is vital. Regulations differ hugely between countries. In summer 2020, tourists from the UK were shocked to find that they needed to wear a face-covering outdoors and on public transportation in Barcelona. Knowing what is expected of you in the country can help you get organized before you leave. After all, if you have a hectic business trip schedule, the last thing you need is to have to rush around to find extra face masks you could have packed at home. Using a system like TravelCare can help travelers prepare for their next trip and stay up to date with the latest safety briefings for their destination. With a simple online interface, users can access the latest regulations ahead of departure and keep informed with real-time notifications if circumstances change.

As part of this preparation to travel, you will undoubtedly be required to take a PCR test. Hopefully, this will result in a negative test result. It is absolutely crucial that you do not travel if you receive a positive result. You will need to self-isolate straight away and seek advice from your healthcare provider.

As well as the apparent health ramifications and disappointment, there is a significant amount of administration associated with canceling a trip. If you are a business traveler, there can be other consequences to the company that a travel manager will need to report on and manage. Having access to flexible fares for your flights and cancellation policies for your ground arrangements will be essential for the foreseeable future. Many insurers do not include pandemics in their policies. But luckily, many operators, aware of the current climate, are allowing clients to rebook or cancel where needed. However, this can still be a massive headache, especially when you are unwell or a travel manager handling multiple people. Having an integrated system enables companies to access their travelers’ information through a straightforward platform. With FlexiPerk, you can take advantage of refundable rates and cancel anytime, no questions asked.  

The most crucial thing if you test positive for coronavirus before a trip is to self-isolate and not travel. Following local health protocols and staying at home is a responsibility we all need to take seriously to stop the spread of the virus. It’s disappointing and frustrating to have to cancel our plans, both professional and personal. But we owe it ethically to ourselves and others to focus on our health, rebuilding our immune systems, and self-isolating fully while we recover. 

What should I do if I test positive while I am abroad?

Nurse preparing PCR test

Many destinations will require you to take a new COVID-19 test before departure or upon arrival. If at any point during your trip you start presenting with the symptoms of COVID-19, you should also contact local health departments to find out how you can take another test safely. The main warning signs of coronavirus can include:

  • A loss of taste. 
  • A change or loss of your sense of smell. 
  • A high temperature.
  • A new and continuous cough. 

If you realize that you do have COVID-19 while abroad, it’s imperative that you do not fly home and go into a period of self-isolation at your destination immediately. Resist the urge to go to the emergency room. Instead, speak to the local health department straight away to ask for instructions regarding quarantine periods and further testing. Depending on your location, these offices may also assist with delivering supplies like food, disinfectant, and medicine. They are also likely to be your first port of call if you start to experience severe symptoms, like shortness of breath or trouble breathing, and feel you may require further medical care.  

Your next step after testing positive is to get in touch with everyone you have been in recent close contact with. Inform them of your test result and the steps they will need to take for testing and contact tracing. This information will vary between countries and should be given to you by the local health department. If you are a business traveler, you will have extra considerations, from canceling meetings to potentially informing entire teams they will need to self-isolate. Your company’s prime concern will be the health of any employee who tests positive. Make contact with your office ASAP so that others can ease some of the administrative burdens for you. Management can be implementing contingency plans for employees who will need to be out of the office. At the same time, travel managers can be rescheduling flights, canceling meetings, and extending your hotel stay, allowing you to focus on isolating and informing people asap.

Checklist for testing positive before a trip

At home COVID test

If you do find yourself testing positive for SARS-COV-2, use the following criteria to see what to do: 

  1. Do not travel if you receive a positive test result for COVID-19, or if you have symptoms of coronavirus. Remember that you can still test positive even if you’re asymptomatic! 
  2. Self-isolate immediately at your hotel. Follow local guidelines and adhere to the established isolation period. 
  3. Contact local health authorities to get details on further testing and contact tracing and request support for your quarantine.   
  4. If you are a business traveler, contact your office quickly to inform them and hand over the administration for your travel arrangements. 
  5. Contact everyone you have had close contact with to inform them of your diagnosis and their responsibilities for quarantining, testing, and contact tracing. 
  6. Take care of yourself so you can make a full recovery! 
COVID travel program

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